Open Thread: How to Prevent Data Loss

By Josh Catone
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Earlier today social bookmarking site Ma.gnolia suffered what is undoubtedly the worst nightmare for any web startup: a massive, and possibly irreversible loss of data. The site is currently offline, and a note from company founder Larry Halff says that the problem will take days to evaluate.

“Early on the West-coast morning of Friday, January 30th, Ma.gnolia experienced every web service’s worst nightmare: data corruption and loss,” wrote Halff. “For Ma.gnolia, this means that the service is offline and members’ bookmarks are unavailable, both through the website itself and the API. As I evaluate recovery options, I can’t provide a certain timeline or prognosis as to to when or to what degree Ma.gnolia or your bookmarks will return; only that this process will take days, not hours.”

It should be pretty clear to anyone that this is a very, very bad thing. Even if Ma.nolia is to somehow recover all the user data it lost, there has very likely been irreparable damage done to their reputation and to the confidence that users have in their service. We expect that the cloud will go down from time to time, but we also expect that it will be back up quickly and with all of our data intact.

Long time members of SitePoint will remember that I went through something similar — albeit on a much smaller scale — about four years ago. Looking back on it now, I can laugh and marvel at now naive I was. But now, as I prepare to launch a software as a service application in the next couple of months, I also realize how much I still have to learn about making sure that customer data is securely and reliably backed up.

So I’d love to get a discussion going here about backup strategies. How do you manage backups of your web sites? Do you do it manually either to another server or locally using DVD-Rs or external hard drives? Do you pay for a third party back up product? Do you use a cloud storage service like Amazon S3 or Mosso Cloud Files?

Let us know in the comments.

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