Sunday, February 28, 2010

Disaster Planning

I got an AQ mail yesterday from someone concerned about disaster planning on Atlas Quest. What would happen if  "the tortuga loses his shell" or "just decides to throw in the logbook." The question might seem impolite, but it's a good question, and it's not something I talk about often.

My "throwing in the logbook" isn't very likely. Frankly, this is the best job EVER, in my humble opinion, and since I'm not independently wealthy, I do need a source of income. While it's possible I might spend less time developing or improving Atlas Quest in the future, I have absolutely NO incentive to throw in the towel. Even if I found full-time employment working 9 to 5 at a corporate job, I could still keep AQ running with a very small amount of effort. Development of new features would probably grind to a complete stop, but the site would certainly keep on kicking. =)

More likely risks could include legal woes. What if some idiot hurts themselves, then decides to sue me? It might not be fair, but it could happen. In fact, anyone that plants a letterbox could, in theory, be at risk of legal woes when things go wrong. Anyone getting hurt might blame the person who planted the box, or what if it's mistaken as something dangerous and police and bomb squads are called out? Legal woes have put businesses out of business in the past, and I suppose, in theory, it could do the same to Atlas Quest. That would most likely be a slow-motion disaster, however. The legal system isn't known for working quickly, and it seems unlikely that I'd be forced to shut down Atlas Quest quickly or unexpectedly. Heck, even Napster found a second life after being shut down.

And the biggest risk of all--which will happen someday--is if something were to happen to me. Death, dismemberment, severe strokes, or any other countless number of possibilities could take me offline permanently. Short term, nothing much will happen. If I walked away from Atlas Quest today, it could be several days before anyone even noticed. The site could probably run for several weeks completely by itself without any trouble. To keep Atlas Quest running, basically three things have to be done:

1. Someone needs to make sure to renew the domain name every year.
2. Someone needs to make sure to pay the website hosting fees when necessary. (It's currently set where I pay those costs every six months.)
3. Someone needs to keep an eye on announcements from the web hosting provider and Atlas Quest about changes to the system that might affect the continued running of the website.

Wassa already does that third task when I'm off hiking. It rarely amounts to much. A couple of years back, I was forced to move Atlas Quest to a new IP address which caused some problems. Right now I'm getting nightly notifications about the site running out of disk space, so I try to figure out ways to cut the amount of disk space being used or pay up for more. So Wassa could step into that roll pretty much immediately. In fact, I sometimes think he's actually looking forward to the day. ;o)

The ownership of Atlas Quest.... seeing as Amanda and I aren't married, I think legally speaking, the website would be inherited by my mother. I know she'd have absolutely no interest in running the website, however, and would happily give Amanda control over it. Which, seeing as Amanda is a letterboxer, uses the website regularly, and has been very supportive of it, makes a heck of a lot of sense. =) I should probably draw up a will stating as much, but admittedly, I haven't. (Not yet, at least.)

Unfortunately, Amanda doesn't have the skills necessary to actually run the website herself. I would think Amanda and Wassa would need to work out some sort of agreement about keeping the site up. Since Atlas Quest actually IS profitable, there's certainly a financial incentive to at least keep the website running, even if active development comes to a screeching halt. I doubt Wassa could make it a full-time job like I do--he probably has more bills than I do that involve things like kids, college, mortgages, and such that I don't have to worry about--and while AQ is profitable, a corporate job is even more profitable. So I don't imagine him quitting his day job to work on AQ full time. Nor anyone else for that matter. Any additional development would largely be on a volunteer basis.

Ultimately, I'd be thrilled if Atlas Quest earned enough money to pay competitive wages so that it would be easy to find someone who could continue working on Atlas Quest as a full time job. It might still get there someday. Even in this terrible economy, Atlas Quest actually has earned about 20% more in 2009 than it did in 2008. It's a little too early to tell how 2010 will do. January was down year-over-year, but February was up. *shrug* I'd be absolutely thrilled if it earned enough to pay a competitive wage compared to working "for the man." If it did, someone like Wassa could very well take over and make this a full-time job for themselves. Until then, it'll largely end up being run on a volunteer, part-time basis.

Of course, Wassa is older than me. Statistically, the stifling air quality in San Jose is likely to kill him before the sweat ocean breezes in West Seattle kill me. =) I may need a different plan B someday. I'd pick someone younger than me, but--would you believe it--there actually aren't that many who are. I'm generally considered a youngster by most people's standards. As I get older, though, it'll become easier and easier to find people younger than me qualified to keep Atlas Quest running. =) Ideally, I want whoever takes over from me to be able to keep things running for at least a decade after I'm gone, and then whoever steps into their shoes would be in charge for at least another decade after they're gone, and so forth.

While I'm not exactly sure what sort of agreement Amanda and Wassa would work out to keep Atlas Quest running, I have little doubt about it happening. They both love using the site and would want it to keep running long after I'm gone.

One other disaster that could potentially hit Atlas Quest--data loss. It's possible that the database could become corrupted and there's a permanent loss of data. There are night backups that are stored offsite, so if something did happen, it likely wouldn't be a total loss of data. I'd just go to the backups. And there are multiple backups. If the last one doesn't work, I'd try the one before it. Or the one before that. Or the one on my flash drive. There are so many different backups stored in so many different places, a complete loss of data is darned near impossible. Depending on when things go wrong, it's unlikely more than the last day or two worth of data is permanently lost. If a hacker managed to get in and deliberately destroy data, they could possibly cause a permanent loss of data that might add up to a month or two. And it might take several days, perhaps even a week for me to restore the last backup depending on the situation.

So that's my disaster plan. It's rather an informal one, but Atlas Quest is still small and informal enough that an informal disaster plan seems sufficient. As Atlas Quest grows, there might be changes. As time passes, there will be changes. But as things are now, I see no reason why AQ can't continue being here for years to come, regardless of whether or not I'm in the driver's seat.

Happy trails!


Anonymous said...

What you REALLY need are some Oompa Loompas.


veganf said...

When my husband and I were discussing the pros to getting a membership when we can afford one, the number one reason was definitely "to keep Ryan employed by AQ", LOL, since it's such a cool well-maintained site. Any other perks were distant runners up. Thanks for making AQ what it is. It has added so much to our lives already in the short time we've been using it.

1SG said...

I completely concur with veganf except my spouse is only peripherally involved.

Keep up the work, luv ya man.

Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering what the "Sweat Ocean Breezes" in Seattle smell like...
Sudoku Crazy

Ryan said...

It seems sweet, oceany, and a little breezy. It's a great smell! =)

-- Ryan

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

When Ryan posts his last bequest,
And shuffles off this mortal coil,
He'll pass the reins of Atlas Quest
To Mom and Wassa, always loyal.
And Wassa then imprints his stamp
Of wassa-ness, and spice injects.
For Wassa is the reigning champ
Of humor that is rated X .
But let us hope that decades pass
Before these sad events occur
Amanda would this scene bypass
For Ryan means a lot to her.