Downtime
Downtime Downtime is when your site does not work. It's really bad.

Downtime is when your site does not work. If the site does not work - you'll not get any benefits from its existence. Downtime is opposite to uptime. There could be various reasons why a site does not work. Most usual cases: problems with server, server overload, application error, network problems and so on. The first step of fixing en error is detecting. There are special instruments, called website monitoring services, which may check sites for errors over the time. Such tools help you to detect error and provide primary analysis of its reasons. Also, usually some information could be found in server logs. If you have access to them, you should review. If not - ask your hosting company to provide them. Detecting of errors may help you to evaluate the reliability of your site and hosting.

  • CM.Glossary.WebsiteMonitoring
  • CM.Glossary.Uptime
  • CM.Glossary.WebHosting
  • CM.Glossary.Availability
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Seems like a great service when you are having problems with your host.

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- jay
Domains: do they have afterlife?

Every year, millions of domain names are lost. What happens after domain expires? How long will your domain wait for you before someone grabs it? And how to omit this?  

Monitor your domains for any changes. You can keep an eye on the state of available domains which you like, but don’t forget your own ones too. There is a wide variety of services, like HostTracker, which provide an easy, efficient way to track any changes of domain’s state.

Domains: do they have afterlife?

Everyone may face the problem of losing the domain name. Every year, millions of domain names are lost. Mostly, it happens unintentionally, the owners miss the renewal notices for various reasons and they do not figure out that they are in the process of losing their prized domain until it is too late! In this article you will get to know about the most known examples of domain expirations. Moreover, we will see that big companies, such as Microsoft, Foursquare, Yatra, are also insecure to "the drop game". Additionally, you will find out how to keep the domain name if you forget to pay for domain renewal. How long will your domain wait for you before someone grabs it? And how to omit this using HostTracker's Domain expiration and Certificate expiration functions?

How Microsoft lost hotmail.co.uk

One of the most striking examples of dropping the domain name ocured in 2003 due to what is called the collective negligence. In spite of the fact, that people were trying to check up on what was happening and somehow to deal with the problem, Microsoft behaved as a typical bureaucratic organization. It turned a blind eye to people inquiries. Despite being warned that it’s time for the domain renewal, Microsoft overlooked these notifications. Therefore, the domain was returned to the pool of available domains. Moreover, its mail service wasn’t accessible in England.

Luckily, the domain was grabbed at once. The new owner was so kind that tried to inform Microsoft immediately that they needed to re-register the domain and restore the service. Nevertheless, Microsoft didn’t seem eager to get their site back and ignored these messages. Microsoft realized the issue just when journalists contacted it.  Only then, the software giant reached a new owner of their domain. What is more, even after that, during a long period of time Microsoft had been stalling for time before the problem was sorted out. It seems that no one in the UK could deal with the problem, because only the central office was responsible for domain registrations.

Fortunately, hotmail.co.uk was regained. But still, Microsoft didn’t officially confirm that hotmail.co.uk had been dropped.

Only a registrar for all .uk domains shed light on this situation and born out that hotmail.co.uk had failed to be renewed despite being warned about the importance of the renewal procedure. Moreover, the registrar confirmed that the domain was snatched up by a private person. Apparently, all notifications via mail were ignored by the giant. It’s interesting that it wasn’t the very first time when something like that has happened with this company. In 1999, Microsoft had similar bad experience.

What happens after domain expires?

The procedure depends on registrar of the domain names. In addition, this procedure has changed many times over history. In this article we will be concerned with the most typical up-to-date procedure.

The first stage - the registrar shows loyalty to the client and gives extra time for domain renewal (grace period). Your grace period may take about from one to 2-3 weeks. This window can have a few deadlines - for example, a free update period, an additional fee etc.  When the domain is in a grace period where all services are shut off, it isn’t available for registration by anybody else.

The second stage - the auction. After the registrar is sure that the domain renewal hasn’t been done, he puts it up for auction. It's a registrar’s chance to bring in extra income- the domain can be auctioned off to the highest bidder.  Let’s be frank, it works- many domains are snapped up at auction. Let’s look at some of the most popular auctions:

  •  Go Daddy Auctions
  •  NameJet
  •  SnapNames.com

Each registrar cooperates with only one of these auction services. Domain names are exclusive to one auction, as the sell-off can’t take place at two locations. How does the auction work?

To begin with, there is often the opportunity to place a backorder. For example, if someone is very interested in scoring your domain name. In this case, the buyer will get the notification about the expiration status of the target domain and, definitely, leverage this opportunity. It’s worth noting that during this period, domains can be included in backorder auctions, where another participant can bid on your domain name. Generally, an auction can consist of several stages, as well as, after the main auction can follow the closeout of least desired domain names.

