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Monthly Archives: June 2001

Dealing with Bad Webhosting

By Greg Pak
Over the past week, I’ve had my worst experiences yet with the company that hosts two of my websites. I’ve learned a few very important things which might be helpful for other filmmakers with websites to keep in mind.

 
Back up your files!

 
I’ve always been fairly good about keeping multiple backups of the HTML files and graphics I create for my various websites. But I haven’t done a very good job of backing up the material that gets generated when users post messages and comments on my websites. Those posts, made through CGI scripts, are saved on the servers of the webhosting company. I can download those files to create my own backups through my FTP program, but, like a fool, I haven’t made a habit of doing that.
    And now I’ve paid for it.
    Last week the company that hosts my website AsianAmericanFilm.com imploded — the servers went down and my site disappeared. A day later, the company got the FTP back on line and advised me to upload my backup files, which I did. But I was still missing the hundreds of posts which people had made in various message boards and guestbooks.
    The company makes daily backups of the site and their various tech people have assured me that the files I’m missing will be back on line eventually. But it’s now been five days and they still haven’t uploaded the original, pre-crash site.
    The upshot is that the community we’ve built around the site is dying day by day. Deeply, deeply aggravating.
    If I’d made regular backups of my own, I could have upload the files myself and the site could be running properly. But now I’m stuck, waiting on pins and needles for this company to come through on its promises.
    So back up those files, friends.

 
The Google.com solution

 
My deepest fear in this ordeal has been that my webhosting company has actually lost the backup files entirely, destroying a year-and-a-half of community building. Makes me sick to my stomach just to contemplate it.
    But the other day I remembered that the incredible Google search engine caches the HTML of pages in its database. So by typing in appropriate keywords, I was able to find a pretty good number of my website’s pages, complete with users’ posts.
    I also discovered how to dig up all the pages which Google had listed for my site — in the seach window, type site:yoursite.com search terms here. In my case, I entered site: asianamericanfilm.com film, since I know that the word “film” appears on every page on the site. And it turns out that Google had 525 of my pages cached.
    So I was able to retrieve the comments people had made in response to various reviews and articles on the site. And I was able to download the HTML code for some of the pages in the message board — although for some reason, only one of the five sections of the message board had been indexed by Google.
    However, all of this cached material dates to the first week of May, meaning that any posts people have made to the site in the last six weeks weren’t cached.
    Nonetheless, I’m thrilled to have recovered this much.

 
Fingers crossed

 
Now my webhosting company tells me that they’ve replaced the bad server and are in the process of reloading all the sites. So if I’m lucky, I’ll get all my files back shortly and nothing will have been lost but my peace of mind and a week or so of interactivity on the site.
    But through the good graces of Google, if the promises of my webhosting company completely fall through, I’ll still have a good chunk of my files.
    The final lesson? Back up, back up, back up. And back up.

 

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