Scary, but true.
On Tuesday May 28 I got up, ready to return to work after the Memorial Day Weekend, and discovered the website was down. A couple east-coast readers had already noticed and emailed me. I contacted the hosting service, C I Host -- that's http://www.cihost.com/ -- but all they could tell me was that the site had exceeded its bandwidth for the month.
They couldn't tell me by how much, or how to fix it, since I was not the owner of the account paying for the site; I was only the webmaster. Locusmag.com was set up on C I Host three years or so ago by a reseller who arranged a package deal with C I Host and resold individual accounts for a profit. This seemed fine at the time, though the principal disadvantage was that whenever an accounting problem arose (as rarely did), I would have to contact the reseller, who shall be designated only ehcom, who would then interact with C I Host.
It took most of Tuesday to get in touch with ehcom, who learned that we had to pay an overage penalty for excessive bandwidth. The basic reseller accounts have caps of 20 Gigabytes; Locusmag.com was running at a rate of 23 Gig for May. One might suppose that a web hosting service would warn a client about exceeding such a limit before simply deactivating the account, but that is not apparently how web hosting services work.
By the time ehcom clarified the situation, however, the billing department at C I Host had gone home for the day. Call back in the morning. Meanwhile, the site stayed deactivated.
I suggested to ehcom that it was time to transfer the Locusmag.com domain to my own account, which I would pay for directly, and have direct control of. (And with no bandwidth limit.)
Wednesday morning ehcom contacted the billing department to initiate this transfer, and notified me; I then called the billing department to set up my own account. I filled out a form online and faxed in a credit card authorization. The site did not spring back into being by noon, so I called the billing department back. Ms billing department (Kimberly, actually) assured me technicians were transferring the site (apparently this involved physically moving all the website's files from one computer to another, or something), and it would be done in a couple hours. OK, Kimberly, is there anything more that I need to do? No.
Meanwhile, the wholesale transfer of the locusmag domain had cut off processing of email, so that email sent to locusmag.com bounced. The couple hours went by and the site was not restored so I called technical support. They informed me the overage penalty still had not been paid, and only the billing dept could process this payment and reactivate the site. Kimberly apparently had not known anything about the deactivation of the domain for overage. By this time, of course, billing had gone home for the day. Call back in the morning.
Thursday morning I called back the billing dept, paid the overage penalty, and within a few minutes the site was reactivated.
That was round one.
Saturday morning June 1st the site was down again. I contacted technical support (Emmanuel, actually), who after some minutes discovered that there was no DNS entry for locusmag.com. (DNS is the Internet function that relates domain names, like "locusmag.com", to the IP addresses of individual computers where the domain's files are located.) How had this happened? He couldn't say. When would it be fixed? The DNS server update would be processed at midnight.
Sunday morning everything was OK again. Round two.
Tuesday morning I went to work and checked the site and got an error message -- a different error than before, so at first I thought there was some problem with the local DNS at work, perhaps something to do with the way updates to the Internet can take several days to propagate. In fact, half an hour later the site seemed to be working again. But close to lunchtime I got a phone call from Jenni at the Locus offices, who reported they had not gotten any email since 3 a.m. that morning. I checked, and the website was down again.
I had a meeting to attend, so I filed a technical problem report online (rather than waiting on hold), and heard back by later in the afternoon that the Locusmag.com domain had been cancelled, please contact sales.
I called sales and after much explanation and prompting, gathered that the billing department, in removing the Locusmag.com domain from the reseller's account, had simply cancelled the domain outright. They apparently did not notice that the domain had been transferred and now belonged to another account (mine).
(If this kind of mix-up occurred at my day job, space shuttles would explode and there would be a Congressional investigation.)
Alas, sales could do nothing at 5 p.m. in the afternoon; I would have to contact billing. Call back in the morning.
I called back in the morning, and a different billing lady assured me the domain would be reactivated in two minutes. Half an hour later, I called technical support to find out why there was still no website, or email. He (Jason, actually) checks and checks and discovers that there was no DNS entry for the locusmag.com domain. (It had presumably been deleted when the domain was cancelled; perhaps I should have anticipated this on Tuesday.) It would be restored, but the update would not go into effect until 3 a.m. the next morning, Thursday.
That brings us up to date (as I write late Wednesday night). I can connect to the site's IP address via FTP and have been uploading website updates for the past couple days. Will these updates be visible to you on Thursday morning?
I hope so, because I am off on a previously scheduled vacation, for a week. I'll be back with more updates (or one kind or another) the weekend of June 15th.
Update Thursday morning 6:45 a.m. Los Angeles time. Now there's no server error when trying to view locusmag.com, just a blank screen! I call technical support (Jason, again). Some directory password problem, he does a soft reboot, etc. Site now appears!
Curiously, because of the way updates take a while to propagate through the Internet, a couple subscriptions from overseas [using the online subscription form] -- Portugal and Belgium -- have come in overnight; in fact, email has been trickling in since early Wednesday evening. By the same token, the DNS error might still be propagating through local updates around the world for several days.
What else can go wrong? Nothing I hope; I have a plane to catch.