Two days ago, I was pretty damned devastated. After a very, very frustrating long chat with a lackey at A2 Hosting, I was sure this site was done. My baby, my essence of being over the last five years. As I explained in detail at our sister site, TV For The Rest of Us, aka the only website I had left, we were cut off, because our site was taking too much precious CPU capacity. We weren’t given a chance to find out why, what was causing it, and how we could fix it. We were just dropped, and customer service wouldn’t even let us go back and retrieve our database. They cited a case that was closed over two months ago as their rationale, an issue I thought I had resolved with performance updates. After all, our server stopped crashing after I did all that. They certainly had never raised the issue since then.
To be honest, I didn’t have the heart after that. I just didn’t have anything left. Ever since site issues started happening early this year, half way through Supernatural’s season eight, the writing was on the wall. We were getting too big, and needed more capacity. After months of planning, testing and coding, I found us a new template, created a migration plan (techno speak for moving all our stuff from one major version to another), and the husband (my highly skilled and talented network engineer) found us the proper server to handle all this. We tested it out for weeks on our development site, and it worked great.
Anyone that has been hanging out with us during the summer knows that nothing went according to plan. Everything fell apart rather quickly. The migration (aka copying shit from one place to another) didn’t work well at all. Turns out we had a faulty program. You see, we converted from Joomla 1.5 to 2.5. We did this because Joomla (and our then hosting provider) was forcing our hand. Joomla 1.5 had been obsoleted and was a major security risk. However, even though Joomla applied all this pressure to their base, they didn’t provide a conversion program. Yes, we were all expected to code that shit ourselves! So, we got one free from a third party. It had bugs. Bugs that Joomla claimed no responsibility for because…wait for it…it was written by a third party.
We left our old provider, Bluehost, because even though we had a long relationship with them, the last year had grown impossible. There were multiple outages, our server was throwing 500 errors left and right (layman’s term for people couldn’t get on the site!), and any time I tried to contact customer service, getting to speak to a live body within a few days took a major act of…Chuck. They eventually told us they couldn’t help anymore. We needed a better server. They didn’t have that kind of server for us.
So, enter A2 Hosting. They came highly recommended, seemed like they had a good track record, and had a VPS server that looked like it would be able to handle our growing traffic. We loaded our new, and very flaky Joomla 2.5 site onto their server, and we pretty much had disasters from the word go. The server constantly crashed, running out of memory and resources very quickly. There was no indication as to what was causing it. A few suggestions were made, but those proved to be rather ineffective. The only solution really given to us was how to fix the database after it crashed, because it got corrupted every single time that happened.
A2 Hosting did at least have support that tried to work with us, for the most part. There were times where our panicked cries of “SITE DOWN!!” were ignored, which did result in me taking our case to Twitter to get attention (sadly, that ambush tactic does work). We went live in early June, and the problems of the site constantly crashing weren’t resolved until mid July, just in time for me to go to Comic Con. I had made some suggested changes, and they seemed to work.
However, things were far from okay. There was another party telling me that the site wasn’t adequate, and this was from the people that pay our bills. Google. I followed every suggestion they gave, and it only helped a little. Our site was way too slow for their liking, and that bumped our Google rating down. We weren’t high on search engines anymore. I tried running a littany of performance tests, but anyone in the tech field knows you can’t run a battery of performance tests on a live site. I didn’t learn much other than we were slow!
While all this was going on, I was still the primary writer of the site! With it being summer hellatus, the writing team tends to get really busy themselves and don’t submit articles frequently, so it often becomes a one woman show. Tah dah! Plus I’m the editor-in-chief too, so any submitted articles I had to prep and post. Plus, I kind of had this other site to run, aka TV For The Rest of Us. I had come back from Comic Con with a ton of great interviews from many shows, and most of that coverage was done on behalf of TV For The Rest of Us. I was very, very fortunate that Elle2 was active this summer with her work for Person of Interest, otherwise we would have had very little for TV For The Rest of Us other than Comic Con coverage.
So, that was my summer vacation! Madly hopping from one technical crisis after another, while trying to run a rather large site and another growing site mostly by myself. Despite all the efforts, we weren’t able to get to the bottom of why the site was running so slow. It would run fast at times, but others it would just drag. There were no logs, no indications, and my hours and hours of online research and hanging out at Joomla forums resulted in nothing productive.
