Webserver Explosion of 2016

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | February 4, 2016      

Hey everyone,
I have no idea what went on at our hosting provider, all I know is we had no websites for more than 24 hours and 48 hours later I’m still dealing with problems. Thanks all for the emails and FB messages, surprising the hosting provider couldn’t even put up a “site under repair” message but just left things smoldering. I have to imagine a bunch of guys in flipflops, skateboarding around their data center, spraying the server with beer to put out a power supply fire, coughing on bong smoke as they rummage through a closet for a spare hard drive.

What’s weird, is prior to this we’ve always been super happy with our hosting provider and their tech support team. But things change. Perhaps they over-expanded or something. Who knows and I really don’t have the time to try and find out.

Can you tell I’m pissed off? I’m actually fuming. You could cook an egg on my forehead.

Yep, I’ll be needing to move everything to a web host that doesn’t have day-long outages. I know nothing is perfect and expect the occasional few minutes of downtime — or even a few hours once or twice a year. But this outage is ridiculous. I’m not sure our provider even knew the server was down until I filed a support ticket.

It’s time we moved anyhow. Our server is slow and easily choked. Seems it’s expensive as well. After doing a market survey it appears we can get something better elsewhere for the same or even a lower monthly payment.



43 Responses to “Webserver Explosion of 2016”

  1. etto February 4th, 2016 8:03 am

    It sounds like you are currently running on a dedicated physical server. When moving you should definitely virtualize, and while you are at it why not put the entire thing up on AWS or similar. That way you can easily scale fast when needed, don’t need to worry about underlying infrastructureinfrastructure, and can easily move to another provider in the future.

  2. XXX_er February 4th, 2016 8:22 am

    You are having problems right NOW, it took forever for this screen to load and earlier when i clicked on Callum in the side bar things loaded slowly but the content was superimposed on itself

  3. Lou2 February 4th, 2016 8:33 am

    xxxer, yeah, I think I need to get moving on changing hosting provider… fyi, the messed up layout is just because the site partially loaded. Thanks, Lou

  4. biggb February 4th, 2016 10:11 am

    I have to imagine a bunch of guys in flipflops, skateboarding around their data center, spraying the server with beer to put out a power supply fire, coughing on bong smoke as they rummage through a closet for a spare hard drive.”

    Hey! What’s wrong with flipflops and bongs!?!?!

    As an IT guy (Network Engineer, not Web guy) I’m feeling your pain right now Lou.

    I would urge you to relax … even knowing this is your bread and butter … and remember that your readers probably have a much higher tolerance for outage
    than if you were, say … a bank or something.

    I’d have to echo the etto’s comment above … though it’s undoubtedly going to cost you a bit more you have to be on a virtualized platform … AWS or Azure most likely. It’s been saving my clients bacon over the last few years when they have hardware issues.

    Good luck! Everything will get straightened out soon enough.

  5. Lou2 February 4th, 2016 10:15 am

    Thanks Biggb, I need to hear that, the site just got shut down by a bot attack swarm, they all saw it was back up and attacked it all at once! I’m working on a server change today, it is obviously time, but I’ll try to relax (grin). ‘best, Lou

  6. Dimitri February 4th, 2016 11:27 am

    Yea, I’d definitely recommend AWS. That way you can easily setup autoscaling depending on your traffic spikes (not hard, all done with GUI) and managed database services. It’s the way to go IMO.

  7. See February 4th, 2016 11:51 am

    Sorry if my comment yesterday was a bit peevish, Lou. We really appreciate all the work you put into making this valuable and enjoyable resource available. Clearly, it’s not all powder and pastries, so thanks again.

  8. Thom Campbell February 4th, 2016 12:12 pm

    We just switched to bayshoresolutions.com for hosting and SEO. So far I’m impressed by their professionalism. Good luck

  9. eggbert February 4th, 2016 12:47 pm

    Well, I guess we won’t be using that hosting service. +1 for AWS. Google Sites has also been good to us.

  10. Travis February 4th, 2016 2:41 pm

    Hi Lou, Glad everything is getting sorted out. I didn’t realize how much I love hitting up the site when I role into the office in the AM. If anything all your readers now realize how much they love visiting your site! I know I have a stronger appreciation for it now. I have head nothing but good things about AWS as well. Excited to see what you guys come up with.

  11. TimZ February 4th, 2016 3:56 pm

    I echo what others have said. AWS or some other virtualized provider is the way to go. No reason to be on a physical server.

