When avant-garde literary website 3:AM Magazine went down a week ago, staff hoped it would be up and running within the day.
But they now fear that 12 years of archived material – every article they have published – may be lost for ever after it emerged those responsible for the site’s servers have vanished.
Andrew Gallix, editor-in-chief, told The Independent said the events of the past week have been “traumatic” and highlighted the “the fragility of online content”.
He added: “I never expected those who were meant to host and back up our content to just switch us off without even telling us.”
Messages of support flooded in from Facebook and Twitter for one of the original book blogs. One reader wrote: “Twelve years of writing, vanished. Here’s hoping it’s able to continue somehow.”
Mr Gallix has run the site since 2000, with the literary webzine attracting acclaimed writers including Lee Rourke, Tony O’Neill and Booker Prize nominee Tom McCarthy.
Other companies have recently faced outages owing to server problems, and the disappearance of 3:AM’s archive highlights the dangers of assuming that work saved online will last for ever.
Increasing numbers of people use so-called “cloud services” such as Gmail, Facebook and Flickr to store personal information, rather than saving them on to their hard drives.
Martin Bryant, managing editor of technology blog The Next Web, said: “There are risks with storing everything on outside servers. We’ve been lucky that there have been no massive outage yet. We’re still waiting for the first cloud disaster. Fingers crossed it never happens, but must be prepared.”
He added: “People rely on the cloud far too much. It’s seen as this mythical space that exists in the ether where everything is safe. This is not the case.”
As for 3:AM, Mr Gallix is trying to track down the person responsible for the servers. After a few false leads, as well as a disconnected phone and emails bouncing back, he believes he has tracked him down.
“At this stage, we do not know if we’ll ever be able to speak to him and if he can switch his server back on long enough to allow us to move 12 years’ worth of content to another, more reliable host,” Mr Gallix said. “I should have backed it up somewhere else, but it never occurred to me.”