To be honest, about a month ago, I wanted to quit. I was done. I had enough. Traffic on the site was dropping, my writers were MIA, my battle with stability wasn’t working, Google wasn’t happy with us and I was juggling everything in a sense alone. I started thinking, “Five years was a good run. This went on way longer than I ever thought.” All this thinking was complicated by the fact that I’ve been unemployed since May. I actually didn’t make it to the Friday part of New Jersey Con because I had to show up for my last day at work so I could get my final pay. I arrived there late feeling rather humiliated, newly unemployed, and distraught over an upgrade that was coming up for the site that was already sucking my will to live. If I had only known what I know now, I would have thrown in the towel back then.
So, I guess the issue that happened two nights ago was inevitable. The actions of A2 Hosting were not. As a long time technical professional, what they did was thuggery. They didn’t try to help, they just shut us down. They only gave us one option, upgrade to one of their expensive servers. Tech support wasn’t allowed to help us. This was in customer care’s hands, and I was only promised they may or may not contact me the next day. In the meantime, I couldn’t get my data. I couldn’t get my site back! Customer service was in a sense holding our site hostage until I contacted them and agreed to the upgrade. I sent message after message through their ticket area and they never responded back.
Yeah, we were done. I was done. I was sure of it. It was all gone in a flash. That was my sign, the final nail in the coffin so to speak.
Something happened though, and something I shouldn’t be surprised about at all, but I was. And I get all weepy thinking about it. From the second I tearfully announced we were currently out of business, the messages of support just came pouring in. Friends I haven’t heard from in a while took time to see if I was okay, and offered words of encouragement. The numerous messages from TV For The Rest of Us, Twitter, and Facebook were all telling me to fight on, and we all in a sense felt the same devastation and loss. I should have known, because this is a family. It’s not a fandom. It never has been, and never will be.
I think I finally recovered from the shock and got my resolve back the next day. All I wanted was my data back. I wanted my site and all that history. After A2 Hosting wouldn’t respond, I took to Twitter demanding my data. Several fans jumped in, and pretty soon we had an SPN Family ambush going. That finally did get a response, and within an hour the data was there, ready for us to download. It’s really sad that was the only way I could get their attention, but at the same time I’ve never been prouder too. When Supernatural fans organize, shit gets done! I know, this is something Misha Collins figured out a long time ago. He was right.
Once I got the data back, my hubby went to work. He fought with the download all day, but managed to come up with a creative solution to get the database transferred from A2 Hosting back over to Bluehost. You see, we never cancelled our Bluehost account because TV For The Rest of Us was still on there. I had planned a “migration” and upgrade for that site too in August. That was cancelled due to all the WFB problems. I didn’t want to ruin both sites! It’s still running on an outdated Joomla 1.5 platform but dammit, it’s stable! As much as I hate rewarding bad service, going back to Bluehost was the only way we’d get this site back up quickly.
I was stunned last night to find that not only did the hubby get all of the data transferred, but most of the site back too. I didn’t have to rebuild from scratch, which was our fear when all this happened. I finally had that chance too to run all those performance tests I couldn’t before. After a long day of work, I was able to get us running on a scaled back site.
I wish I could say this has led to a happy ending, but we’re far from there. We went back to our old server, which isn’t exactly ideal. It’s too slow. But, it runs! The performance issues were evident the second we went live. The site has many features turned off right now, and I can’t say when they’ll be back. This is going to be a slow learning process for all of us, but I’m determined to fight this and do it right. I know how much we mean to all of you, and you all mean a lot to us.
So, I ask for patience, which kind of sucks because I’ve been asking for that since January and we still are in a mess. I honestly didn’t think that when I had this brilliant idea to start a Supernatural fan site five years ago that it would all mushroom to this. Heck, I, like everyone else, didn’t even think the show would still be going this long! I’ve been playing administrator way too much and I haven’t been doing when I love the most, writing and socializing with all of you.
I’ll do what I can to get over this, but the main lesson learned is when times are tough, the SPN family will be there for you. Thank you all. I am truly blessed. Now I’ve got to get back to work.
With great love and deep appreciation for every one of you,