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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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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What could we check by using the cloud services? Part 2

  In the beginning, HostTracker company was founded on the basis of a simple website to provide free customer services. Though, a few years later, this startup developed a wide variety of tools serving to solve various problems, including different network issues. In a series of publications, we have decided to describe thoroughly all the features of our service, also to share our experience in the development of such projects with you and to mention interesting challenges that we faced. 

In the beginning, HostTracker company was founded on the basis of a simple website to provide free customer services. Though, a few years later, this startup developed a wide variety of tools serving to solve various problems, including different network issues. In a series of publications, we have decided to describe thoroughly all the features of our service, also to share our experience in the development of such projects with you and to mention interesting challenges that we faced. Moreover, for those seeking an example of how to sell something that had been made for themselves, our experience would be useful, as most of our features were developed due to our personal needs.

In the previous part of the review we have talked about the history of the service and the most basic functions - regular inspection of sites and servers, and what is more, notification of their efficiency. Before starting to describe more advanced features, we should write where do all these ideas come from and how to prioritize them. One of the key secrets often used by entrepreneurs is to follow the statement: all people are unique. All customers’ requests are unique, so you have to learn how to deal with them. Therefore the IT sector is utterly susceptible to this factor, as a great number of customers have profound knowledge and diverse experience. Nevertheless, part of the problems can be solved with available resources. However, the main feature of our work is that, frequently, we have to evolve something. Most of the HostTracker’s functions were developed or adapted due to the conveniences and needs of the particular people. We are also a part of that people, as having rather large infrastructure, and also need to have everything work properly. Therefore, we ourselves are the most picky client.


Precious little things

It worth noting, that in addition to different regular checks, there are other useful tools. They include monitoring of the domain and SSL certificate expiration time. This seems to be negligible, but could bring a lot of unexpected inconveniences to work. These functions appeared in HostTracker, when one of our personal domains had expired. Moreover, large companies also frequently face these problems, as the prolongation of the domain /certificate expiration time depends on the unreliable human factor. Therefore, a notification that the domain should be prolongated, is stored not only within spam folder (already overflowed with continuous marketing messages from your hosting company), but also to the folder with the data of website downs. As well as, the SMS notification capability still exists. That’s why these features are being so handy.

Another interesting feature is the domain check to see if they are blacklisted in DNS-based lists. These lists are independent and are generated separately using different algorithms. What is more, they were mainly created for filtering of the suspicious entities. Each administrator can configure own web server in different ways, for example, not to receive messages from the servers from a specific list. It helps fight off spam, malware spread, DDoS attacks and other problems. But all of these lists have their own algorithms, and there is no guarantee that in the result of any coincidences your website wouldn’t appear in any of these blacklists. Moreover, according to the statistics, this is happening on a regular basis with the most innocent sites. For example, no one can guarantee that a hacker wouldn’t use your nearby IP for different spam attacks. In this situation, the entire range of IPs would be considered as unreliable. What are the consequences of that?  Your messages wouldn’t be delivered to customers, the site wouldn’t be so easily found in search system and so on. Furthermore, you will find out this problem when the changes become critical or even irrevocable. Therefore, the monitoring and notification of DNSBL are also essential.

The content check

Here is a good example of how the usage of functions may exceed developers expectations. We have mentioned about several such cases earlier. Actually, nowadays a lot of things have a web interface whilst for others – it could be easily created, if needed. Therefore, it was developed not only the check function of whether the page was loaded completely using simple parsing, but also another mind-boggling things of this check. Adapting to different customer requests, this feature has become very flexible. It may look for one or plenty of words from the list at once. Moreover, it may detect the emergence of certain phrases. This feature may also raise as an error the whole line that contains the keyword. For instance, if there is a kind of server-status page (“Server 1 OK” etc.) and it shows “Error”, then the message will be “1 Server Error”.  In this case, all diagnostic is already done, and you can start troubleshooting immediately.

What if it happens, that the server should be down?

In addition to the notification of the failures of the sites, HostTracker provides another important function – gathers statistics of each examined site. When the various buttons on the sites were popular – HostTracker’s button also often appeared with the figures of website attendance, the weather forecasts and other things like that. Now it is possible to use a widget, but still the button is also available for retro fans. In addition, statistics is very important for managers. They constantly want to know whether the website and administration of it are working properly. Therefore, there is another useful function - the maintenance planning. Even the most stable sites and servers must be updated or rebooted from time to time. At the same time, it’s not the desired to lose so-called “9s” in terms of uptime. Planning of the maintenance let us achieve two goals (together or separately). This includes: not to send error notifications and not to record errors to the statistics during a specific span of time. Of course, it seems to be a kind of cheating, but outlined maintenances are justified, especially in excluded time. In addition to this, different verifications have being done and written to the log during maintenances. It can be useful for webmasters and administrators, as log let determine exactly the duration of updating or restarting processes, any occurred errors, other breakages etc. Moreover, thanks to that, the whole process of error emergence could be tracked: from the stage when the server wouldn’t be available for some time to the stage when the application would return an error.

Maintenance can be scheduled as a one-time job or on a regular basis. For example, if the backup is done every night, or a new release - every Thursday. The only condition is that the maintenance schedule should be made up at least 12 hours prior to the site/server nearest suspension period of time. This is done to ensure that all maintenances won’t be responsible for any pity unexpectancies, and statistics provided by HostTracker will be trustful.

A kind of an epilogue

We are frequently asked why we are doing this. The same things could be done without HostTracker’s help.  And you know what - definetely, they could. Especially, if you need only one tool. Many people are talking, that the whole Business World is built on human laziness. By solving routine problems, HostTracker provides a slice of work-free and responsibility-free time in the customer’s schedule. Truly, not everyone is able to assemble a car by himself. We look up to people, who are eager to create something good for personal needs in our field, but most people don’t want to spend their free time for doing something like that.

Additionally, our clients are: non-IT specialists; IT specialists who have to report something to their managers; managers themselves; fans of reliability – they use their own tools and take advantages of someone else’s; and many other groups of people.

All in all, we are always looking forward to your comments.

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