Software as a Service? Know Who’s Servicing You!

Submitted by Steve Hanson on Fri, 02/20/2009 – 11:09am

As a group, we’re seeing a lot of interest in different platforms for news sites, and general issues about Software as a Service providers. Some recent developments are making it clear that a little caution in choosing a provider is in order, as many sub-par providers are having trouble dealing with their own success and providing sufficient infrastructure.

One example has been the SoapBlox platform. SoapBlox is a very nice turnkey platform, primarily used by progressive political web sites.  A short while back, one of the SoapBlox servers crashed, and the one-man-shop owner made a dramatic announcement that he was throwing in the toweland was going to drop his service.  This turned out to be a rash reaction to a long-term financial struggle for the service, but it threw the progressive blogging community into a tizzy over the possibility of losing a favored platform. A big fundraising effort took place, raising money to fund the company and to improve its infrastructure (backups, anyone??).

More recently, portable book mark provider ma.gnolia fell down and could not get up.  Again, it turns out that this was a very minimally built service, which seems to have kept no backups and had no disaster recovery plan. Attempts to recover the saved bookmarks have apparently failed, and the service is gone, along with all the data.

I’ll grant you that I am sensitive to these issues. Back in the days when I had a reasonable income, I worked largely as a backup and disaster recovery consultant.  And I find it hard to believe that so many companies are providing services that are giving next to no thought to robustness and disaster recovery. But this is undoubtedly just the tip of the iceberg.

So – why am I ranting about this? The world is currently full of news entrepreneurs who are building platforms and services and many of the people reading this site are potential customers.  Please consider that behind the lovely features, graphics, and googly-woogly widgets these companies are providing, there is an underlying infrastructure, and you should care about that too.  Do they do backups?  Can they recover when a server falls on its face?  Do they provide uptime guarantees?  Do you trust and believe them? Ask questions now, before it’s too late.