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SoundCloud's Shutdown Scare
A Warning For Cloud Users

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Content Host SoundCloud Nearly Went Under Recently, Reinforcing The Brutal Truth That User Content May Not Always Be Available

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By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine

Sept. 19, 2017 — Over the summer there was a scare that surfaced, claiming that popular content hosting service SoundCloud was going to be shutting down. Over the years, the service has been home to thousands of content creators who have near countless hours of music, podcasts and other content hosted on their site. Luckily, SoundCloud CEO Alex Ljung reached out and assured everyone that, at least for now, their service is safe and isn’t going anywhere.

“There’s an insane amount of noise about SoundCloud in the world right now. And it’s just that, noise. The music you love on SoundCloud isn’t going away, the music you shared or uploaded isn’t going away, because SoundCloud is not going away. Not in 50 days, not in 80 days or anytime in the foreseeable future. Your music is safe,” Ljung said in a statement.

Ljung brings a calm to rumors of an impending storm, but there’s still reason to think things may not be all rosy behind the scenes. The service recently laid off more than 170 employees and shut down two offices. Sure, companies do things like this to trim expenses, but sometimes the trimming never stops until the company ceases operations altogether.

However, for now, everything on SoundCloud is safe.

For smart cloud users, the incident should serve as a warning. All cloud firms are businesses and businesses fail all the time. SoundCloud is just one of many third-party services that content creators use to host their content. If any of these services were to shut down, those who have content hosted on the site would risk losing tons of content, potentially in the blink of an eye.

Myke Ladiona, co-host of The Geekdom Fancast along with his friend and fellow geek Derek Vigeant, utilize Libsyn to host their show.

“I admittedly put maybe too much faith in Libsyn not going down but the thought did cross my mind when I heard about SoundCloud,” Ladiona said. “We're almost at 100 episodes so I'm sure jumping onto another service with our back catalog might be a little costly and that is really the only ‘plan B’ I've thought of.”

Ladiona says that he has all of the old episodes of The Geekdom Fancast on his computer’s hard drive, but not everyone plans for the future that way. Even so, anyone with backups would likely have a costly and complicated move to another service, if their current service shut down.

I jumped onto Libsyn because we started our show on Podomatic and they had an overall cap of storage space they offered to their customers at the time and we had to start deleting old episodes,” Ladiona said. “I did some research and saw that my favorite podcasts were mostly hosted through Libsyn and that Libsyn only caps how much data you can store in a month, but not overall.”

If any one of these services were to suddenly shut down, it would be especially problematic for podcasters and lower-level musicians, who are often not generating a profit from their content. As Ladonia points out, many services charge once a certain storage limit is reached. That can get expensive as a content library grows.

“If SoundCloud disappeared, I would switch to Reverbnation, which I should probably be on anyway,” said composer, musician and author Scott Haskin. “I track my statistics pretty closely so I know my numbers and I have all the music and artwork on drives so I'm not losing much except changing my links to point to a new location.”

Haskin has been at this for many years and understands the value in having multiple backups, but podcasters and many musicians don’t always plan ahead. It is easy to take for granted that services like SoundCloud will just be there indefinitely. As far as Haskin is concerned, it isn’t a third-party service’s responsibility to make sure your content is protected.

“Storage is so cheap these days. You can get a pretty good external drive for less than $100,” said Haskin. “If your work isn't important enough to take responsibility to back up, you shouldn't care what happens to it on the net. It isn't someone else's responsibility to manage your files.”    

Buzzsprout is another very popular hosting site for podcasters. Though they couldn’t provide exact numbers, Alban Brooke, head of marketing for Buzzsprout’s parent company says that they have “more than 30,000 and less than 100,000” users. So what would happen if their site suddenly had to shut down due to unforeseen circumstances?

“If something unforeseen caused us to need to close Buzzsprout, I'd want to work with another hosting company to build a migration path for our existing podcasters,” Brooke said. “I'd imagine we'd need to keep this running for at least 3 months (probably closer to 6) to make sure that everybody had adequate time to move their content.”  

But Brooke also wants to make it clear that there is no reason to think their service is in any jeopardy.

“Buzzsprout has been profitable since we launched in 2008. So we don't see anything that could happen in the near future that would cause us to shut down or sell,” Brooke said. “We never took any VC or outside investing, so there isn't an external pressure to hit specific benchmarks. The benefit is that since it's a profitable business even in the short-term you can always sell the company based on MRR.”

Content creators using SoundCloud, Buzzsprout, Libsyn or any other popular service don’t need to be concerned at the moment. But this recent scare could serve as a reminder to those using such services that they may not always be there. It is good to have a backup plan in place and make sure that the creators take it upon themselves to make sure they have copies of their files.

While SoundCloud and other such services are safe, for now, that’s only temporary. Things change and one of these services will inevitably go under at some point. And unlike Buzzsprout, they may not have the luxury of giving several months for their users to move their files to a new location. So plan for the worst and hope for the best seems to be the best rule of thumb for content creators working in the digital space and using a third-party service to host their content.
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