A couple of weeks ago, as I was preparing for a cross-country road trip to take my youngest son to college in New York, we discovered our LewisvilleTexan.com website was down. Inexplicably offline. Dead.
As if the universe decided there wasn’t already enough on my plate, I needed to figure out what was going on and get it back up ASAP.
The hosting company we used for years, GoDaddy, previously had times when our server was unreliable or briefly down, but the answer had always been one of two things: some setting or plug-in on our site was messing things up, or the server itself was having problems. Both ways, we could get it going again pretty quickly, sometimes by paying money to upgrade to a higher-level service plan.
This time was different. GoDaddy had evidently been unaware of the problems. In numerous chats with them, their support personnel couldn’t provide any answers about what happened or how quickly it could get fixed. Instead they said they were “working on it,” and I could expect a fix within a totally unacceptable 72 hours.
My pleas that our business was dead in the water seemed to garner only nominal sympathy, but no answers or promises.
To make matters worse, my website backups were held hostage on GoDaddy’s server. I hadn’t been regularly downloading them here to our office in Lewisville. You never really think something that big is going to be down for so long. So, without a backup, I couldn’t even restore our website to a new hosting provider.
While I was waiting on GoDaddy, I resolved we would no longer give them our business once we had the site back up.
I got a lot of recommendations from friends, and I checked out each of them to some degree. Our situation is a little different than many websites since we have a pretty high traffic load on the average day, but then sometimes get blitzed during a breaking story. Our old hosting plan was toward the higher end of GoDaddy’s offerings, and still had issues from time to time.
While none of the plans offered absolutely everything I wanted for the same price we were getting from GoDaddy, I did find one that I could get setup quickly and would be affordable with some help.
The day before I left to take my son to college, I signed up for the plan, gave them my personal credit card, and got on a Facebook Live to let our readers know what was going on and beg for some help.
What happened next is kind of a blur, but it helped turn my exasperation into determination. Readers stepped up in a big way and began donating money. Within a couple of days, we had enough to pay for a year of the new hosting plan, with money left over for paying journalists.
On the road, I worked to get our website backups downloaded, and then uploaded to the new host. I’ll spare you the details, but it was a difficult and frustrating task to do from slow hotel wireless connections in Nashville, Tennessee, Buffalo and Rochester, New York.
While this was going on, we had a major and tragic breaking news story Knopp was trying to cover here with a website that would not work correctly.
Our GoDaddy-hosted site came back up, missing the prior 10 days worth of stories, at least one of which we had no local backup for. Knopp re-uploaded them, only to have GoDaddy go down again, and pop back up with the stories gone again.
But eventually, I was able to get the site moved and stood up on the new server.
Part of the change we have made, which emphasizes our move to non-profit status, is changing our main website URL to LewisvilleTexan.org. We’ve done the same with our email addresses.
It took awhile to get our online police scanner and our archive website moved as well. We still have a few minor pieces that rely on GoDaddy, but those are moving soon. I’ve been spending my time working on this, which is why you don’t see my name in the byline of any stories lately.
We greatly appreciate our readers’ patience with the issue, as well as their willingness to step up and help. Our donors are the best.
I’m new to this nonprofit thing, and I’m not used to asking for money. It’s heartening to know so many people understand and support our mission. With a kid in college now, I can scarcely afford to fund much of this on my own.
We look forward to continuing to serve Lewisville both in print and online. Hopefully with this new server, we can do so more quickly and reliably.
The next task on my list? I’ll be setting up automatic website backups. That will happen this weekend.