What Did I Do When My Website Server Crashed?

Hopefully, you never have to wake up to discover the website you worked for years to build has wholly crashed and have no idea how to fix it.

But that’s what happened to me last weekend. A project that started out as a passion turned into a nightmare.

Let Me Explain. No, There Is Too Much, Let Me Sum Up

I woke up Sunday morning to my website, LaxRecords.com, running so slow that it took me minutes to update even a simple post. Within an hour, nothing would load. I know basic HTML and over the years have figured out some of the more technical aspects of running a website, but learning the language of coding has escaped me. Mostly due to the lack of time since I run my site solo — meaning every piece of content — photo, video, text — is created by me before posting.

I’ve had instances where the site has run into issues, but usually, a called into my hosting provider fixed it within an hour.

But this time was different. I called GoDaddy (which has fantastic customer service), and the lovely woman cheerily took a look at my site and gave me some suggestions based on the information she saw. She told me how to check my error logs and pointed out a plugin that seemed to be throwing errors for several months. She also informed me of a paid plan through GoDaddy that would help me diagnose my troubles.

I opted to try to fix the issue myself based on her suggestions, figuring if that didn’t go well I can go back to the paid option.

The issue became trying to deactivate plugins. The site was running so slow and would not load, but it would not time out either. It was stuck in an endless load. After an hour I was able to delete the offending plugin, but the site did not improve.

I emailed a colleague who runs a lacrosse site in New York who gave me some information to help previously. He said he did a quick look and believed it to be the server.

Time For The Paid Option

Again, GoDaddy was fantastic on the phone. They had all my notes from my previous call, so I didn’t have to rehash my issue. But the paid option takes up to 72 hours, and they seemed to use every minute of that time. It was almost three days before I got an email saying I was back up and running. That email came in around 3 a.m. Tuesday, but when I saw it at 6 a.m. the site was running the same as when I went to bed — meaning it wasn’t running.

I responded to the support email and waited. And I continued to wait. Twelve hours later I still had no response. I reached out via Twitter and was told that responses to emails can take 24-72 hours. My patience was being tested, and I knew losing my cool would get me nowhere, so I waited and considered my options.

Calling In Backup

By the time I got back from my run Wednesday morning, I had a plan. I looked up WordPress developers and narrowed my list to three that I thought could help. I ended up going with Wodu Media. They had solid reviews with the Better Business Bureau and pricing was friendly.

For $39 I was able to get them to look at the site, and they boasted about 24/7 support. I reached out to them around 5:30 a.m. and by the time I got to work at 7 a.m. I already had a response.

We have checked your website in the cPanel. I think the issue was that the WordPress core updated i.e. (5.0) or maybe plugin conflict and your website are too slow to load and this issue is not possible in ($39) fix WordPress issue. Our initial estimate is that the project will take an hour, however, while working on the project you may ask us for additional work or the original issue may be tricker than anticipated.

At this point, the $125 felt like the best option. At least it felt like moving forward toward a solution. Within three hours I had a response and course of action.

We have checked website deeply i.e. deactivate the plugins and change the theme and checked the core file. Also, we have cloned your website to our server, and the website is loading fine on our server. I think, The issue is that the server ends, can you please contact the GoDaddy support and tell them the issue because the website is working fine on our server.

I forwarded that email to GoDaddy and waited. With no response by the time I got off work at 4:45 p.m., I called. Again, phone support was, and they said they were putting someone on the project immediately. I asked if it was possible that it could be a Denial of Service attack after reading this article on SmartPassiveIncome.com. The circumstances sounded similar, and with Wodu’s solution pointing to the server, however unlikely, I thought it was possible. Support said I should have an email from them by that night with a report.

By morning LaxRecords.com appeared to be back up. I had several tweets and emails telling me they were happy to see it back. I had no report from GoDaddy, so I was skeptical. I started editing stories and tried posting something new, and everything was working.

Twenty-four hours later I still had no report from GoDaddy, but the site was functioning. To say I was relieved is accurate, but I needed to know what went wrong to know if there is a way to avoid future problems.

I had to email GoDaddy to get them to send me something, and something about the response doesn’t add up to what Wodu said.

I have read the error logs of your site and based on the messages that were there I could see that the issue was with your WordPress core files (one of the essential core files had errors in its code and was causing a fattal [sic] error). Based on the error logs there was also an issue that filled your database and made it use a lot of resorces [sic] from your account (there were some tables and table rows that are large). We managed to resolve this in the first reply by installing a plugin WP-Optimize Version 2.2.6.

GoDaddy should know what was wrong, so I really have no choice but to believe them, but I feel as if there’s an incomplete story. Was it really this that caused everything or was it the server? With two different entities telling me they believed it to be server issues and the problem getting fixed after I called and mentioned checking the server, something feels off.

In the long-term, a five-day outage in December isn’t that massive a deal, but I was winding down a content series that has been going for a few months, and with AdSense being a third of my site’s revenue, losing even $10-$20 over that period is disheartening.

Overall, I think this incident has led me to reevaluate my current hosting. I’m happy with the phone support, but I’m not 100 percent it’s my best option once my contract expires. I was already looking into other options, and that will continue with more vigor.

But the immediate need is to find someone reliable that can assist me in website evaluation. I’m leaning toward using Wodu and having them look over the site on a quarterly basis. But it’s still so soon after the issue, that I’ve spent the last two days catching up with content creating and updates.

My initial intent was to list a few things I learned from this experience in hopes that you won’t have to learn them the hard way, but since this is already a lengthy article, I’ll save that for my next post.

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Mike Loveday

I started my journalism career in college as an entertainment writer and eventually moved into the Sports Editor position. After graduation I worked as a Stringer for the Wilmington Star-News and covered Track & Field and Lacorsse. After eight months I was hired as a General Assignment Reporter for the Topsail Voice. In 2006, I was hired by Student Sports as a general assignment writer and moved into the role of Editor for MDVarsity.com. Purchased by ESPN in July 2008, Student Sports relaunched as ESPNRISE.com and I was promoted to the Contact Sports Editor in charge of football and lacrosse. In 2009, I took over lacrosse full-time. I am currently the Founder and COO of LaxRecords.com and the Mid-Atlantic reporter for US Lacrosse and where I manage the Nike/US Lacrosse Top 25 voting panel and a staff of four freelance journalists.