Author Website Disappears On April Fool’s Day

An email arrived from DirectNIC with a five-day notice that my web hosting was moving to a new server with upgraded hardware on April 1st. Of course, by the time I got around to reading the email, the five-day notice was really a two-day notice. The timing was bad—and not because the deadline fell on April Fool’s Day.

My newest essay ebook, “The Apple Store Job Fair: Don’t Drink The Water, Don’t Use The Restroom,” was finally being published on March 31st. As Stephen King once said, “Non-fiction is hard because you can’t make [crap] up.” Working on an 8,300-word essay was more difficult than editing my abandoned 120,000-word first novel. With all my efforts focused on getting this essay done on time, a number of website-related tasks got postpone until the first week of April.

I logged into my DirectNIC account to open a help desk ticket to protest moving my web hosting to a newer server at this time. The last time my web hosting got moved to a different server because I needed PHP 5.3 for the content management system (CMS) back in January, my websites were off the Internet for three days. That’s the last thing I needed after publishing a new ebook.

A response to my ticket indicated that my web hosting was already on a new server. That surprised me. Moving my web hosting has never been that smooth. I’m pleased that DirectNIC finally got that process worked out. I updated my email and FTP clients to the new server settings.

The essay ebook got published late Sunday night (3/31) and the new website page got put up on Monday morning (4/1). Although I still had other website tasks like putting up the ebook preview and a Plan B Magazine anthology announcement, I took a short break to recover from working on the essay.

I noticed something strange the next day with my websites. One website was working, two websites were displaying a message that my web hosting account was either suspended on the domain or misconfigured on the subdomains. I immediately opened a help desk ticket with DirectNIC.

My own investigation revealed that the working domain and all the email accounts were on the new server, and the non-working domains were on a different new server with an expired trail version of the CPanel web hosting software. Talk about a half-assed migration job from DirectNIC. I fumed as three days went by without a response to my ticket.

I had abandoned a one-man ISP in 2010 that had my business for 15 years because the primary and secondary Internet links to the servers went down for a week and the owner was too busy making alternative arrangements to respond to user inquires. By the time the ISP came back online and I got a response to my emails, I had already relocated my websites to DirectNIC that held my domain name registrations.

As a small business owner, I can’t allow another company to interfere with my business. I started looking at alternative web hosting providers. The timing was bad. With the $800 USD franchise tax for doing business as a California LLC due on April 15th, I couldn’t afford to switch to another web hosting provider and spend a week configuring all the website. Except for these infrequent three-day interruptions, I’m quite satisfied with DirectNIC.

So… I complained to DirectNIC on Twitter with my ticket number.

Within an hour of posting my complaint on Twitter, my ticket got resolved. All the websites were working again and I got a three-month credit to my account, except my web hosting was still split over two different servers. That took another day to get my websites back on the same server that was working just fine on the morning of April Fool’s Day.