In mid-March, the one-time social media giant MySpace announced that it had lost 12 years’ worth of data due to a server migration problem, including millions of music tracks. From a data management perspective, the MySpace debacle illustrates how a lack of proper data governance can cause potentially business-ending consequences — and points to the need for better workload protection.

Where MySpace went wrong

While companies migrating servers is a relatively normal occurrence, losing over a decade of data in the process most certainly isn’t. So how did MySpace manage to botch this relatively routine corporate function?

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact underlying reasons behind the loss, since MySpace has been purposefully vague. But the nature of the situation as described by MySpace — “Due to a server migration, files were corrupted and unable to be transferred” — suggests that the company clearly didn’t have the cloud backup resources in place to protect its customer data assets, nor did it adequately create a strategy and plan for the server migration it was undertaking. If it did, its data would not have been irrevocably lost as the company describes.

Secondly, MySpace notably mishandled public communication of the incident. Rather than address the reality of the data loss in a clear and direct way, MySpace’s leadership instead opted for the passive and avoidant route, making a brief and vague announcement before taking the announcement down. This approach to crisis communication almost never lands well, and certainly didn’t in this case.

How data professionals can learn from the MySpace debacle

For MySpace, it remains to be seen whether the company can emerge from the reputational damage caused by its massive data loss. But for other enterprises — and data professionals in particular — MySpace’s mistakes present a helpful opportunity to learn from a cautionary tale. Here are some of the data management takeaways enterprise can glean from the MySpace story:

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– Thinkstock / alexkich
  • Deploy cloud backup solutions: The biggest lesson in this whole ordeal is to ensure business continuity by backing up all data for all applications in physical, virtual and cloud-based environments. Too often, businesses take a piecemeal approach to protecting their infrastructure. As MySpace’s unfortunate example shows, a more holistic cloud backup approach is needed.
  • Properly plan and execute server and data migration: With the cloud providers that exist today, there are many options for reliably deploying and running business-critical applications in the cloud. That said, server, data, and application deployment approaches vary greatly, and moving an existing solution from one environment to another requires a well-defined strategy and up-front planning. When done properly, such migrations can be handled effectively and result in reliable and flexible deployments and cost savings. But when mishandled, the financial and reputational costs can be substantial and impact company success.
  • Find the right solution: Enterprises should identify solution providers that offer tools encompassing migration, backup and disaster recovery. When it comes to cloud backups, simple and integrated tools are the best approach. By adopting tools that are built to address all the critical components of business continuity, companies can achieve secure data protection and rapid recovery of any losses.
  • Take a direct approach to communication: With the MySpace incident, there was a missed opportunity to communicate the issue directly and honestly. At this point, end users have a reasonable expectation of transparency around these incidents. Therefore, when companies are intentionally evasive — as MySpace was here — that only compounds the reputational damages the company will experience. In instances of data loss, it pays to be open and honest.

By working proactively to protect and manage their workloads — particularly if they’re planning a data migration — enterprises can avoid landing in the headlines for the wrong reasons.