Bloggers, Do You Know Where Your Server Is? Continuity For Web Projects – Part I

Imagine waking up one morning, taking your first cup of coffee over to your computer with a plan on writing a new blog entry, only to find your blog’s host is down.

Scot K9JY found his hosting service had become unreliable and write of his transition: New Hosting Company for K9JY.com

….. I have given the posting a break because of a problem: my previous hosting company has become steadily unreliable.

This unreliable service translates to readers as “500 Internal Server Error” messages, long load times, “Hello, World” postings, and — my favorite — presenting an “install WordPress” option as the home page. This allows anyone on the planet to not only overwrite my version of the software on the system, it gives them access to the entire site! Wonderful!

And clearly unacceptable. ……

Scott W4PA had announced he was stopping his blog (and taking a break from Radio Contesting) in a message that few of us read, as his Blog Host service went down, and it seems for good:

Tuesday:

Journalspace is no more.

DriveSavers called today to inform me that the data was unrecoverable.

Here is what happened: the server which held the journalspace data had two large drives in a RAID configuration. As data is written (such as saving an item to the database), it’s automatically copied to both drives, as a backup mechanism.

The value of such a setup is that if one drive fails, the server keeps running, using the remaining drive. Since the remaining drive has a copy of the data on the other drive, the data is intact. The administrator simply replaces the drive that’s gone bad, and the server is back to operating with two redundant drives.

But that’s not what happened here. There was no hardware failure. Both drives are operating fine; DriveSavers had no problem in making images of the drives. The data was simply gone.Overwritten.

The data server had only one purpose: maintaining the journalspace database. There were no other web sites or processes running on the server, and it would be impossible for a software bug in journalspace to overwrite the drives, sector by sector.

The list of potential causes for this disaster is a short one. It includes a catastrophic failure by the operating system (OS X Server, in case you’re interested), or a deliberate effort. A disgruntled member of the Lagomorphics team sabotaged some key servers several months ago after he was caught stealing from the company; as awful as the thought is, we can’t rule out the possibility of additional sabotage.

But, clearly, we failed to take the steps to prevent this from happening. And for that we are very sorry.

So, after nearly six years, journalspace is no more.

If you haven’t yet, visit Dorrie’s Fun Forum; it’s operated by a long-time journalspace member. If you’re continuing your blog elsewhere, you can post the URL there so people can keep up with you.

We’re considering releasing the journalspace source code to the open source community. We may also sell the journalspace domain and trademarks. Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/jsupgradesfor news.

And large numbers of Amateur Radio websites of all sorts went down as Al K3TKJ retired (no idea if this was announced in advance or widely known) and all QSL.net and QTH.net hosted services are being migrated to Scott KA9FOX (QTH.com appears unaffected):

 
QSL.net & QTH.net Announcement

December 31, 2008

Dear fellow hams,

After 13 years of providing hams with no cost web space, e-mail forwarding and mailing list services through QSL.net and QTH.net, I have decided to retire. All QSL.net and QTH.net servers and Internet connections at my home QTH are being turned down.

Scott KA9FOX has graciously decided to pick up where I left off, and he is in the process of migrating all services to new hardware. See below for an update on the status of the migration.

I want to thank all of you for all of your support over the years, and I hope that you will support Scott as he takes over the reigns.

See you on the air!

73 – Al Waller, K3TKJ

Server Migration Update from Scott KA9FOX

Last Update: Dec 31, 2008 21:34z

Thank you for your patience as this transition is made. All qsl.net/qth.net services are being moved onto brand new hardware in a well-connected data center in the central US. This web page will be updated so you can stay informed of the progress.

If you would like to make a contribution to support my efforts to keep QSL.net / QTH.net on the web, see the Donation Page.

SERVICE SERVER STATUS
Web Sites http://www.qsl.net
(ftp.qsl.net) Original server down, User data being transported to data center. ETA Jan 3rd, 2009.
Mailing Lists mailman.qth.net Original server still up, data will be migrated shortly. Expect some downtime during transition.
E-mail Forwarding mail.qsl.net Original server still up, data will be migrated shortly. Expect some downtime during transition.
DX Info/Log Search dx.qsl.net Original server still up, data will be migrated shortly. Expect some downtime during transition.

