I needed an ‘Undo’ button for my Shopify store

“In about 45 seconds, I created three and a half weeks of work.”

“A nightmare” is how Kyle Pivarnik, Director of Ecommerce at Sounds True, describes the company’s recent brush with data loss. 

Sounds True, an independent multimedia company, has been publishing works on spirituality and personal development since their start in 1985. Over the decades, they have continually expanded and evolved their offerings and systems to meet the needs and demands of an ever more complicated world. 

“We have a really complex tech stack”, explains Pivarnik. “By the time you layer in our multiple teams, in and out of the house, our manual catalogue work… we’re definitely in Jenga territory.”

Heather Lange, Application Systems Analyst at Sounds True, explains further: “Anyone who has anything to do with our products, how they’re delivered, and the customer service aspect as well: I work with different teams to integrate systems properly and keep them up and running.”

How data loss happens

“We were actually trying to do something really, really simple,” Pivarnik begins. 

Pivarnik was performing routine work on the Sounds True website when he first noticed an issue. “As a safety precaution, during bulk uploads to the catalog we keep it to two columns. We’ll have the SKU that we’re modifying, and then the actual metadata that we’re changing. But the uploads we had done kept getting overwritten.”

Frustrated, Pivarnik decided to try another tool offered by his bulk upload and export tool, Excelify. Unfortunately, the upload didn’t work as planned: “In this case, that safety protocol didn’t work out because the new command I tried removed all of the metadata. We had deleted copy, product images, and pricing – for roughly 1,600 SKUs.”

“In about 45 seconds, I created three and a half weeks of work tracking down and re-inputting lost data” explained Pivarnik. 

Putting the deleted data back wasn’t as simple as hitting “undo.” 

“Like any company with that many SKUs, we’ve got multiple databases. We’ve got images on an old server, we’ve got copy that’s been updated, we had a lot of product images on our [old web host]”, he explained. 

“I literally refused to touch the catalog again until we had an oops button. We needed a safety net.”

The dangers of bulk uploads

Unfortunately, data loss via bulk uploads of .csv files is all too common. Shopify is unable to restore account-level data, and mistakes caused by .csv uploads can quickly derail an entire catalogue.

Shopify’s individual users, and not the platform, are responsible for securing individual account-level data. Under the Shared Responsibility Model, users are responsible for backing up and securing their own account-level data. In other words, “there’s no control-Z on Shopify,” added Pivarnik.

This was actually the Sounds True team’s third experience of a failed upload that “triggered cascading effects of an outfall that we weren’t expecting.”

Lange agreed: “We knew we couldn’t ever let that happen again.”

With a complex tech stack of over 20 different third-party applications and plugins, Sounds True knew they needed a robust backup solution to protect their store data. 

“It had been on our list to get some kind of backup software”, explains Pivarnik. After some Googling, both Pivarnik and Lange heard about Rewind. “We talked to our Shopify rep. And the name that kept coming up was Rewind”, added Pivarnik. 

After installation and set up, the Sounds True team had their data fully secured. “It’s a relief to know that there are frequent snapshots happening”, added Pivarnik.

Spirituality and data security

From humble beginnings in 1985 working solely with audiotapes, the Sounds True team has never shied away from technological innovation. In the midst of a shrinking publishing market, Sounds True successfully pivoted into a multimedia company, featuring more than 700 different teachers and leaders on spirituality, meditation, mindfulness, trauma resilience, and much more. 

“We’re very innovative and high risk tolerant, which really increases the need to have a good safety net. We’re constantly looking at, what’s new? How can we do this?” explains Pivarnik. “We love to build things. But each new innovation can open us up to additional vulnerabilities, especially when it comes to our data infrastructure and security. We have to consider how it will be future-proofed, and how all of our systems integrate.” 

The Sounds True team, despite being a source for some types of spiritual teachings that have been around for literally thousands of years, has a very high-tech and innovative culture. “The culture is very much around maintaining cutting edge tech relevancy, which isn’t something you’d expect for a company that delivers our type of content.” Pivarknik describes the race to stay relevant as a modern provider of spiritual materials as making “work really fun and really exciting”. 

Lange agrees. Describing her journey to working at Sounds True, she adds “honestly, it was me getting into Sounds True’s products when I thought, this is a company I want to work for.” Another added bonus? “We get to bring our dogs to work”, added Lange with a smile.

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