In addition to this, there are such sites that collect information and provide it in a more convenient way. For instance, these sites will help you to discover that more than 3 million domains have expired for the last 10 days. Furthermore, you will realize that even expensive (costing up to $ 500K) domains can be dropped after a while.

The third stage - domain "death". The domain disappears, and it can be retrieved on a common basis. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely if a domain name has any marginal value, as well as, consists of unambiguous words and is well-promoted. If so, the domain will probably get purchased, as nowadays it is also kind of business.

Some extra good examples

In 2010, a well-known website Foursquare forgot to renew their domain name. Luckily, they noticed this in time and quickly sorted out the problem. Nevertheless, customers couldn’t reach the site during this period of time. At that time the internet was bombarded with these news, yet the company has taken the advantage from this situation.

However, sad examples do exist too. In 2012, a popular Indian travel site Yatra.com, with millions of visitors and huge income, dropped their domain. Therefore they lost not only money, but also their reputation, clients and the trust of their partners. Eventually, the domain has been restored. The company hasn’t been as successful since.
Such common experience has held almost everyone once in a while in their history, from banks to giant companies.  Actually, HostTracker had such experience too and it was the reason why we decided to write this article.

Web site monitoring service almost lost its domain

The truth is that host-tracker.com was almost lost despite having an instrument for keeping an eye for an expiration date and sending renewal alerts. Actually, this feature became HostTracker’s last resort, as all domains and sites are being monitored by HostTracker’s own monitoring system. In a manner of speaking, even though at that time the HostTracker company got the renewal alerts, everything seemed to be fine, as the auto-renewal was on. However, for some reason, the automatic payments didn’t pass through and the domain wasn’t renewed. To be honest, we are still not sure why did that happen, as their support could not explain the issue clearly. Luckily, we noticed the problem in time and solved it quickly.

To sum up:

  • Renew your domain in advance. In this case you might want to ask your registrar to set up your domain to auto-renewal in advance with your approval beforehand. Moreover, you will be notified in case of any problems.
  • Backorder does work. Just before HostTracker entered their grace period, someone had tried to contact HostTracker by mail to acquire the domain name. So pay attention to such things!
  • You would better not enter the grace period. Once the domain expires, it can be easily renewed at the regular price within a few days and HostTracker showed this. The disadvantage is that all customers will be greeted with the message that domain page isn’t available. You should never allow a domain to expire because working on recovering it can take a vast amount of time.
  • Monitor your domains for any changes. You can keep an eye on the state of available domains which you like, but don’t forget your own ones too. There is a wide variety of services, like HostTracker, which provide an easy, efficient way to track any changes of domain’s state. Check out the description of such HostTracker’s tools here in our blog.
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Why do we need monitoring? The overview of the HostTracker service. Part 1

Why there is a need in monitoring? How the monitoring could help in the sites and servers development and testing? This review will answer to these questions and will also show how the simple desire to optimize your work may be transformed into a useful product for others, as well as, how not to lose the ‘startup spirit’ and always keep up with your clients.

HostTracker Company is one of the market leaders in the supplying of monitoring services for sites and various web services. It teems with a wealth of different constantly improved tools, which are taking into accounts the most recent tendencies and trends. How did this company emerge? Why there is a need in monitoring? How the monitoring could help in the sites and servers development and testing? This review will answer to these questions and will also show how the simple desire to optimize your work may be transformed into a useful product for others, as well as, how not to lose the ‘startup spirit’ and always keep up with your clients.

Introduction or the history of startup

Everyone involved in the IT sector must know the feeling, when a server (website, database, software, network) seems to be perfectly configured, but it suddenly stops to work properly. Solving this problem could take a lot of time. Meanwhile, this mess would go on, take place regularly or wouldn’t happen at all – but, nevertheless, that’s the worst, as it wouldn’t be clear when it shows up another time. Moreover, what if this happens during handover the project to the client? Pondering over all these things caused HostTracker to appear.

A founder had always tried to make his work on objects as brilliant as he could at his main job, so he decided to automatize the process of monitoring. If at that time (at the beginning of 2000), there were reliably working monitoring services – possibly, HostTracker would never have appeared. Therefore, he had to write a simple script to check his bulk of sites. However, the script faced the same problems that were mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph. From time to time, the script didn’t work at all or didn’t work properly.

