In the Trenches: Recovering From a Crash

BrettSnyder by Brett Snyder on November 16, 2011
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Last week, we suffered through a fairly long system outage at the hands of our web host, Bluehost, and it was not fun. It certainly reminded us how vulnerable the world is to a technology failure, though it also showed that we can live without these tools for short periods of time if needed.

Last Wednesday night, we had about a half dozen clients either en route or preparing to travel. Suddenly, emails just stopped coming. Both the Cranky Flier and Cranky Concierge websites went down (they are hosted on different servers), and the only thing running through my head is probably not appropriate to be printed here.

The biggest and most pressing concern was the email system. It wasn’t a huge problem if our website was down. Sure, we might miss out on new clients who needed help, but this was outside normal business hours so it wasn’t a huge issue, as long as it didn’t stretch on for too long. The more pressing problem was with our existing clients. If they had trouble on their trips, they would have sent their concierges a note, and that note wouldn’t have arrived. Uh oh.

Fortunately, I’ve corresponded with all of our concierges via their personal email addresses before (usually before they joined up), so I quickly put together an email blast and let them know what was happening. For those with the most pressing concerns, I was on the phone and using text messages as well to make sure everything was covered.

I had the concierges send an email to their clients from their personal addresses, asking travelers to email them temporarily at that address if there were any problems. That seemed to do the trick, and our clients quickly responded. All was good. Had we lost the ability to send any email, that would have been of greater concern, but there are enough ways to get on the internet that there should always be a workaround. (If not, then it’s a catastrophic failure and the world has bigger problems than cancelled flights.)

In total, the sites were down for about an hour. This was not a short outage. Email came back to life around 10:30 p.m. local time here, and everything should have gone back to normal. But it didn’t: My confidence in the web host was gone.

I had already been unhappy with my web host, but this was the final straw. It pushed me to make the switch. I’ll talk about that in my next column.

BrettSnyder

Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.

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