On the bright side Scot K9JY was able to recognize his old host’s problems in the making, and fully port everything he wanted to retain to a new hosting service.

Scott W4PA had announced his refocus and end-of-blog so his project’s continuity was not as a critical when Journalspace crashed & burned.

The QSL.net/QTH.net services being affected are greatly mailing lists and are transitioning in an orderly fashion. Downtime hopefully will be only the time the Internet’s DNS server systems need to populate the new server information.

But do you as a writer have a good plan to back up parts of your web-presence that you would like to keep no matter what?

And those of you who are readers, do you have a a system to save web-information you want for future reference? Remember bookmarking the URL is not going to be much use if that page disappears from the web.

Very interested in your thinking and planning along these lines!

More to follow in additional posts,

73

Steve
K9ZW

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8 thoughts on “Bloggers, Do You Know Where Your Server Is? Continuity For Web Projects – Part I

  1. Jeff, KE9V says:

    Steve,

    Great topic!

    As someone who has been blogging for quite a long time, and who deletes it all and starts over at least once a year, my perspective is a bit different.

    I don’t think anything created on the Web is ‘forever’. About as close as it gets may be to print it all out and publish it in book form. But the reality is that every server will eventually fail; businesses that run servers will go under; bloggers will die.

    I pay hundreds of dollars a year to lease a Web server (and for the bandwidth) and have been doing that for more than a decade.

    Now let’s say I had never deleted anything that I have made available online for all that time… Sure, I’d have a lot more data available but the fact is, sooner or later I will quit writing or die. When either of those inevitable events occurs, no reasonable person would expect me (or my estate) to continue paying hundreds of dollars a year to keep my old content on the Web ‘forever’.

    I realize my scenario is slightly different than the Journalspace failure and collapse, but the fact remains that nothing is forever — especially bits on Web servers.

    73 de Jeff, KE9V

  2. My first stop for dead sites is The Wayback Machine: http://www.archive.org/web/web.php

  3. Martin AA6E says:

    Sobering message, but a good one. I learned my first lesson about backups about 40 years ago, when my batch JCL called for the wrong tape mount, wiping out whole megabytes of astronomical data! Those were the days.

    If your blog/web service uses open (or at least commercially available) software, you are one step ahead. What about us poor slobs who are using blogger.com or other proprietary / closed environments? They make it pretty hard to migrate anywhere.

    Happy New Year & 73!
    Martin
    blog.aa6e.net

  4. Bob K0NR says:

    Steve,
    I don’t trust any service provider (especially one that is “free”) to maintain my data. As your post demonstrates, they can go out of business without notice or, even worse, screw up and lose your data. If you don’t care about the data then that is not a problem.

    I copy my web site and blog onto my notebook computer, using several techniques including an FTP transfer. This computer gets backed up by Carbonite ( http://www.carbonite.com/ ) on a regular basis. I also stream it off to my 500 GB network drive for a local copy under my control. All of these mechanisms can fail but (hopefully) not all at the same time.

    For some of my ranting on the topic see Too Much Data at http://www.k0nr.com/wordpress/archives/192

    73, Bob K0NR

  5. Scot, K9JY says:

    In my particular case, I was not concerned about losing data as I have backups coming to my local hard drive automagically. And, like Bob, K0NR, I also use Carbonite as an automatic backup service for the three computers I have here at home. I’ve also restored from Carbonite; it is a good service and I’d recommend them.

    But when I’m changing my behavior to check up on my sites all the time, it is not worth staying with the company. I’m more concerned with the data than KE9V, especially for Cube Rules, as the site moves up the rankings in Google over time and with more data.

    Infrastructure for sites should be like electricity: on all the time. There are some acceptable outages that are understandable, of course. But when the first thing you do in the morning is to check if the electricity is on, you’ve moved back in society a few more years than I’m willing to put up with.

    The new hosting company is more expensive than the one I was on; so far it is far better service with faster rendering of the sites. We shall see how it is over time. Like everything, we have to earn our keep every day.

    @AA6E — you can easily migrate from Blogger. WordPress, for example, offers to import your data from Blogger. You will probably have to do some tweaking, but your data will be fine.

  6. w4kaz says:

    Backups are good. Multiple backups are better.

