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June 11, 2007

Google Reader Feeds Restored Following Outage

Turns out the missing feeds and trends data in Google Reader will look more like a blip than a calamity, as the company rapidly responded and restored all previous data in about an hour after customers first started noticing their RSS feeds and shared link statistics had been obliterated. I went back from having only 4 feeds to 190, and my trends data shows 400 shared items in the last 30 days, not zero. This gives us incredible relief, and reduces our level of frustration which hit mid-day.

Some circles define the Web 2.0 movement as being where the Web functions as an application. Instead of photos being stored on iPhoto, they can be stored on Flickr. Instead of Outlook, e-mail is on GMail. Instead of using NetNewswire, we use Google Reader. And while the portability of data from computer to computer and browser to browser is excellent, it does raise the fear that my data is outside of my immediate reach, and therefore, subject to the security of the third party. If Google Reader has an outage, my data is lost. If my blog platform goes down, I shut up for a while. And so on.

So what should we do? The common answer seems to be: Back up your data. After today's outage, many Google Reader users rapidly backed up their OPML files, in case it happened again. But there are a ton of companies out there actually offering backup services through the Web, from Apple to Google (GDrive anyone?) and others. What if those services go down? Are you S.O.L., or will a simple user agreement bail you out when the time comes? You honestly can't be too safe, or have too many backups of your data.

I absolutely appreciate the speed in which the Google Reader team responded to today's data meltdown. They even just posted a note on their official blog about the outage, which they called "brief" and within the "response time that we strive for". But before we saw this post, we genuinely thought our data was nuked and that we would have to start over, and that feeling was uncomfortable indeed. It's amazing how reliant I've become on the Web to give me my information as fast as I can get it.