The Chicago-Kent Library Technology Group runs many kinds of projects. Keeping track of what’s going on in individual projects can be challenging. We needed a cloud-based service for project management, something that could:
- Track projects and tasks
- Let us assign tasks to individual workers
- Comment on tasks when we had questions or more information.
We had tried a number of different solutions, everything from spreadsheets to Google Sites, but nothing worked quite the way we wanted. We were very happy when we found Do.com. The interface was intuitive. We could login from our Google accounts. We could easily add tasks and projects using the web interface or even email. Commenting was a breeze. It was great! Not to mention free.
Until one day we logged in and saw the dreaded “we’re closing” message:
Do.com was a Salesforce.com product. A lot of companies used it every day. But for whatever reason, it was no longer viable. Do.com was done.
So we added Do.com to our list of services which have closed this year. Services like Xtranormal and Google Reader, just to name a couple.
So what do you do when your favorite web service shuts down? There are four basic steps that can help:
- Back up your data — at least, what you can. Note that you may not be able to back up everything (e.g. Google Reader didn’t provide an easy way to back up all read articles).
- Know your import/export options. You may be able to export a lot of data, but that doesn’t mean that you will be able import that same data into other services.
- Read (and heed) all warnings. Most services will give you plenty of notice. Pay attention to the shutdown dates. Note that services can shut down immediately.
- Delete your account if you can. This can particularly important if the account has any kind of public presence (e.g. a social networking site). Of course, this assumes you were able to export all of your data.
So how can you protect yourself against the loss of cloud-based services? There are a few factors to that you can keep in balance when using the cloud for class or just to manage things on the backend:
- Know who provides the service. It’s not a matter of big versus small companies, but keeping track of what companies are doing. Services provided by smaller companies can shut down if the company isn’t viable. Conversely, services provided by larger companies may lose priority status and be dropped. But if you know who provides the service, you may learn about an issue with the company (such as an acquisition or merger) that alerts you to a potential problem long before the service itself shuts down.
- Keep an eye on development. While it may seem like a lack of new features suggests that a product is stable, it more likely means the product is no longer supported. There was no new development on Do.com, for example for most of 2013 — a likely sign that Salesforce no longer supported it.
- Have a back up plan. No product lasts forever, so be prepared. Keep an eye on competing products. Consider open source alternatives, or even creating your own if you have the resources and skills. Regularly backup your cloud data if you can.
The Library Technology Group has now moved on to a new online task/project tracker, but we know that some day (hopefully not soon), we’ll have to replace this service, too. We hope we won’t be surprised again, but no matter what happens, we have a plan in place.
- How To Protect Yourself From Online Services Shutting Down
- How to Protect Your Data in the Event of a Webapp Shutdown (and Prevent the Problem in the Future)
- Moving On When A Service You Love Shuts Down: How to Find A Replacement and Migrate Your Data
- What to do when your favorite site closes
This post was adapted from an Ignite talk I gave to the Chicago Association of Law Librarians on November 5, 2013.