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When Your Blog Goes Down…

This is the true story (true story!), of what happens, when blogging systems stop being polite and start getting real...

I used to love MTV’s The Real World. LOOOOOVE. After the Austin season, I pretty much washed my hands of the whole thing (though I won’t lie — part of my turning 25 angst was tied up in the fact that I was too old for the Real World and would have to apply to Big Brother if I ever wanted to become THAT girl), but countless hours of my life were spent watching the MTV marathons over and over and over again. But this entry isn’t about my love affair with proto-reality TV (although I have actually written, FOR FUN, mind you, essays arguing when the genre changed, when Real World reached its peak, and when it became the mess of bullshit it is now — comment or e-mail me and I’ll post it), it’s about my blog’s brief death, and ultimate return.

So, earlier this week I posted about how successful my WordPress 2.5 move was — and it was — and talked about how I was going to be moving to Media Temple. Well, that move didn’t go quite as smoothly as I had hoped — but in ways that were pretty much all my fault. I figured I would take the time to share what I did correctly, and what I totally fucked up in doing — in the hopes that some other people might be saved some headache/heartache.

To start, I should provide some background. Back in November of 2003, 1and1 was making its big US debut and they offered 3 years of free hosting (including, I believe, a domain name — for one year) for free to people who signed up under some special plan. Now, at the time, I had been paying for my domain, for about three or four years (I can’t remember if I signed up for it the summer of 1999 or 2000, probably 2000) because I was like, “hells yeah, I’m finally going to create my awesome web site” and then it was just a custom e-mail address for like 3 years. So I signed up, thinking that I would actually do something this time. I’m a huge liar, as it took ANOTHER FOUR YEARS for me to get off my ass. I’m awesome. In that four years, I’ve gone from the free package to the Home package to the Business package. All without doing anything but storing my MP3s and legally (coughyeah, rightcough) obtained software on the server.

Although I had never been fond of 1and1’s tech support, or lack thereof, I had seldom actually needed to contact them. I figured I would see how my blog was doing, evaluate my hosting needs, blah blah blah. Well, other than some ugly downtime in January — and the increasing unreliability of their mail servers (which used to be freaking fantastic — now I’m stuck using Google Apps, which I really don’t love — but am thinking about paying for a good mail only account somewhere to host my MX tables…whatever), the service has remained fine. Not great, but fine.

When I decided to launch an upcoming video project, I knew I wanted to be with a more reliable host — and not on the typical shared hosting system. To me, it was worth paying twice as much a month do that (in truth, if it ever comes down to it, I’ll freaking get a dedicated server and manage it myself — I’d rather not, but I’ll do that — I’m frugal, but not cheap, especially when it comes to services — and I stayed with 1and1 more because I had been there for SO long rather than the price), so I signed up with Media Temple at the end of February.

My biggest fear in canceling my 1and1 account was retaining my domains. In addition to the three package provided domains I had as part of my Business packages, I had four or five other domains and the instructions from 1and1 were ambiguous at best in terms of cancelling hosting but not domain registration. Plus, Google turned up plenty of horror stories. In order to limit the fallout of canceling my account as much as possible, I created a new “domain only” 1and1 account and started to migrate all my domains there. This is why most of my domains just lead to a landing page. I need to create a new one in Media Temple and direct them all to that directory/DNS, but whatever. Over the last month, I went ahead and migrated every URL over to the domain only account, got Google Apps to handle e-mail, blah blah blah. The last one to remain was — which was still on my 1and1 hosting account. So I had to transfer it to the new domain only 1and1 account (what, they have great domain prices and I’m fine with keeping them there) and then change the name severs to Media Temple and blah blah blah. Hence, I knew downtime would be coming.

OK, sorry for making you read all of that — for the actual crux of the post,

Although I had planned for the extended DNS downtime (I had no way to access the refresh time on the DNS server), backed up my MySQL database from 1and1 and prepared to move swiftly, I still made some mistakes.

