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10 June, 2004

Blog back

On Saturday, I thought the Ministry Blog had died.  The published site was still there, but I noticed that the comments were inaccessible, having been replaced by barely-comprehensible error messages.  I tried to log into the blog admin section; same error message.  Oh well, the server must have been having problems; I'd try again later.
On Sunday, still nothing, so I checked my web host's website for any scheduled maintenance.  Ominously, they announced (after the event) that several changes had been made over the weekend, primarily upgrades to PHP and associated security settings, which drastically changed the functionality of customers' web space.  Far from expressing regret, the blunt message was that anyone who needed the withdrawn services should get a dedicated server.

Of course, MT runs as a cgi script i.e. perl, so shouldn't have been affected by changes to PHP. Having consulted the excellent MT Support Forums, largely to have the error message translated, I was advised that there must have been an unannounced change to the server. A quick inventory of the available, required perl modules proved that this was correct: the DBD::mysql module (and DBI) was suddenly missing. This was a critical omission, which rendered the blog totally unusable.

I sent an e-mail to my host's tech support immediately. Within 24 hours, they sent me the exact text of the announcement already on their website. I repeated that I'd already seen that, and explained precisely what I needed (for the DBD::mysql module, which I'd already been using for seven months, to be restored). They responded that they couldn't make further changes, and that I should consider separate hosting i.e. my own server.

At that point I started shopping around for an alternative host (thanks for the advice, Neil!), but decided to have one more go at tech support - the earlier refusal seemed extraordinarily peremptory, and felt as if it had come from a customer support rep rather than a tech who understood what I was asking. The result of my verification enquiry:

We have requested the systems team to get this module replaced for you.
No apology, or indication of when this would be done, but I was really pleased that I mightn't have to go through the hassle of transferring my entire site to a different host. I say 'mightn't', as it wasn't certain that this was even the source of the problem with the blog.

That was Tuesday, mid-afternoon. It wasn't until this morning, Thursday, that my interrogation of the server found that the module was back, and I was able to get back into the blog admin. So far as I can tell, everything is functional, with the exception of MT-Blacklist; I'll play with that when I have more time.

Since you're reading this, I'm apparently able to post messages again. As the dates of this item and the foregoing one indicate, it's been an enforced absence of five days, all due to an undocumented change to my web hosting arrangement, implemented with no prior warning. That's bad enough, but if I'd been less technically-proficient (not that I'm a techie, but perhaps a little more so than the average user, and I know more experienced people!) and less persistent, this could have totally killed the blog.

Extremely poor service. At a more convenient time, I might still change host, but I'm extremely pleased that I don't have to do so as an emergency measure.
I probably shouldn't have tempted fate by saying that....

[Update immediately after posting: I don't seem able to ping the usual blog directories.]

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