Ma.gnolia, a social bookmarking web application (very similar to Delicious), has had a catastrophic failure and lost all of it’s data (including backups). The founder Larry Lalff has posted a letter to members replacing their website. The website was completely taken down, while engineers attempt to reconstruct the database. See the letter below:

Dear Ma.gnolia Members and Visitors,

So far, my efforts to recover Ma.gnolia’s data store have been unsuccessful. While I’m continuing to work at it, both from the data store and other sources on the web, I don’t want to raise expectations about our prospects. While certainly unanticipated, I do take responsibility and apologize for this widespread loss of data.

In this past year, many of us have seen much loss around us. While bookmarks seem small on the national or global scale, I know that many of you had built intellectual and social capital through the bookmarks, groups, and connections you made here. For those who had shown their support for Ma.gnolia by buying one or more premium feature subscriptions, that’s one thing you won’t be losing: refunds will be issued for those purchases within two weeks from today.

Ma.gnolia was approaching the third anniversary of its public launch; for me, it was the project and people to which I’d devoted most of my time, energy, and love for nearly four years. It’s still a little too soon to give word about the return of Ma.gnolia the service and the future of the M2 project, but I will keep this site and our Twitter account updated as those decisions are made.

In the meantime, I can provide a few pointers to some resources that can help:

If you’ve been publishing your bookmarks through any RSS feeds or aggregation services like FriendFeed, you can re-capture some of them before those feeds expire.

We’ve set up a recovery tools page with several options. We’re still adding more.

If you’re looking for a place to start a new collection, I think Diigo is a good option to check out for its groups, cross-service posting features and attentive staff.

Further tips for recovering bookmarks can be found or posted in a thread at Ma.gnolia’s page on Get Satisfaction.

Sincerely, Larry

I think this should serve as a hard lesson to people and companies that use hosted web applications (or even their own) for business-critical tasks like project management, client management, scheduling, billing, etc.

Back up your data!

Don’t trust web applications to keep your critical data — back it up yourself regularly. Also review your local backup procedures to ensure you’re backing up your hard drive. It’s best to have data backed up locally to an external hard drive, but also make occasional backups that are taken off-site in case of a fire, flood, or other physical damage (or even theft) at your facilities.

Our Backup Plan

All of our employees have external hard drives attached to their computers. Computers are automatically backed up using Apple’s Time Machine software (except for a couple of PC users who use some other backup software). Critical information is also backed up on a shared file server.

We are planning an off-site backup solutions (that may utilize a service like Amazon S3 data storage) that will hopefully go live soon.