    One other issue with data recovery is to make sure it is backed up on media that are currently accessible. As floppy drives go the way of the IBM 3830, all other forms of media are sure to follow. Some sooner than others.

    If you toss it in the trash every six months, there’s not a lot of reason to back it up at all. And other than as an exercise in composition, not much point in writing it…… :o

    One of my old bosses used to have a framed photo copy of a 5&1/4 inch floppy disk in his office. It was a conversation piece, a reminder to backup, and a reminder to make sure instructions are understood.

  7. jeffdavis says:

    w4kaz said:

    “If you toss it in the trash every six months, there’s not a lot of reason to back it up at all. And other than as an exercise in composition, not much point in writing it…… :o”

    If one were writing prose, or a novel, or even an article for magazine publication then what you say has merit. In fact, if one were writing a detailed “how-to” on something that will add long-term knowledge to the community then I would also agree.

    But blogging is completely different. It’s a medium perfectly designed for trivial bits of data served up and intended for the “right now”.

    The fact that “N9XXX worked a DX station on Jan 21st with a dipole at 20 feet” may be interesting trivia in the moment, but to commit such information to some long-term archiving strategy is a waste of effort and archiving resources.

    When I visit a Web log that lists its archives going back for “years” I feel no inclination to go digging through them to find out what the writer was having for lunch in December 2001.

    Who really does?

    It may seem sad to think that ones writing efforts are so temporal, but Web logs are the ultimate “what have you done for me lately”. Very few readers ever venture past the front page of a blog or the last few posts. In fact, if I visit a blog for the first time and the latest posting is more than a few weeks old I assume the work is “dead” and I move on without reading further.

    I suppose my point here is that you can store it, back it up, archive it, and keep duplicates in some deep in an underground vault, but that only serves to make the writer feel better — no one is reading a five year-old blog posting…

  8. w4kaz says:

    “It may seem sad to think that ones writing efforts are so temporal, but Web logs are the ultimate “what have you done for me lately”.”

    @K9EV

    That actually depends a lot on what and why a blog is being written doesn’t it? po-ta-to, po-tah-to…

    True enough, the blog software makes it easy to toss up timely editorial tidbits that scroll past and disappear with the march of time. But that is easy enough to do with static web pages by simply inserting paragraphs at the top. That could be done more easily with Openoffice than setting up and installing a blog.

    The richer features of the “bLOG” software are the very archive and search features themselves.

    I’d be the first to acknowledge much of what I post is of little use to anyone but me. But I ain’t necessarily writin’ it expressly for outside consumption. That’s just a sideline benefit, and in my case only in that I might get some useful suggestions from drive-by readers.

    My own purpose is to be able to have a repository for documenting my projects and keeping notes on contests, with the express intent of being able to review them at a later point, being able to easily access them, and have them housed off-site. I’ve found a great deal of information by digging through e-mail archives/bbs lists. But is any of it worthy of being published elsewhere? Nah.

    The other superfluous fluff in my own blog is just that. Self serving fluff, but yes, fluff. Like this comment post….! :o

    But without the “log” part, its just “b—“, just a frequently modified web home page.

    The beauty I see in the Web Log content management software concept is that it accommodates, simplifies and serves MANY purposes. The fact that many have gravitated towards the singular purpose of a temporal editorial is indeed an interesting commentary on human nature. But the nature of blogging lends itself to be whatever the countless mass of individuals make of it.

    I guess my point was essentially that if I am writing temporally, and the server blows up, I have lost nothing. Just re-init the blog and take off again from scratch. But if I want to bLOG…it’s different. Then I want the archive, and the search tool. Then I want/need a back-up. All of that can be done with static pages and google/yahoo/dogpile, but the blog tools simplfy things. The blog format also sure makes it really EASY to back up the written content. Which I guess is where we started before I hijacked this thread.

    So it makes a whole lot of sense to keep a local or other backup copy rather than rely on the host site to have the backup/recovery in place. Just because the say they are backing up their servers does not imply they are actually doing it, are doing it correctly, or that they know what to do with a backup once the “brown stuff hits the rotary impeller”. Anybody using a “free” hosting service should be especially wary and err on the side of safety.

    Unless I don’t care if it disappears suddenly, with no warning. In that case backups are moot and probably a waste of effort.

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