Why does my Baby’s Days crash regularly? Is it because it isn’t a website?

As blogged last night a fair few number of people have posted in the Baby’s Days support group or messaged me directly to say they are experiencing technical issues using mainly the Risk Assessment section, The 2 year check and also the SEF section of Baby’s Days.

What seems to be happening is mid way through using these sections the device just freezes so the work is lost or a little grey pop up says, “this web page needed to reload”.  Obviously many people are frustrated that this is happening and they don’t feel they can open a support ticket for fear of being made to feel like an idiot or even worse for fear of losing all their work by “annoying” Baby’s Days.

Mark Kahl director of Baby’s Days has said this issue is because the Baby’s Days system is,

“NOT a website, it is a SaaS application that is very ram and system resource hungry”.

Tonights blog post is going to clarify exactly what Mark Kahl means by this and as with most other things in this blog I’ll hope you’ll see why this statement is very misleading.

Firstly what is a SaaS application?

Mark Kahl is right in that Baby’s Days isn’t a website.  I agree with him there, first time for everything I guess.

SaaS stands for Software as a Service.  Software is usually defined as the programs and other operating information used by a computer.  So on a typical laptop you might find software like Microsoft Word or Norton Anti Virus.  This software is run and stored on your laptop.

SaaS is a different type of software that isn’t actually “run” directly from laptop, it’s usually run through a web browser and stored on a server.  So it’s still software, but it’s not “hard” software in the sense that most people might be more used to; it’s not a disc you can pick up for example it’s virtual software.

A website isn’t a programme at all, it’s just a document if you like stored on the internet.  That’s the easiest way to explain it although if you want to be a purist it’s not 100% accurate, but it’s good enough for the purposes of this blog post.

Does SaaS require a load of RAM?

There is absolutely nothing in the Geek Bible that says a “SaaS” is or should be inherently more resource heavy than any other aspect of web browsing.  My understanding is that the whole point of a SaaS is to remove the resource heavy part of the software off of the persons computer and on a server in the cloud.  So it then seem ludicrous to say the reason the system is crashing is because SaaS applications are more resource heavy!

Does my device have enough RAM to do what most would expect from a typical SaaS application?

If you can watch a video on YouTune then in my opinion your device has plenty of RAM to operate a SaaS application like Baby’s Days.  Closing apps that may be “on” in the background (as frequently advised by support) wont stop Baby’s Days crashing.  If you can load Youtube on your device then chances are that RAM isn’t the issue and if it is the issue you need to question what exactly BDs is loading up that’s bigger than your average Youtube video?

So what’s the conclusion?

As ever I believe Mark Kahl and the support staff are using Geek talk to mystify people rather than dealing with actual issues present in the Baby’s Days software.

If people have facebook open (not a SaaS App but an awesome platform that updates in real time, plays videos automatically, loads constant photos etc) but babysdays crashes then it’s pretty obvious where a big chunk of the issue is.  Do not be fooled by the smoke screen of “awww poor love it’s because it’s SaaS, don’t worry you wont understand it, just believe me”.

It may be that some people have low ram machines, but then you have to ask the question what is Babys Day’s trying to load into memory that is so large that it makes things fall over?

If they’ve potentially coded a site bad enough that it’s crashing people’s browsers or devices, the problem is in their coding, not in the site being “resource hungry”.  SaaS or website, there’s no reason to ever use enough ram or CPU to crash anything; despite what Mark Kahl says Baby’s Days and any system like it uses a fraction of what sites like Youtube or similar high quality media SaaS sites do, and they can manage it without crashing anything.

I hope this post helps those feeling really frustrated with the system at the moment have the courage to open a ticket with support and get the issue sorted. Just becasue you do not have an IT degree it does not mean the issue “must be your end”.  You pay a lot of money for this service, the least it could do is actually work.

Make sure you pop back tomorrow when I’ll be blogging about the changes in Baby’s Days customer service over the years and the recent server downtime that many customers may not be aware of.

Are all Baby’s Days systems “identical”?

Hey readers thanks for all the messages of support over the last week, many of you were worried the blog might not return, but as promised here it is!  I managed to get so much wedding stuff done, the only thing left now is a heavy duty Generator that I need to hire so if you’re in the South West and have one kicking about let me know :)

Anyway, today I wanted to blog about how the director of Baby’s Days, Mark Kahl, repeatedly claims all Baby’s Days systems are “identical”.  This has come up this week on their Facebook support group as many users are experiencing their devices (mainly iphones and ipads) crashing and then losing all their work.

A line that Baby’s Days like to use when dealing with some technical support issues is, ‘all systems are identical, if anyone else was having this issue we would have 1000s of complaints, it must be your end’ or words to that effect.

In my experience this isn’t true, all systems are not identical.  I say this based on my own experience; if you have read this blog from the start you will know it was started because the director at Baby’s Days (Mark Kahl) uses his discretion to decide which systems do and do not get the monthly upgrades, that’s right you aren’t automatically entitled to them as part of your subscription.  My system and at least 2 other systems did not receive the control centre update when it was released, despite the fact that all other customers had been updated. If you don’t believe me here is a link to a post which has further details.

