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The Day the Server Died

Post #1670 • April 1, 2014, 4:02 PM

I have been a customer of shared hosting for fifteen years, and I have never seen the likes of this: a provider posts to a quiet forum his intention to suspend operations, and never bothers to email the customers. Said customers find out after the sites go dark, the server partition tables are destroyed, and one noble man is running around trying to rescue data.

I am one of those customers. The hosting service was Textdrive, and I found out there was a problem when the subject of the Walter Darby Bannard Archive sent me a note asking if I could look into the reason the site was down. A curator wants to use some of his writing for an upcoming exhibit, he explained. It turned out that all my files on Textdrive are unavailable and possibly destroyed. I'm in a service queue with quite a lot of stunned former customers, awaiting a tarball - a bundle of backed-up data - if indeed one can be plucked from the wreckage. As the aforementioned rescuer explained,

Not sure if I will be able to get that KVM'ed BSD instance back up to get data off it. Will look this week once further progress is made on the data recovery efforts. Picked a random compute node in new york that had it's disk partition table nuked and there are loads of ZFS checksum issues.

Translation: we don't know about your house in particular, but we can confirm that your neighborhood has been heavily mortared.

This is the damage as far as I can assess it:

The Walter Darby Bannard Archive is toast. To the extent that source files exist, they were heavily modified on the server. Hours of copyediting by Chris Rywalt is gone. Putting this back together will be comparable to the work of putting it together in the first place. [Update Apr. 2: I was able to use wget to scrape the pages out of the Wayback Machine. The WDBA was not 160 static pages, of course, but a database-driven CMS, so I still have to glue this back together. But doing so is in the realm of the do-able. Rebuilding the whole thing from word processor files from 2006 may not have been. I'll likely be able to do the same to take care of issues mentioned below.]

The Moon Fell On Me is down and will remain that way for some time. I have the source files, but I tweaked a lot of details in the installed files, so reinstallation will be something of a conservation effort. At least I don't have to guess at the intentions of the artist.

Art Anatomy is down. This is not that big of a deal because my version of the files are more up-to-date than the ones on the server, and I was planning to alter this heavily anyway., which is hosted at Webfaction, is up, but certain extras are lost. Gone, for instance, is the parody I made of the conference blog I made in 2006, along with some XML-based publications I made around the same time. I don't have backups of them., also at Webfaction, is up, but I lost a database that contained information about work stretching back to 1999 and associated images. I do have the images somewhere, maybe on an old computer, but they won't be easy to come by.

Given that one uses a hosting service partly because they make backups, I'm not sure what the takeaway is here except to back up your backups. I'll be investing in an external drive soon. This is, I suppose, an opportunity to reflect on these various projects and assess their current worth to me, but having the opportunity thrust upon me like this is painful.

If you'd like to help, pray to the computing gods for a tarball. And no, this is not an April Fools joke, unless it's from the aforementioned computing gods.




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