It’s the Little Things…

When you’ve had a site up for a decade or so, you often end up with a lot of legacy stuff, reminders of the sometimes boneheaded decisions you made long ago.  Generally, we plan to go back and fix them, but as often as not, we focus on the mission critical and forget about the housekeeping.  Until it comes back to bite us.

Yesterday was a day of DNS fun.  It started with a couple of frantic IM’s from a customer on a problem they were having.  Basically a dimwitted host had put a connection limit on one of their special marketing sites, and as the site started to achieve critical mass, it went down.

So I was thinking about how lucky I’d been of late, with my sites all staying up and particularly how my perennial problem child, Reel-Time.com had been running very, very smoothly since last March.

Bad mistake.  On cue, the email starts to poor in.  “What’s up with Reel-Time.com?  Where’s the site?”

So I file a trouble ticket.  One World Hosting usually resolves these quickly.  Generally in the past when there’s been a problem, it’s had to do with us having an exorbitant  number of users, and something in the forum causes it to crash.  Reboot, and we’re back in business.

So I took off to pick up my daughter at school (she wasn’t there…she’d gotten on the bus…)

I get back in front of the computer finally and I’ve got an answer from One World “The site is up.”  So I check,  and it isn’t.  I file another ticket, and again have to leave for a meeting.

The trouble is that they didn’t say “It’s up, but only accessible by the IP address.” That means there’s a DNS issue.  Many years ago, before Y2k, we’d made a decision that we were going to put our name servers (the server that tells the network that Reel-time.com is actually ip address 65.109.241.18, thus allowing you to access it via the name, rather than the number) on a seperate service, a decision we’ve regretted a few times over the years, and one we’d always been meaning to change.

So yesterday, UltraDNS turned off the name server, without notice to us.  The contact email was probably an ancient one, an internet dead end.  But the truth is, the site went down because we owed them less than the cost of a six pack of beer.  And the really sad part is, this is a link in the chain that doesn’t need to be there.  We should be using the name servers at One World, which come with our hosting account…hence we’re paying for a service we have no need for.

The moral of the story here is  that you need to regularly, at the very least annually, review the infrastructure for your site.  Is DNS properly configured?  When are hosting and DNS payments due (and let’s pay them now…)?  Are we using outdated technology?  Where are the areas for improvement?

Hosting costs have dropped like a stone in the past two years.  What used to cost $60 a month in 2002, was costing $14.95 a year this year (with more web space, thank you very much) and just recently I started to get hosting at $3.95 a month, for an ungodly amount of space and features.

When we get to the point that this type of service is so cheap, it becomes more of a commodity. I suspect we’re going to see a lot more companies getting out of the hosting racket.  Since June, I’ve transitioned 5 sites out of hosting companies that were switching their business focus away from hosting.  I expect to see more.  Be careful out there…

2 Replies to “It’s the Little Things…”

  1. About seven years ago I was working for a company which provided (among other things) web hosting, from the cheap shared plans up to complex hosting. The low end of that business was ugly then. The economics of it simply don’t allow for high-touch service, which is why so many people doing it were losing lots of money.

    So it’s really worth asking yourself about the cost of failures. There is no perfect web host, but depending on the business function of your site, it really might be worth paying a bit more if you’re getting more responsive service.

    We would regularly get calls from people who were paying $20 a month (which then was very low) for a site for them home business screaming that it was out… and they’d tracked down our CEOs extension and were calling him. I understood their frustration, but really, it was an inevitable situation.

    That company wound up pouring insane amounts of money into infrastructure improvements, then selling the whole mess off to a competitor, and then going into Chapter 11 anyway. Ah, those were the days.

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