Inert Detritus The Internet's dust bunnies

2 September 2006 @ 8pm

Business Basics

My email provider, Fastmail, had a catastrophic server failure on Thursday morning (Wednesday night?) The hard drives on server3 became corrupted as a result of a filesystem bug. They were able to quickly remount most partitions, but the largest (2 Terabytes) took much longer to check. It is currently still being verified.

Many users, including myself, have questions.

  1. Why isn’t there a backup server to host us on until this comes live?
  2. Why are incoming emails to our account being bounced, instead of being queued for delivery?
  3. Why are updates infrequent, vague, and not reassuring?

Users of any online service are fickle. When things break, the company is required to do a few simple things to save face and keep customers:

  1. Update status frequently. We like to know what’s happening in as much detail as we can. Information, good or bad, is magnitudes better than speculation and uncertainty.
  2. Tell us, as confident as you can be, of whose fault it is. If the data center made it, then we want to hear that you’ll be moving us or taking steps to guard against it happening again. And if you screwed up, own up to it willingly and without redirecting blame. Admit to it, and tell us how you’re going to win back our confidence and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
  3. Have a Plan B. If a server goes down for emails, let us access new email in the interim. If a webserver dies, be ready to shift users to a new one and restore from backups (you were keeping backups, right?)

Fastmail has done none of these things. And so, it is with little reluctance that I am going to host my own email from this domain. I can find/buy/own my own mail server, and retain control over the domain (and mail exchange (MX) records, as a side bonus.)

Computing companies must be run as businesses. Customers want transparency and honesty, and if you refuse to give them that, basic uncertainty will quickly send them elsewhere.