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Summary:

I just received an email message about the demise of Projecho, little more than three months after first hearing about the easy conferencing application during its big PR push. What do you do when an application you’ve adopted and incorporated into your work process suddenly goes […]

I just received an email message about the demise of Projecho, little more than three months after first hearing about the easy conferencing application during its big PR push.

Gmail - Fwd_ Projecho Discontinuation - mediaegg@gmail.comWhat do you do when an application you’ve adopted and incorporated into your work process suddenly goes under? Nancy recently wrote about why she doesn’t trust the cloud for her work, but when you run a virtual company or are part of a virtual team, it isn’t realistic to keep all of your work on a local computer. Even if you aren’t a virtual worker, there are still apps that die quick deaths every day — their demise can leave you out in the cold.

How do you protect yourself from the pains of losing the functionality of one of your favorite apps? Here are some of my thoughts about making a smoother transition even when there’s a technical bump in the road that you didn’t anticipate.

  1. Hold your geeky horses. Did you just get an invite to an app in alpha or beta? Did you just read about the debut of a new app in your favorite news source? Stop, take a breath, and wait a little bit before adopting it as the tool you’ll use at the exclusion of other tried and true offerings. Sure, there are some new apps that come out that fill a big needs gap. However, there is a difference between being an early adopter and changing your processes to accommodate an app that may or may not make it through its first year of business.
  2. Back up your options, not just your data. Yes, a cool app like Projecho comes along that offers affordable and super-easy video conferencing, but clearly it isn’t the only game in town. Before you go ditching your more costly option or before you jump on a new app bandwagon for any reason, have a contingency plan — a fallback app — that you can go to immediately if the new one fails. Of course you may save a bundle moving from a WebEx to a Projecho, but look at the unanticipated costs of having to switch back over, retrain staff, and change processes.
  3. Inventory your options. Once you determine the backup apps for the ones you currently use, make a list or spreadsheet that clearly spells out the apps you use, your process, and your fallback plan in case an app goes under. This handy list can make for a smoother transition with less scrambling around for new solutions if you lose an app to the bad economy, bad business models or other app destroyers.
  4. Get the e-newsletters. Lately, I’ve been opting not to get the e-newsletters from apps I sign up to use because of email overload. But frankly, if I hadn’t been on Projecho’s list, I may not have seen the news of its demise as promptly as I did and would have had to wait to see it in a news source — if I even saw it at all before arriving at the site one day to find the doors had closed. Even if you never read any of the e-newsletters in detail (and in some cases you should, because they are filled with useful tips on using the product), skim the headlines before trashing. I clearly could not miss “Projecho Discontinuation” in my inbox.
  5. Buy the backup plan. Clearly not all web apps involve saving your data in the cloud. Projecho is a video conferencing tool, for example, so it is just there to use when you need it. But if you are uploading — or creating — assets purely online, either get in the habit of keeping your own backups (either on a local drive, or using a cloud backup service) or pay for a more premium account that includes additional online backups. You can never back up too much, and if your web app goes kaput, you’ll be glad you did the extra work or paid a few extra bucks.

Keep in mind that some of these tips can work for you whether you’re working with cloud apps or software on your computer (WordStar, anyone?).

How do you plan for the possible demise of your favorite and most-used web apps?

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  1. Ben Prendergast Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    We get asked this question quite a bit over at http://www.copperproject.com (we offer web-based project management software, so we hold a lot of sensitive information).

    One of the important considerations is can you purchase your web-app source and host it on your own server? Most cloud apps don’t do this, but it has been an option from us since day one and although the majority of our customers are hosted on our servers, our larger clients tend to go the take-home option.

    Aside from that, having a good backup function within your web-app is absolutely compulsory (we offer full db backup from our Admin console, or you can export Projects to XML accepted by Ms Project and Omniplan).

    When all is said and done though, make sure your web-app provider is profitable, and not some 2-bit start up!!!

    Good post Giga!

  2. Thanks Aliza,
    I don’t think I’m crazy here, but I’m pretty concerned about the shutdown of web apps and cloud services. It wasn’t that long ago that tr.im announced it was shutting down and there was a huge outcry about both the data and the ‘unfairness’ of the shutdown.
    I really like the idea of a spreadsheet, which might be a good idea for me since I tend to be close to the bleeding edge at times.
    That said, I’ve been pretty lucky not getting caught up in a shutdown. Google Notebook is the only service I really loved that’s gotten the axe. I generally get an alpha or beta invite, sign up, toss a little data into the program and wait to see how things work out.

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