So no in my experience all systems are not identical and Sys IQ Ltd have the ability to make some systems do some things and some systems do other things. So when Mark Kahl says all systems are identical please take this with a pinch of salt.  If you have a technical issue open a ticket with support and get it sorted, don’t be fobbed off with ridiculous excuses.

As lots of users have had problems with Baby’s Days crashing their devices recently and their servers have been down twice in the last few days so I’m going to be blogging about that tomorrow and what exactly a SaaS Application is; so bring your nerd glasses!  Just take heart in the fact that if the system is crashing and you can play videos on youtube it’s probably nothing to do with the RAM on your device (as Bbaby’s Days advise), so don’t drive yourself mad trying to “fix” it like I used to!

Have I found another flaw?

Before I start this post, I should clarify that I’m not a very technical person, I don’t know much about computers beyond basic functions such as web browsing and word processing.  I have a vague idea that programmes are written in code, but beyond that I know no more.  I know that you can look many things up on Google and that wikipedia is a great resource.

Given this complete lack of IT knowledge, it’s a little concerning that I may have found another security flaw on Baby’s Days; to clarify this flaw is on the Demo site and on current customers sites.  You can see if for yourself, it’s not straightforward but I’m happy to talk anyone through it if they would like to see it for themselves.

The flaw is an issue that most IT people would label, “unsecured data at rest”; this means that when the data has been sent to the server securely, it is then stored in an unsecure manner.  The data in question is parent comments.  The parent types the comment in on the photo (I’ve only tested this on diary photo comments), the comments are then sent to the server via encrypted transfer and then they are stored on the server logs in plain text – which sort of makes the encrypted transfer rather redundant in my opinion!

This means that anyone at the server end (ie. Data Centre employees and thirds party contractors and Baby’s Days employees) can read all the comments parents place on diary photographs.  Without getting too complicated, the programme absolutely does not need to be written in this way and Baby’s Days could easily make the storage of parent comments more secure.

Here is a screen shot to give you an idea, the screen shot is from a demo, but this will also happen on your own system.  As you can see I have underlined the parents comments and you can see they are stored in the URL log, which is then sent and stored on the server.  Click on the photo to make it bigger.

Given that Baby’s Days stated I was lying about the last security issue regarding photographs, then I expect this issue will also be swept under the carpet in the same way.  Like the last issue, I emailed Baby’s Days to inform them of the flaw 48 hours before I published my blog.

Ok, so some of you reading this might be thinking, “so what, does it really matter that people can read my parents comments?”

The answer to this will vary from person to person and ultimately I’m only writing about this due to Baby’s Days 100% secure claims, this is another post that suggests it’s not 100% secure.  The way this part of the system has been written appears at best bad practice and and worst unsafe.  Is this the result of using possibly incompetent freelancers?  I would have hoped that freelance developers would be competent at developing secure systems – or at least following some basic best practices which doesn’t seem to be the case here at all.

But at any rate, in my opinion that’s not really the question you should be asking. I think the more important question here is; “If a childminder with no knowledge of computer programming can find 2 security issues with the system, how many could someone with more experience find?”


Would any other EYFS company keep a customers data?

So, in my search for an alternative to Baby’s Days, I questioned as anyone might, whether it was wise to place my data with another EYFS software provider.  Since the blog started many readers and Baby’s Days customers have asked me the same question, “could this happen again with a different company?  Isn’t it a case of better the devil you know?”

It started to dawn on me that what Baby’s Days / Sys IQ Ltd has done to 3.5 years worth of my data may reflect badly on other EYFS provider, so I thought I would post a blog post to clarify that I truly believe this would never have happened with a different online EYFS provider.

When you read reviews of Baby’s Days the one consistent theme is that customer service is terrible; the man behind the customer service is Mark Kahl as far as I am aware.  He is the company director of Sys IQ Ltd.  He is also the common denominator in almost every single negative experience a customer of Baby’s Days has had.  In the interest of fairness, I’m sure lots of customers also find him very helpful.  The point in that he does not work with any other company and so his customer service techniques are isolated to the Baby’s Days brand alone.

I contacted a few different companies and asked them:

…I have a lot of people asking me if they were to leave Baby’s Days for another online software company, how could they be sure the new company wouldn’t withhold their data in the same way Baby’s Days has withheld mine.  How can customers be sure their data would be returned?

Most of the companies replied in an extremely shocked tone, they couldn’t believe that Baby’s Days didn’t allow me time to download my data before they terminated the agreement.  They were even more shocked when I told them that any attempts to retrieve the data after termination had also been fruitless and that the ICO had found Baby’s Days to be in Breach of The Data Protection Act.