  12. Terry February 4th, 2016 4:21 pm

    Lou, something you can do immediately and which is not difficult is to put Cloudflare in front of your site to deal with the bot attacks. https://www.cloudflare.com/
    I did this for a work site, which used to get attacked every Sunday evening by a Chinese bot entitiy. The $20/month plan is enough. You simply add the Cloudflare address to your DNS and it will also handle some of the traffic your site gets. Email me if you want a hand or more info.

  13. biggb February 4th, 2016 4:51 pm

    2nd the Cloudflare rec …

  14. Lou Dawson 2 February 4th, 2016 5:00 pm

    Thanks guys, I can feel the love. Working on some options. Lou

  15. Matt Kinney February 4th, 2016 5:17 pm

    This site is great. The effort your team puts forth to manage it all is frankly amazing. If your site is down in the am, I’m just out the door with my skis a bit earlier. Some things can wait till the next day, except coffee.

    Good luck with the switch-over. I’ve done it a number of times, loosing data here and there and spending hours uploading files that didn’t transfer. I think an upgrade/redesign is due for your site anyway, not the content, just the cosmetics. Once every 4 years seems common for a robust site like wildsnow.

    In the meantime, call Hillary Clinton for all your server needs, That way you can still maintain your confidential Dynafit R&D clause(s).

  16. Lou Dawson 2 February 4th, 2016 5:40 pm

    Hillary, the nuclear option! Thanks Matt, I know you’re out there… wish I could ski as much as you (grin). Lou

  17. Lou Dawson 2 February 4th, 2016 5:43 pm

    re cosmetics, I’ll be doing a bit of redesign but now with the mobile web, design has kinda gone the way of the dinosaur for full-on content sites like WildSnow. Interesting to have been involved in that for decades now, makes me laugh at how much effort we used to put into how website looked, now we just want them to load fast and not choke a smartphone. WordPress has two versions (mobile and regular web) but it’s best the both work on the mobile devices. Lou

  18. RockShock February 5th, 2016 7:49 am

    Hey Lou!

    Just a comment from the “Risk management” side. Moving the site in the middle of the season when you probably get most traffic may not be the best idea in case something gets screwed up….

    That said, the site indeed works quite slowly now…

    Good luck and keep it up!

  19. AndyDangerous February 5th, 2016 10:40 am

    In terms of Risk management, you shouldn’t have any trouble switching the site over to something new in the middle of the season. If anything goes wrong, you can always point the DNS back here.

    I have also had good luck scaling with AWS, but while you’re at it, it might be worth taking a look at some of the existing CMS solutions. Something hosted and supported by teams of nerds would no doubt save you a lot of time/energy.

  20. Lou Dawson 2 February 5th, 2016 11:48 am

    Working on it guys, it’s going to be really good, I think… and yes I’m going to leave my existing hosting for a while so I can do the quick DNS switch back if the new install doesn’t work.

    Site is really unstable, slow, and sees the backend is not working 100% correctly, so the sooner I can get things switched over the better. I’m running, not walking. Skipping some nice powder skiing!


  21. Joe John February 5th, 2016 12:58 pm

    Hillary may have the answer…regardless you do an excellent job of keeping her going.

  22. changa February 6th, 2016 1:45 pm

    No biggie. I can wait a couple of weeks in between gear-guy posts anyway, the gear doesn’t change that fast anyhow. Helps save money and I can visit other sites that talk about actually skiing…or I can be skiing myself so no worries.

  23. Lou Dawson 2 February 8th, 2016 1:47 pm

    Anyone feel the love of fast flowing electrons? New server and site install still needs some optimization, but it seems snappier and measures out ok. Costs in the low 4-figures a year, so let’s hope the advertisers keep stepping up! They like the traffic that makes the server load, so all good! Lou

  24. Jeremy C February 8th, 2016 1:56 pm

    Seems to be quicker from the UK. One point I have noticed, is that I used to have to click on Home menu item to refresh the site, as the the refresh browser button did not always refresh. However, now the refresh button now works, but the Home menu item redirects to https://www.wildsnow.com/backcountry-skiing/, which is an empty page from 2010.

    I’m running on the latest iOS, using Firefox with current patch.

  25. Lou Dawson 2 February 8th, 2016 5:02 pm

    Hi Jeremy, thanks for the heads up on that weird link! I’ll fix.

    Should be fixed now. ‘Home’ button should just flip to the homepage.