So, that’s why, we had to optimize the script a little and make it more reliable, as well as, through the duplication and distribution it on several machines. After a series of optimizations the idea crossed our minds that it could be useful for someone else, and HostTracker became public. With the advent of a variety of clients – we decided to monetize the efforts. As you can see, our service appeared to solve personal problems, but during the process of development has become available to others to help them solve the same problems, which, at one time, we faced.

Monitoring: the main points

This part of the review contains information about the most popular feature - regular check of the site or other entity available from the network for immediate identification of emerging problems. These checks can be run on different protocols: http (s), icmp (aka Ping), port (check any port over TCP) etc. It is worth noting, that there are different approaches to monitoring. There is an internal monitoring - when the state of the site is estimated by the software hosted on the same server. To put it tentatively, there may be included such tools like Google Analytics– built in the page script sends information about customers who entered the site, and can make indirect conclusions about the site performance. The other type of monitoring - external, or, as lawyers say, "monitoring by a third party." It is embodied in simulating the logging in of real users with real addresses to the site, and making conclusions on the real server replies to the sent requests. Further we will talk about this method in the review.

Infrastructure or how it works

For easier understanding, the infrastructure can be divided into two components: the "internal" and "external". The “internal” is placed in the cloud and consists of computing servers, databases, file servers etc. All of these components belong to HostTracker and are operated directly by HostTracker employees. The “external” component - nodes or agents, which are placed around the world and serve as independent servers inspectors, similarly to "Secret shoppers" at the stores. They are testing the sites and other entities by creating the standard requests for checking protocol. If it is a web site test, then it will be the usual http requests and there will be no difference between these requests and requests of real visitors.

These servers are completely independent from each other and from internal system structure. Everything what they do – receive a list of sites for checking from the central server and give it back the check results. Some of these servers are being rented by the HostTracker, whilst the majority of them belongs to the partners. These partners are providing them for free or with a significant discount, in return for backlinks or discounts for our services, or just due to friendship relationship.

This kind of infrastructure allocation is a result of monitoring service performance algorithm.

The service performance algorithm

Regular checks are being done due to the client’s predefined interval, beginning from one minute. When it comes to testing, the server sends the task to one randomly selected agent – a part of the external HostTracker network. It is performing checks by a given protocol, and sending back the response of the checking server. These results are being processed on the “external” side. If it happens to have a positive response - nothing happens, there will be only a record in the database about this (it is available to the client in a form of an inspections log). If an error has been noticed, then tasks are immediately created to verify, again, this site by other randomly selected servers from the general network. After that, the answers from all these servers will be analyzed.

If the error hasn’t been confirmed by the majority of servers - it remains in the log and there is no reason to worry. Apparently, anything can happen: the network lag, requests overload and everything. If most or all of the agents do confirm an error - then it is assumed, that the trouble occurred and there is a serious problem – likely, at that time, a lot of people can’t get to the site. Moreover, almost all commercial sites will suffer from a great loss of money in this situation.

Error handling and clients notification

According to the settings, after identifying the problems, a lot of different things can also happen. The problem initial diagnostics is being done at once. If there is any error, the code of this error is recorded, otherwise there will be a record of the protocol response. This data can be used for detecting the reasons of the error, for example, network failure, server failure etc. However, first and foremost, the client is interested in getting to know about the problem. So, if you want to be aware of any errors at any time, you should register your phone number, e-mail or other communication channel to receive notifications from HostTracker.

These notifications may be sent to different people, with different contacts and at any time. Truly, a lot of interesting features are there to offer. The message can be sent immediately, which is done the most frequently. Although, that’s not enough for the particular customer to be satisfied. Firstly, the "unimportant" sites do exist and it would be inappropriate to wake administrator up because of the short-term downtime. Secondly, there are "important" people, that shouldn’t be bothered because of different insignificant problems. Therefore, HostTracker offers a feature of the alerts escalation. As well as, HostTracker would send a notification to a specific address after some time of the site’s fall, if it didn’t recover by itself.

Moreover, you can create "work schedule" for each contract - set the time interval during which, it is possible to send alerts. So, HostTracker wouldn’t disturb this person at other time. It happens to be very useful for some customers. For instance, this configuration will send an alert to the particular person between 8:00 am. and 7:00 pm., in case the site has been “off” for one or more hours:

We will describe a wide variety of other service functions in the next reviews. Also, you will find all histories of their emergence and development, the examples of their usage and other things from our own experience. It is worth noting, that one of the main advantages of the service is the orientation to clients. Many service functions have been invented due to clients, friends and partners requests, enabling them to solve their specific technical problems, the solution of which on their own would require a lot more resources. Therefore, we’re looking forward to your feedbacks and suggestions!

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