02 04/2014Damien Buckley Are You Going High-Wire Without a Net?

Tightrope walker

The Twitterverse was abuzz this morning with stories of people having lost their blogs and other websites hosted with TextDrive. For the sake of our clients, before going on I would like to clarify that TextDrive is not to be confused with the Textpattern CMS which is very much alive and well and Propeller is not now nor has ever been involved with TextDrive Hosting.

I first noticed what was going down with Andy Budd’s tweet this morning…


It seems that TextDrive as a provider was not viable. Whilst this is not necessarily remarkable in the commodity-kerfuffle that web hosting can be, what is remarkable is that TextDrive basically gave everyone two weeks notice to get out on a forum. No email or other notice was provided. Once TextDrive melted down the situation was exacerbated when Ubiquity Hosting nuked (cleared) TextDrive’s servers taking everyone’s sites with them…


Bill Turner has been following the story in more detail. It seems from this that there are efforts underway by some very generous people giving their (unpaid) time to try and resurrect user data from Amazon Glacier backup servers but success for many is uncertain. If you follow the twitter feed, some major names in the web industry seem to have been caught out by this incident. Hopefully some or all of this data can be retrieved.

As reported in Wired last month the TextDrive debacle appears to have been borne from an experiment in venture capital arrangement with its users in which ‘the web hosting service offered lifetime subscriptions for a mere $200, and those who signed up and paid their money were billed as “mini-VCs” — mini-venture capitalists — who would help feed the progress of the company and receive a life’s worth of service in return. Cloud computing company Joyent honored these subscriptions after acquiring TextDrive in 2005, and even continued selling these mini-VC packages.’

The TextDrive failure is not without recent local precedent. In June 2011 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that 4800 Australian sites evaporated after a hacking attack on the now defunct DistributeIT

What was perhaps most staggering about this incident was that Distribute.IT lost everything. In a statement published by Distribute.IT they admitted that

“At this time, We regret to inform that the data, sites and emails that were hosted on Drought, Hurricane, Blizzard and Cyclone can be considered by all the experts to be unrecoverable,”

Having been in the business for 10 years this year, Propeller has had up close and personal experience of what can happen with hosting and data centre disasters. In 2008 all of our hosting was provided by PlanetDomain, a subsidiary of iPrimus, later acquired by Netregistry under the TPP Wholesale brand. Due to a fire in their Houston data centre, most of Propeller’s websites were temporarily affected. Note ‘temporarily’. Due to the combined facts that PlanetDomain held their redundant server backups in a separate data centre, they were able to restore client data; sites, email etc and get everyone back up and running in a reasonably short period of time considering the scale of the incident.

Secondarily to PlanetDomain’s backups however, in most instances, we were also holding recent backups of most of our clients’ sites ourselves and were thus able to either assist in getting them back online on new servers more quickly or restoring out of date or corrupted data ourselves manually.

What you may conclude from all of these stories is that no matter how reliable and prepared your hosting company may be, in the event of these kinds of incidents there is no substitute for having a full file-level and database (where used) backup of your website available. In this instance we dont need to wait and hope that the data centre will be able to recover – we can simply reinstall your site to a new hosting server and get you back online, stat.

Propeller have a couple of different backup options available to clients. We can provide a straightforward ‘as required’ backup service from as little as $150+GST or, more reliably, full monthly backups are included as standard with our monthly maintenance plans.

Given how it was funded, the TextDrive incident provides a convenient juncture to also consider whether any form of cheap hosting is worth the risk at all? Obviously over time our clients have on occasion remarked that there are cheaper hosting options available. Propeller has chosen not to get involved in this end of the market and we wish any clients seeking cheaper options goodbye and good luck. Both of our current providers are professional operators with significant investments in quality infrastructure, security and redundancy. TPP Wholesale are located in Global Switch – the largest data centre in the southern hemisphere. Propeller have also partnered with Nexcess as our sole provider of ExpressionEngine hosting. Nexcess provide redundant secure backup systems with backup copies kept in two locations. Nexcess are audited to the SSAE16 standard.

Enquire about our backup service or monthly maintenance plans today to keep your data safe and your website online.

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