RapidFeeds breakdown and the importance of backups

RapidFeeds, a competitor to the free version of our FeedCraft product apparently had a catastrophic breakdown last week according to their blog. On July 28, they suffered a complete crash when trying to upgrade some servers.

The fate had its beginning on July 20 when we started receiving emails from our subscribers notifying us of some connection errors. This was due to increasing traffic and so we decided to upgrade our servers as to be able to handle heavier traffic. We never knew we would lose everything in the process. Our hosting company came back saying that the entire website got deleted; even the backups. It is with a heavy heart we say to our users that we have lost the entire database and all the feeds. We know that this is a big loss to you, but unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it now.

On one hand, I feel sorry for these guys even though we probably competed for some of the same customers. From the limited information I have to go on though, it looks like they broke one of the cardinal rules of running a public web application – keep backups of your critical customer data. Replacing the application code is usually pretty easy. Even if you’re not using some type of source control, between all the developers you’ll be able to piece together an updated copy of the application. Same thing with the database schema. But the customer data, now that’s another story. Trust me, I understand what it’s like when you start to build an application and scale it as you go. This is a popular strategy these days and one I generally support. Data just can’t be treated this way though. A web application needs to have daily, off-site or off-server backups for just this type of occurrence.

With our FeedCraft service, we do this. Every day we store away off-site backups of our databases that include feed information, feed items, enclosures, preferences and settings, and all the feed tracking metrics.

I’m often asked about the benefits of FeedCraft and web-based software solutions. This is one I often overlook and fail to fully discuss, but backing up data is a crucial element of offering software as a service.

I’m not trying to criticize these guys or hit them while they’re down, but the situation provides an important lesson for every web company out there. Don’t take backups for granted while your application is small and growing. It will become larger than you expect quickly and customers will be depending on your service. There’s a responsibility to make sure certain critical infrastructure elements are in place when offering a web-based solution.

RapidFeeds plans on rebuilding, but there is no time frame posted. For any displaced RapidFeeds customers out there, feel free to sign up for our FeedCraft free plan and we’ll take care of you.

UPDATE: It looks like they’re back up and running.

Tom currently works in developer relations for IBM Watson. A serial entrepreneur, he's been the founder of numerous startups including Investify and StatsMix, a Techstars alumni company. Tom lives outside Boulder, Colorado and in his free time he's an avid rock climber, skier, and trail runner.

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