It’s feel it is fair to conclude that that way Baby’s Days has handled my data isn’t the industries standard approach; as such readers of the blog shouldn’t think if they switch providers the same thing might happen with the new provider.  It seems to be a customer service issue isolated to Baby’s Days alone.

For those that would like to read more info, here is what each company said about their own policies regarding returning data to their customers after terminating an account:

Minding Matter (Previously Mega Minder):  “Your data will ALWAYS be accessible to YOU and the PARENTS of your setting. We will NEVER lock you or the parents of your setting out of your account

Easy Solution 4 Nursery Education: “All data is owned by the provider or [by] the family in the case of our ‘linked up’ (to the provider’s EASYpro) and the stand alone version EASYparent. 

We view our role as the guardians fo their data (as per our terms and conditions – 9.1 The Licensee shall own all rights, title and interest in and to all the Licensee Data and shall have sole responsibility for the legality, reliability, integrity, accuracy and quality of the Licensee Data).   Our software is applicable for children from birth until their eighth birthday, when the data is deleted. 

However, we give the setting, or the family in the case of EASYparent and EASY@home, ample opportunity to download all the information in a report form, before the data is removed.  We also offer to return to them, the photographs that have been uploaded in JPEG format, although there is a small charge for this service.  These conditions also apply to any setting that may cease to subscribe to EASYpro.

Owl Track:  “I have just had my first client leave recently due to financial reasons. As I mentioned before I cant send them data as such but they can access it via their account on [the] site. I have told this client that I will not delete the account for two months in order to give her time to download, save or print any information that her or her parents requires. I will also check with her before finally deleting it. This is good customer service which is vital for business these days.”

Orbit:  “We suppose we are slightly different in that Orbit is free, so there is no subscription. We also allow the download of children’s learning journeys at any time (as a pdf document) so you always have access to the data…. In the unlikely event that we were to stop providing the service, we would give our users the maximum amount of warning possible and allow them to download and backup data.”

2simple:  “You may access your information (in return for a small fee) and request details of the entities with whom we have shared your information by contacting us at info@2simple.com. In most cases we will comply promptly with your request and let you know when we have done so.

However, sometimes you will not be entitled to access your information. For example, where the public interest or your own interests override your rights under the Data Protection Act 1998. We may withhold information where we are legally allowed to do so.”

Target Tracker:  “I can advise that we would never withhold a subscribers’ data.  In fact we make it very easy to export the data at any point as a file or by exporting whichever reports are useful.

If a subscriber chooses to leave they are able to export their data up to the end of the subscription.  After that point a small admin charge may be applicable as we would need to re-enable the subscription in order to export it.

We like to put our subscribers at the heart of what we do and it would not be in anyone’s interest to make things difficult for any customer.”

EYFS Tracker:  We have only once been asked by a setting for access to their data after they had let their licence lapse. We re-enabled their account on the same day they requested it to allow them to download their data (as they had an Ofsted inspection the following day), and we did not charge a fee for this.

Connect Childcare:  Our viewpoint is very simple – we own the software but you own the data. At any stage you can download/back this up yourself if you wish.  We will help you do this as it’s yours.

I also contacted Jeans Database, although the package does not offer an online facility I felt it fair to include the company with the others.  Jean replied; “The CM Software database is not an on-line product – it resides 100% on whatever device the customer chooses to store it on.  Which means that they also have 100% access and ownership to their data at all times. “

Pop back tomorrow for a post about how many childminders believe simply sing Baby’s Days will result in them achieving an Ofsted Outstanding grade.

Has Baby’s Days lied to the ICO?

I’ve exchanged some very bizarre emails with the ICO and Baby’s Days over the past few weeks regarding my subject Access Requests.  It seems to me that Baby’s Days are getting confused about how to handle the requests, and getting the requests mixed up and at one point have continually referred to my son by some other name?!

Slightly alarming when they are handling so much data.  But never the less, I’ve tried to make sense of this info, but it seems to me that Baby’s Days are either deliberately muddying the waters so to speak or they are getting themselves in a right muddle.

Can anyone make sense of the following?  It seems to me that on the 17th Feb, the ICO told my co-minder that Sys IQ Ltd had confirmed to them that her daughters data had been deleted.  Here is the email from the ICO so you can see it for yourself.

ico say AA data has gone

But then on the 18th Feb, a day after the email from the ICO my co-minder was contacted by Sys IQ Ltd directly, who stated, “your subject data request is now closed and we will be unable to provide you with any data for *childs name*”. Email below.  Surely they couldn’t continue with the request because they had already deleted the data?  So why have they sent this confusing email?

BDs close AA request

Baby’s Days seem to be fast becoming confused by the situation, despite it being very simple.  The cancelled the subscription, they with held the data, we would like it back.

What do these emails look like to everyone else?  Would you ever have imagined it would be this hard to retrieve work that most minders believe to be “theirs”?

PS.  You may have missed the last few posts as the email sent to subscribers doesn’t seem to have been working.  You can check them out here, one about Baby’s Days not being ISO Accredited, and another about the ICO.