Can one line of bad code really destroy your entire business?
Every company on the earth suffers a few hiccups along the way but we recently read about a mistake that cost a man his entire company.
We’re sure that you’ll have seen this unfortunate story knocking about the internet but for those who haven’t, we’ll do a quick summary.
Basically, Marco Marsala runs a web hosting company and has a houses a lot of websites on his servers. However, by inputting the wrong piece of coding, he accidentally removed all trace of his company and all of the websites that he hosts on his server. He literally deleted his entire business with one line of bad code.
The code in question was “rm -rf” which may seem too small and insignificant to cause such carnage, however, it’s famously so destructive that it’s become a bit of an inside joke within the industry. “rm” is a command that tells the computer to remove, “r” tells the computer to delete everything within a specific directory, and the “f” stands for force, which makes the computer ignore any warning signs about deleting files.
Because Marcos used the whole code together, it deleted everything on his computer. Now, we know what you’re going to say, “what about backups?” Well, it turns out that all the backups he had were on a remote backup drive, which at the time of the error, was mounted to the computer; meaning they all got deleted too.
We only know about this catastrophic error because Mr Marsala posted it on a forum for server experts, asking for help. Unfortunately, most of the experts on there seemed to draw the same conclusions; there was nothing he could do, his whole company was gone and he was about to have some very angry clients.
Many users on the forum, quite rightly, pointed out that steps could have been taken to avoid this kind of crisis. We have to agree with user Massimo who said: “This is not bad luck: it’s astonishingly bad design reinforced by complete carelessness.”
However, there seems to be another twist in the tale! Mr Marsala is now claiming that his post was a hoax, designed as a guerrilla marketing stunt for another company…
Is he just trying to save face? Was it a fake post? I guess we’ll never know. However, the one thing we can take away from this story is that you should always double check your work, don’t use coding you’re not familiar with and always make sure your backups are on a separate server!