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A Hosted Content Management System Cautionary Tale

The past couple of days have been an interesting roller-coaster ride for sites using the hosted SoapBlox content management system. From all appearances, SoapBlox's servers were compromised by hackers earlier this week, and Paul Preston, the president of SoapBlox, came close to shutting down the service completely.
The past couple of days have been an interesting roller-coaster ride for sites using the hosted SoapBlox content management system. From all appearances, SoapBlox's servers were compromised by hackers earlier this week, and Paul Preston, the president of SoapBlox, came close to shutting down the service completely.The good news is that it appears that Preston, who basically ran SoapBlox as a one-man show, has had a change of heart. Due in part to the kindness and assistance of numerous volunteers, it looks as if it's well on the way to restoring the functionality of hosted sites, and working on a more sustainable long-term model for managing the platform and servers. From the SoapBlox blog:

We have many wonderful people now volunteering to ensure this doesn't happen again. Clean servers are being created, and existing sites will be migrated shortly on to these more secure servers.

Discussions are currently underway on how to best provide the SoapBlox service, continually improve it, and keep it funded in a way that keeps everything running smoothly.

SoapBlox is a CMS and community site framework based loosely on Scoop, the software that runs DailyKos, a popular left-leaning political site. While it has a relatively small customer base, the sites it hosts are made up for the most part of local political organizations sharing many of the same political viewpoints as DailyKos.

We may never know the identity of the hackers, or why they targeted SoapBlox. But this does serve as a reminder of some things to keep in mind when selecting and maintaining a content management system.

While SoapBlox offered a solid set of features, there can be little argument that there's a risk in choosing a platform or host that relies on an single person or two. It looks as if SoapBlox is working to change that, but one has to wonder if it would be in this predicament if it had a dedicated support team in place to begin with.

This also underlines the importance of backing up your site, no matter how much confidence you have in the vendor. Servers die, companies go out of business, and hackers hack all the time, and you need to have a backup in case something like this ever happens to one of your sites.

It looks as if this story will have a happy ending for SoapBlox and its customers. Just remember to do what you can to make sure your story has one, too.

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