Business 2.0, the technology-aware magazine published by Time Inc., periodically reminds readers of the importance of backing up computer files. A 2003 article likened back-ups to flossing— everyone knows it's important, but few devote enough thought or energy to it. Last week, Business 2.0 got caught forgetting to floss.
On the night of 23 April, the magazine's editorial system crashed, wiping out all the work that had been done for its June issue. The back-up server failed to back up. Good thing the magazine, based in San Francisco, is a monthly. "If it had happened a week later, we would have been in trouble," said Josh Quittner, the editor. But all is well, he said, and the magazine will go to press on schedule next week.
The recovery was made much easier, paradoxically, by a bane of modern business, litigation— or at least the fear of it. "The text had all been copy-edited and sent off to the lawyers, so it had been saved as email," Quittner said. But the artwork, the page layouts, were truly gone, he said, and "our heroic art department had to rebuild all the art assets." He said they had caught up by Thursday.
The night of the crash, Quittner said, "our tech guy was here until 4 o'clock in the morning, but the patient died." Until then, the magazine had never had to rely on its backup server, so no one had noticed that its programming was either obsolete or dysfunctional.
Just last November, the magazine had listed off-site backup as being among "the usual precautions." Quittner said Time Inc., a division of Time Warner, now has Business 2.0 linked to a more sophisticated—and, presumably, more frequently checked—backup server in New York, "so if we crash here, the worst that would happen is we would lose a half-hour's worth of work."
Business 2.0 has drawn attention for skewering companies, including, occasionally, other magazines, in its annual list of the "101 Dumbest Moments in Business."
So is Business 2.0 now a candidate for its own list? "I think we would be if we didn't make it to press, but we've done far dumber things than this," Quittner said.
"We were lucky. It could have been a lot worse."