    ‘best, Lou

  26. Lou Dawson 2 February 9th, 2016 8:37 am

    Everything seems to be working! What are your impressions out there in reader land? Site fast enough? Is your browser choking on the new DNS? Thanks, Lou

  27. XXX_er February 9th, 2016 12:00 pm

    Wildsnow seems to work fine with both my PC and android phone, I would call it a very snappy response

  28. XXX_er February 9th, 2016 12:01 pm

    the above^^ post also was very quick to post …snappy!

  29. Lou Dawson 2 February 9th, 2016 12:53 pm

    That’s the goal Xer, I’ve spent hours and $$$ making sure we have a fast loading site with no popups, no animation, no noise, no ads obscuring content, special mobile version, everything optimized so you guys can browse through quickly and easily. It’s looking good from here, that’s for sure! Now all I have to do is tweak the visual design a bit but keep the speed. We’ll do that this spring and summer. Lou

  30. Pieter February 9th, 2016 2:43 pm

    Snappy on Mac & Iphone too!

  31. db February 9th, 2016 3:46 pm

    Yes, quite impressive performance. Nice work Lou. Thanks!

  32. Lou Dawson 2 April 16th, 2016 1:59 pm

    Hey all, I’m still optimizing and re-designing the website.

    Latest question: Do you want social media sharing buttons?


  33. Jeremy C April 17th, 2016 12:05 am

    Hey Lou,

    I am not sure about social media. A change I have noticed is that most of the main drop down menus have stopped working on my iPad in full website mode. The Home, Contact and Search menus still works, but the other menus just appear inactive in underline red text.

    The menus still work normally on iPhone and laptop.

  34. Frame April 17th, 2016 1:45 am

    Commenting here is about as social as I get, so no added benefit to me. That said if it helps get more readers and keeps Wildsnow doing its thing then go for it.

  35. Lou Dawson 2 April 17th, 2016 6:08 am

    Thanks Jeremy. I clearly need to get an iPad here for testing. Having the native WordPress menu system not work on iPad is a known issue, it’s due to some pretty minor stuff with major consequences Problem is it’s nearly impossible to fix stuff like that without the device on your desk for experimenting, so I’ll work on both the menus and on getting a cheapo iPad to keep here for evaluation.

    The article linked below reminds me of a few things that will probably fix the problem, I link here in case other website folks might land here looking for solutions.


    As for the social media buttons, we’ll be experimenting with that as well. But getting existing stuff working across platforms is of course way more important.

    Thanks, Lou

  36. Lou Dawson 2 April 17th, 2016 7:17 am

    Jeremy, I made a very small change that might help with iPad. Let me know if you now get the drop-downs when you move your cursor over the top menu items while using iPad. (Remember some of the top menu items don’t have drop downs, but most do…) Thanks, Lou

  37. Jeremy C April 17th, 2016 1:17 pm

    Thank Lou, no change unfortunately, still only Home, Contact and Search menus work.

    There is no cursor as such on an iPad just your finger to touch the menu item. There is no feedback, nothing happens. I’m using the latest iOS, and the menus are the same under Chrome or Safari.

  38. Lou Dawson 2 April 17th, 2016 1:50 pm

    Hi Jeremy, appreciate that. Thanks so much. I ordered up a cheapo iPad off the ‘zon and that’ll make things much easier.

    I’ll fix after I have that. It’s probably pretty easy, have done some research. ‘best,

    BTW, for future help, the Home, Contact and Search menus do not have dropdowns, that’s why they work. The other items are headers that are not supposed to do anything except trigger a dropdown when you mouse over them. Check out behavior on desktop browser, preferably Chrome which is what we develop for.


  39. Lou Dawson 2 April 18th, 2016 7:07 am

    Hey Jeremy, I made a change, could you try all the top level menu items again and check if you see any drop downs on iPad? Thanks, Lou

  40. Jeremy C April 18th, 2016 9:52 am

    Thanks Lou. The first three menus are now working ‘Articles & Posts’, ‘Avalanche’ and ‘Books’ now work correctly with a single touch producing the menu. The rest are as before, with only ‘Contact’ and ‘Site Search’ working.

  41. Lou Dawson 2 April 18th, 2016 12:58 pm

    Super Jeremy! That’s a huge help! I just invoked the fix on all the other menus. Thanks, Lou

  42. Jeremy C April 18th, 2016 2:27 pm

    I can confirm that all the menus now work.

  43. Lou Dawson 2 April 18th, 2016 2:30 pm

    Super! On to the next proj! Did get to ski today (grin)….

    Thanks, Lou

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