  1. Not realizing that my WordPress URL settings would affect where the site itself was directed — meaning, that while I was waiting for the DNS to update, I couldn’t have my blog already in place because my database back-up just re-directed to, which was still not resolving. What I SHOULD have done was backup the important tables, posts, pages, comments, etc. and skipped users and wp-config settings. That way I could have manually changed that after the DNS resolved, but still had access to my site and known what everything looked like. Instead, I had to wait for the DNS to resolve to the new address and then configure the blog — this was problematic because…
  2. The backup that I had from my site (WordPress runs an automatic backup thanks to this plugin and e-mails me the MySQL file every Sunday morning) was done prior to my WordPress 2.5 upgrade. This wasn’t hugely problematic, but it meant that my easiest course of database backup was missing my most recent entry/comment. I actually hadn’t planned on using this backup at all, I just figured I’d dump the MySQL database from my other phpAdmin setup and reimport, as I have on my MAMP installs. This was compounded by the fact that the export I did from my old MySQL database wouldn’t import properly at first. I was a dumbass and didn’t realize I had to comment out (or just delete) the “create database name XXX” line at the beginning of the file, so that my new phpAdmin would be able to accept it. What I SHOULD have done was run a complete backup, including all plugin tables BEFORE ever changing the DNS entries. Upon first running into the MySQL import error (and at that point, I was even having problems importing the older backup from Sunday that I had NOT intended on using), I did something VERY, VERY stupid:
  3. I changed the DNS/nameservers back to 1and1. It only took an hour or so to propagate — I figured switching it back wouldn’t be that time consuming and then I could do a proper backup. In theory, this would have made sense. But remember that whole part about how I switched my domain name to a domain only package? Yeah. BIG MISTAKE. Big. Huge. (that’s from Pretty Woman, by the way) It didn’t take long for me to realize that I couldn’t just point the DNS back to 1and1 because at this point, my domain was no longer on the same account as the hosted files — and trying to set it at its hosted directory on the OTHER account was painful and while probably technically possible, no fun whatsoever. Huge mess. Huge, huge mess. I thought I would be able to get it to point at another site, the one domain that was still ostensibly linking to my 1and1 hosted files (meaning I’d just redirect to which was pointed at the WordPress directory on my host), but the fact that WordPress was setup thinking that was the blog’s URL caused the site to redirect from boxtopfilms back to which then just redirected back to itself in an endless loop. So I couldn’t access the admin page of WordPress to do an in-blog backup and my website was just a mess of redirects to itself with massive errors for anyone visiting. I changed the name servers BACK to Media Temple, wanting to forget the whole nastiness every happened. At this point, I went to bed

When I woke up Friday, I was able to retry uploading my backup MySQL database and that got things working, I was just missing the entry from Sunday morning. Later that afternoon, Grant informed me that I needed to comment out stuff to get the MySQL working properly, I successfully got the full file up in a new database, switched databases, and voila.

So, in short:

*Don’t compound a mistake by making a bigger mistake. *Make sure you do a complete in-WordPress backup BEFORE switching hosts *Don’t compound a mistake by making a bigger mistake (this one is important)

The end.



Alltop, all the cool kids (and me)


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April 2008
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3 people have left comments

Jay  (Twitter @qthrul) - Gravatar

Jay (Twitter @qthrul) said:

Awesome writeup!

That’s some pretty good scar tissue right there!

I still run my own server, control my own DNS, etc… It can be a real pain sometimes. So, I moved to Pair ( then tried living by their hosting rules thinking the burden of maintenance would be shifted to them. That lasted for about a year and having to do manual updates for WP ugprades sucked. I like pressing buttons and having the magic happen. So, now I’ve moved back from Pair back to my own server and I can do button press upgrades.

You do get control with your own server but you get all the headaches too. Hard drive crashes, backups, etc… but I’m still glad I moved all email functions to Google Apps. Is Google Apps perfect? No, but it’s better than the thrashing I was doing prior. Email and fighting (spy vs. spy) spam has zero appeal to me personally for the few domains I handle personally. That’s paying gig skills 😉

Posted on: April 5, 2008 at 3:01 pmQuote this Comment
Shashib - Gravatar

Shashib said:


Posted on: April 15, 2008 at 10:59 pmQuote this Comment
K - Gravatar

K said:

You could have just got a sql dump from PHP admin.

Posted on: May 20, 2008 at 1:28 amQuote this Comment