Tonight for about a full hour many Rackspace sites, including their own Slicehost service, inquisitr.com, Laughing Squid-hosted sites, Posterous, Tr.im, and even my own SocialToo.com. Ben Parr of Mashable even noticed, asking if a bunch of websites has all just crashed. I was reminded to check the status of my own site by a few posts by Duncan Riley on FriendFeed.com/Twitter, followed by a blog post of his own. That prompted me to realize my entire site had been down for over an hour, which prompted me to check their Twitter account, which prompted me to check their status blog that gave a few more details.
This got me thinking – why are services so reliant on Twitter to get the word out to their customers? Have we gotten that lazy? In the past a service with “Fanatical Support” would have sent out a brief e-mail to their customers notifying them of the update. Do they just expect all their customers to be checking every single one of their Twitter updates? I have to admit as a customer I’m a bit disappointed.
I don’t mean to pick on just Rackspace though. Rackspace aren’t the only ones doing this. It has come to be common practice amongst companies to just post status updates on their own Twitter account and (occasionally) blog without using the oldest means of notification, a push means for that matter out to their users – e-mail. I admit even my own service SocialToo has been guilty of this occasionally and I have vowed for more mission-critical issues facing my customers that we will try to be more diligent in letting them know, via e-mail of the issues facing them, as soon as possible. That said, I’m one of two employees/contractors working for the company right now, as compared to Rackspace’s and other companies’ hundreds.
I think it’s time companies that provide mission-critical services start laying off the Twitter Kool-Aid, and focusing on more serious means such as e-mail so their customers can become aware, as the issues are happening to the accounts they pay for. It’s time we get back to using e-mail as a communications medium. Now that I’m aware of the issue, I’m checking their blog frequently for updates, but a simple e-mail would have made huge strides in making the $600 I pay monthly to the service more worth it.
As of the end of this writing it appears the problems are mostly resolved. I am anxiously awaiting an e-mail explaining the problem, but hope in the future they can get infrastructure in place to quickly notify us via e-mail as fast as they were able to do on Twitter. I hope other services can also learn from this and prepare for similar circumstances. While I’ll continue to enjoy the service I’ve had from Slicehost, I would have liked to see more than just a Twitter update surrounding this.