How Heart Internet web hosting almost destroyed my business

If you’re a regular reader of any of my websites,  you’ve probably already noticed that all of the sites have been down for most of today.

You’ve probably also noticed that, as of the time of writing (8pm, Friday), although most of the sites are now back up, they’re all displaying posts from September, with over a month’s worth of content missing.

This is because, at about 2pm today, our web hosts, Heart Internet, called us to say that while they were working on our server (our sites are huge and take up a lot of space, so we have our own server with them), they had somehow managed to irretrievably lose all of the sites. As in, they were gone forever, with no way of restoring them.

Our server was mirrored – there were two discs, each containing the same information. They had both suffered the same catastrophic event (we still don’t know what that was, exactly), and the data on both of them was lost. Forever.

Just to be clear what we’re talking about here, they told us they had lost this site, The Fashion Police (over 600,000 page impressions per month), Hey, Dollface! (around 90,000 per month) and  Shoeperwoman (70,000 page impressions per month), PLUS all of the websites Terry has designed and hosts for our clients. Gone. All gone.

I realise a lot of people don’t take blogging seriously, or understand how someone can make a living from it, but the fact is: we do. Those sites are my livelihood. They are my full-time job. They’re what pays our mortgage, and all of our other bills. They are three years’ worth of 12-hour work days, blood, sweat and tears.

And now I was being told that they were gone for good. My whole livelihood, wiped out in the time it took me to eat lunch. ( And, OK, to watch Neighbours.)

To answer the question I know everyone will ask: YES, WE HAVE BACKUPS. Obviously, given the importance of these sites to us, they are backed up. Even with back-ups though, it would’ve taken us a long time to restore the sites to the way they were.  During that time, we would be losing money: we started losing money as soon as the sites went down, and will continue to lose money until they’re fully restored. This is not a few pennies we’re talking about: it’s our livelihood.  As it is, we’re going to have to manually restore the last month’s worth of posts to all of the sites, and all of the advance posts I had been writing for my holiday in December are probably gone for good. Which means no holiday in December, clearly.

You can only imagine the day Terry and I have had.

With Heart Internet absolutely insistent that there was nothing they could do to restore the sites, I did the only thing I could think of in my panicked state: I started venting on Twitter. Naturally, Heart Internet didn’t like that much. In one of the many conversations we had with them this afternoon, they asked Terry to tell me to stop tweeting about them, “to allow them to concentrate on fixing the problem.” Obviously this begs the question: what had they been concentrating on BEFORE that? Naively, we’d assumed they were concentrating on restoring the data from our ruined server. The only inference I can really take from “stop tweeting so we can concentrate”, though, is that they were actually concentrating on… Twitter.

I did not stop tweeting. I WILL not stop tweeting, or blogging, or speaking freely about the things that happen to me, because that is my right. I understand that it wasn’t pleasant for Heart Internet to read the hundreds of re-tweets and comments about them. But the fact is, it’s not my job to protect Heart Internet from criticism by keeping quiet about something that was going to have such a huge impact on my business and life.  I related what was happening, as it happened, and I got a huge amount of support and advice from the people who follow me (and many who I’d never even heard of until today) – and that was a huge help to me, so thank you to those people.

Obviously, given that the sites are now (mostly) back up and running, albeit with posts missing, it turned out that Heart Internet WERE able to restore the data after all. Why did they call us at 2pm today, then, and say they were all gone forever, and there was absolutely nothing they could do about it? I’d love to know.

I will be writing more about this (um, probably much, much more) once the dust has settled and I know exactly what has happened. For now, our priority is to get the sites back to normal, so it looks like we have a long, hard slog ahead of us.

And I never did find out what happened at the end of Neighbours


[Edited to Add:  as the older posts are restored to the site, they initially won't have comments and the images will show as red X's. Don't worry, we are aware of this, it's just going to take a while to fix, unfortunately]