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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 (*cough*yeah, right*cough*) 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.





April 2008

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