I had a potential client contact us a while ago. We hadn't dealt with them before and they didn't end up retaining us - largely, I think, because the message about how much trouble they were in might have been a bit too unpalatable to heed.

They're in a world of pain through a combination of bad luck and poor planning although, to be fair, it's more of the latter.

I can't help you with bad luck but I can prompt you to plan for it.

If you ship software, please ask yourself these questions:

  1. If you had to ship a build tomorrow, could you?
  2. How long would it take? Be honest - a day? A week? A month?
  3. What dependencies do you have that could cause you to need to ship one?
    • Third-party web services?
    • iOS provisioning profiles?
    • Expired x.509 certificates?
    • Changes to certificate revocation lists?
    • A critical security flaw?
    • A leap-year bug?
    • A leap-second bug?
    • An operating system patch?
  4. What monitoring do you have in place so that you're the first to know about any of these problems?
  5. How much will it hurt if any of these fails?
  6. How quickly do you need to be back up and running?
  7. How many people are going to sue you if your software/platform/application falls down? And for how much?
  8. How much do you stand to lose?

Back to that potential client: I honestly don't think their business is going to survive this particular flavour of disaster. In other words, I think the entire company is going to fold - and all because someone else moved their cheese and they didn't have a contingency plan. I wish them the best but I can't help them now - not at this late stage :(

I can't help them but I can remind you that the unexpected does happen, and will to you at some point. If your answers to any of the questions above frighten you... better me than fate :)

UPDATE: It brings me no happiness to report that they indeed did go bankrupt. Please don't let that happen to you for such a preventable reason.