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Wild Wild Web (Hosts)

       
  As I think about the lovely state of web hosts these days, I can't help but think how the Wild Wild West went through similar disarray before settling into order.  Fast forward about 160 years to today and you'll find Billy the Kidd on the hosting side of things.  If your lucky.

I did my research.  Honest, I did.  I went to websites spouting praises for my chosen host, I even picked one moderately priced.  The doors were open and the site was launched.  How lovely, everything seems to work.  Gosh, could it be this easy?  Well, no or I wouldn't be writing this.  Within a few weeks, my chosen host decided that web hosting wasn't for them and they decided to go open up a McDonalds.  Oh and btw, please turn off the lights before you take your site to another host.  Hmmm... This isn't good.  I have until when to find a new host?  Next Friday!  Gosh squash.  I have to get moving. 

Tom, good buddy.  Your site seems stable.  Who do you use?  Ok, new host here I come.  Propagate the site, setup shop and ready to go.  Well, we'll get into propagating the site below but the move to my new host was relatively painless.  I did say relatively, I didn't migrate the guestbook, msg board or anything remotely database, I basically started over.  Whew, safe at last on a new host.

Ok, burned once, can't happen again, can it?  Well duh!  Hmmm... site seems to be down today.  Where's that number for my host tech support line?  No number!  What!  How do I get support?  Here's an email address. Reading fine print, blah blah blah, all emails will be responded to within 24 hours.  What!  a whole day for someone to know my site is down!  Ok, let's go find the actual owners of the servers.  You see, alot of web hosting companies are merely resellers of someone else's servers.  They are middle men.  Useless for the most part.  Don't waste your time with these companies if you want to run a site, find one that owns the servers and for Gods sake don't pick the one I did: Funky Host (ok, you can stop laughing now).

Finally got a tech guy on the line at the actual server. 

"Well, it appears someone migrated your site to a new server."

"What?"

"It looks like an error on their part."

"You're kidding?"

"No.  It should be fine in about 24-72 hours."

" Ummm... that's like 2,3 days from now.  What if they do it again."

"Oh, we can fix it if they screw up again." 

"Yeah, in 24-72 hours."

"Exactly."  Ok, let's not use Funky Host  anymore.

More research, more careful selection.  Ah, this one gets good reviews and they own their own servers, what a winning combination.   Let's do an easy migration and start over again.  No one that has registered on my site will be mad, will they?  Grumble, grumble, the site was moved.

Ah, happy times ahead.  I can talk to their tech support via online chat in realtime.  Holy Shock and Awe, a real live person, who will talk to me.  Wow!  Well, as I later came to learn, that was a much needed tool.  Email problems, site problems, even car trouble could be attributed to this host.  Hey, my sites down again.  Online chat... 3 hours later...

"Can we help you?"

"Yes, why is my site down?"

"I don't know, what did you change?" 

"I deleted all my files, come on, I didn't do anything, it's not working."

"Ummm (I assume they were typing)... you're right.

"Yes, I know."

"Did you move to the new server?"

"Ummmm.... no. Why would I?"

"Well, we moved everyone to new servers and you need to move your site."

"Why didn't anyone tell me?"

"I don't know."

"Great!"

Grumble, grumble.  Jeeze, I can't start the site over this time, I have to migrate all the databases, archives, msg board, comments and all that stuff that has accumulated over the months, sort of like the mold growing on the underside of your toilet lid, but not exactly.  Whew, one week later, I had it migrated.  Great googly moogly, that was like pulling teeth.  Hope I don't have to go through that again (pay attention to my use of foreshadowing).

I said propagating a site was no picnic... what really happens to confuse the world when you propagate a site.  Well, let's get slightly technical and then pull back for more fun.   When you type www.latexmaskcentral.com into your web browser (or for you folks that have it set as your homepage, I applaud you), some machine called a nameserver out there in the backwoods of Tennessee or the rivers of the Amazon or someplace like that wakes up and points you to the real server that houses your files.  This server probably lives in the northernmost reaches of Alaska if you are lucky.  Anyway, when you move to a new hosting company, you move to a new machine. That same nameserver in the Amazon has to point you to the new one.  It's just like moving to a new house and having the post office figure out where you're mail should go. This is what is knows as propagating to the new nameserver.  This can take from 24-72 hours, so any move you make to a new host can be costly.  What winds up happening which is really interesting is that some people will find a nameserver that directs them to the new host while others will find one pointing them to the old host (this is why it can take up to 3 days for ALL the nameservers in the world to be updated).  This leads to your site living in  2 places for a short time period and no one but you knows about it.  It does open up to alot of potential fun nonetheless.

Ok, tech talk over, back to the the real world.  My site was living in peace and harmony with the web and my aura was golden, but death, taxes and a nonstable website are the only constants in this world.  My sacrifice to the Gods of the web must not have been adequate because yet another hosting company in my life decided to open up a McDonalds. At least they were nice enough to give me 3 days notice.  Wow!  Thanks guys.

Hmmm... this site now has a good deal of baggage to transport.   Sounds like a fun time ahead.  I pulled out my tarot cards and set out to find my new host.  Jason recommended his first love whom he returned to after having an affair with another host.  Well, they've been around since '97 and I didn't have alot of time, they  even have a phone number.  Good Lord, could it be?  Well, depending on where you are in the world and if you found that nameserver in the Amazon, you probably are on the new host now.  In fact, if you are reading this, then I know you are.

When will the web settle down?  Who knows, like anything new its got its kinks to work out for sure.  Any John, Rick or Berry can string together a T1 line and run their own host even from their bathroom.  Hopefully, I've found one that doesn't have a craving for Quarter Pounders.