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The Day After the Big Outage

November 8, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Blind Access Journal was completely unavailable for approximately thirty hours from Sunday afternoon through Monday evening due to a total outage of UltraHost, the web hosting provider on which we rely. I received the following note from Jeff, the owner of UltraHost, on Monday in response to my status request on resolution of the ongoing outage.

From: Jeff – The Ultra Guy

To: Darrell Shandrow

Subject: Re: Status of outage?

Hello Darrell, you wrote:

We’re just writing to ask for an update on the UltraHost outage that began yesterday afternoon. Thanks.

The server hosting your site was compromised. I had to reload the operating system, reconfigure the server and restore all user accounts from backups.
It has taken me all day, but all user accounts have now been restored.
I apologize for the downtime and any inconvenience it has caused. Fortunately, this is an unusual situation.

Jeff

UltraHost.US Customer Care

This morning, following last night’s resolution of the outage, I sent him this note:

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the response and the ultimate resolution to the issues. I am, quite honestly, concerned with both the length of the outage and the lack of proactive
communication concerning the cause of the problems and status of resolution. Frankly, the timing of this long outage couldn’t have been worse as I am
preparing for the Portable Media Expo and Podcasting Conference next weekend. I was beginning to wonder if I would need to switch to another host very
quickly or face the potential of going to a conference to promote accessibility while having blindaccessjournal.com and shandrow.com, the two domains that
make up the blog and podcast, hard down during the event and for awhile afterwards. At the same time, I am impressed at the completeness of restoration.
I expected to have to do a lot more work in order to bring everything back to a state of relative normalcy, but, in fact, almost none was required.
Could you please give us some details as to what steps have been taken to help insure the security breach is not repeated?

Thanks.

It has become apparent to me that it is virtually impossible for a one man shop to meet my web hosting needs with the reliability I must have in order to effectively spread the message of accessibility evangelism around the world. Sadly, I must say, I am open to all recommendations for good web hosting companies that provide a similar level of functionality as UltraHost along with lots of bandwidth and file storage space for the blog and podcast. Thank you all for any feedback you are able to give.

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2 opinions on “The Day After the Big Outage

  1. I have, unfortunately, come to the same conclusion. While i like to support the blind community, I won’t put up with shoddy service and, contrary to Jeff’s assertion, while the situation may be rare it has happened before (slow speeds, loss of connection temporarily, etc.) While I don’t have anything on my space at the moment, I am planning on putting projects up to showcase to potential employers, and therefore I also need reliability. I have switched to hurricane hosts at http://www.hurricanehost.com. They also offer ventrillo hosting, and I’ve heard good things about them. Unfortunately I don’t have much to report on yet as the domain name hasn’t gone through yet (I’m changing registrars also which apparently takes forever, unbeknownst to me.) Whatever you do, don’t go with domain bank. They are terrible. Not so much inaccessible as just clumsy and impossible to get around on. I’ll let you know how I make out.

  2. I would really hate to see too many people leave Jeff’s business. Yes, I agree with the notion that a more proactive response be given to situations like this. A similar thing happened to me at holmesgrown.com a month or so ago and a similar period of time was spent while he built out on anew box. I don’t know of any similarly priced services one could have with as many subsystems. I have had service with Ultrahost since Feb. of 2003 and have had absolutely no snags until a month or so ago with the above incidents. I’ still gonna cary on with him unless I hear of something better. It just seems like so many other web hosting services impose other stringent limits like file capacity or bandwidth or worse yet, a user interface that limits flexibility. The best of all would be a super shell account on a virtual server where you could do just about anything you want:).
    As for domain registrars, I’ve been using Directnic since October of 2000 and have had excelent results. They are a full registrar and I found their site to be quite accessible with all browsers including the text ones under Linux.

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