What Fotopedia’s closure means to everybody

You better hope users stored their photos elsewhere once Fotopedia closed down
You better hope users stored their photos elsewhere once Fotopedia closed down

This week, the website Fotopedia closed down, and this heralded a key stage in the Internet’s maturity.

We’ve seen various Google products shutdown in the past, sometimes with more publicity than they attracted while the product was ‘live’, such as Google Video and Wave. However Fotopedia signals the dangers that lurk behind relying upon consumer-focussed cloud services.

It’s one thing using these services for consumer uses – where the service outages may be annoying when they close down. These services often warn of their closure weeks or even months in advance. However, using these types of services for enterprise services can end in disaster. This is one of the reasons why IT organisations are reluctant to use consumer utilities across the company. (The other reasons are security, resilience and flexible pricing – which I won’t go into here).

For consumers, the advice is to use a number of utilities in tandem, rather than relying on just one. For instance, if a user had signed up to Fotopedia to store their digital photos, they should have stored their photos on Flickr or Dropbox too.

I’ve looked at backup tools for my home computer recently. I try to use Google Drive as much as possible for hobbies outside of work (especially where I run organisations along with other people and need to collaborate or share files). However I don’t want to rely 100% on Google’s availability, so I also use the Google Drive client for Windows, which synchronised a folder on my PC with Google Drive.

For my files that aren’t on Google Drive, we have a backup disk drive at home, but I also backup my files to a cloud storage provider.

I was in an electronics retailer recently and saw their cloud backup service on offer. One of the options was a 5 year, fixed price deal. it looked great value, but I couldn’t help feel there were too many variables in such a long time scale:

  • Will their storage levels be sufficient in 3-5 years’ time, as camera images get bigger, or in fact, all my files seem to grow over time?
  • Will the company still be around in 5 years’ time?
  • What happens if another company take over the retailer and close down the offering?
  • What happens if not enough people buy the offering and the backup service closes down?

Closing down Mobile Apps

Back to Fotopedia, one of their announcements is that naturally their mobile apps have stopped working since the site closed. The process of “closing down” mobile apps is still clunky and in it’s infancy. The mobile app infrastructure doesn’t have any features to support app closure. This means that when an app reaches it’s end of life, either because an organisation chooses, or is forced to stop its apps working, there’s no simple way of removing the app from users’ mobile handsets.

At Endava we have worked with organisations who have launched apps with a finite lifetime. Usually it will be supporting a marketing campaign.

We call them Enterprise Apps, which are different to the average consumer apps. Enterprise Apps need to gracefully notify the user that the service will become unavailable at a designated time, handle API or backend outages, check whether the mobile app being launched is the latest version (and perhaps refuse to launch if a newer version is available for download), or report to a user that the service is no longer available. The key point is that Enterprise Apps need this functionality framework designed and built into the app from the beginning. Apps are very different to say, a website, where the website being served is the latest version and can be updated for all users relatively quickly.

It is natural that we’ll see more services close down in the future. It’s important for users and businesses to handle these closures with minimal disruption, either from the initial design, or choosing vendors more carefully.

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