For a split second this morning I thought the world had ended and I was the last person on Earth.
I received no emails, no one bid for the spot on my blog’s sidebar, and even around the house was eerily calm.
I knew something was wrong and immediately went to check my website – account suspended. I had no idea how long it had been this way and it was like my worse nightmare playing out before me.
I was fuming. I knew my account was paid through the year, I knew that I wasn’t doing anything wrong with my account – I pride myself on doing “the right thing” and there was no other reason I could think of for my account to be suspended.
I can’t remember a time I’ve ever wanted or needed to speak with a host over the phone – email support has always been good enough, but never has anything seemed more urgent. Since my host only offered and online ticket system, I submitted my ticket and waited as patiently as I could (which wasn’t very patiently at all).
It turns out that an old script on my site wasn’t patched against the new spam exploit going around. I had forgotten about the script because I was no longer using it, but the spammers were still able to find it and exploit it to send out a mass mailing.
The script has since been deleted and my account has been restored, but that was a very scary 30 minutes this morning. It got me thinking about the worst case scenario.
Paul Short suffered massive data loss when his host skipped town and I realized that it could easily have been me. No one is immune to losing their online empire, not even if you’re using a dedicated server.
If you pay a third party (other than the data center and maintenance crew for the server that you own), you can be shut down.
So, I provide you with some tips to help you protect yourself and minimize any potential damage:
- Know your host. Get reviews, check their reports, check how long they’ve been in business, make sure they have a guarantee, and monitor their uptime status. Make sure their customer service is top notch by sending them a few email questions, or even call them up, before you send them your money.
- If you feel you’ll ever need to speak with a real human being, get a host that offers phone support.
- Do not host all your eggs in one basket. Have multiple webhosts. Yes, add on domains are great, but what happens if your host goes down – all your websites go with it and you have no where else to go.
- Do weekly back ups of everything. Most hosts do nightly backups, but they also have a disclaimer stating they can’t be held liable if there should be catastrophic failure and all your data goes missing. Do not rely on your webhosting – back up your files, your email, and your databases, at very least, once a week. Worst case is you’ll only be one week behind.
- Extra care is needed with extra special sites. Have your back up hosts ready to take on another site at the drop of a hat. Have the domain added as an add-on domain, make sure all the databases are set up, and the files are uploaded. In the unlikely event that your site’s host goes down, you can have it back online within a few hours.
- When you do your weekly back up, simply take an extra moment to upload the files to the back up hosts and update the database.
- Stay in the know, or hire someone to do it for you. With so many nasty things going around on the web and the unscrupulous people, it’s important to stay a step ahead. It’s tiring, but necessary. Make sure your scripts are updated, make sure you know who, how, and why people are accessing your site, check for anomalies in your webstats, or suspicious activities and if you notice anything strange – notify your host immediately.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Although many hosts will shut down your account without notice, something I’m not particularly keen on, some hosts who will try to contact you first. Make sure you leave them with up to date contact information.
I certainly hope you never have to deal with a host skipping town, or your account being suspended for one reason or another, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.