You would have noticed that this blog was recently off line for 3 days. Although the overall reason for going off line was for technical maintenance purposes, there is actually more to it than meets the eye. Firstly, we would like to thank all our readers for their messages, patience, support and understanding during the outage. If you have been a follower of this blog since the very beginning, you will be aware that Hostgator has always been our preferred Web Host. However, in the last 72 hours we have gone through quite a lot of emotions and also flirted with other Web Hosts as a result.
How It All Began
Basically, we received a notification that due to server overload issues the blog had been taken off line (without prior warning) until certain steps are taken to optimise it so that it consumes less CPU power. However, there was a problem with this advise; our accesse were was also blocked out so couldn’t log in from the back-end to make any necessary changes. Given that the issue had to be escalated, it couldn’t be resolved by simply chatting away to an advisor via Hostgator’s Live Chat facility.
It Gets Complicated
To cut the long story short, after several emails I was able to get into the back-end but then all the suggestions for reducing the amount of CPU resources consumed by the blog (e.g. using a Cache plugin, CDN, Cloudflare, adjusting the Crawl rate in Google Webmaster settings etc.). However, this was not sufficient to warrant putting the blog back on line so the assumption was that the high consumption of CPU resources must have been caused by a recent surge in Web traffic on this blog.
Upgrading To VPS
Considering all the hassle, we thought this must be the best time to upgrade to a VPS server. Now the question was, should we use Hostgator’s VPS server of find a suitable alternative to Hostgator considering all the trouble we were having? So then, it was decided that Hostgator was worth giving a try since we haven’t really been let down before. However, after purchasing the new VPS server, migration became troublesome. First, all the content from the old shared server were copied into the VPS server along with the restrictions. After over 48 hours of trying to figure out what the problem was, it took an additional 24 hours, several more emails and telephone calls to rectify figuring out that the Nameservers were not pointing to the correct (i.e. VPS) IP addresses. So then, we can conclude that it took HostGator 72 hours to successfully(? -subject to additional checks-) migrate the site from a shared server to a VPS server. Unfortunately, due to the restrictions placed on the shared server we have had to suffer an unprecedented 72 hours downtime during that period.
During our flirtation period with other Web hosts, we were prepared to pay any amount to get this blog back on line. However, HostGator still appeared to come out on top in spite of the troubles we went through. Even when there were problems getting the site back on line, there was always someone to speak to on the phone or via chat. Furthermore, the complete migration process was entirely free and not one extra penny was charged. Therefore, good customer services, free technical assistance and their previous track record gave HostGator the edge over other Web hosts that were considered. Whilst there may be better Web Hosts out there, we still haven’t come across it yet and if anyone knows of one, let us know about it. Who knows? They might yet win our heart.
It is very important to always try and learn something new from every difficulty one encounters. Some of the lessons learnt from this experience are as follows.
- Do not leave everything until the last minute: I believe that had the server been upgraded early enough, migration would have been a breeze without any downtime. However, HostGator can possibly improve in this aspect by sending notifications prior to taking a site down.
- Have a back-up plan: Now, this may come at a cost financially. A good back-up plan may include having your Web site or blog hosted in two different places such that you can just simply change your Nameservers when you have difficulties that may take you off line for a considerable period of time.
- Stay in touch with your readers: Although notifications were made via Twitter and Facebook, this could have been extended to our subscribers via email. Also, the blog URL could be redirected to a one-page site with information on the current Web site status.
- Reply to emails: Usually when your readers notice something unusual such as an unusually long downtime, they will usually contact you by email. When and if they do, try to reply as soon as possible so as not to turn people off.
- Hope for the best: Talking about loosing readers, just hope for the best. Hopefully, you don’t get any penalties from search engines such as Google for the downtime period.