Why ExWeb Crashed

The regular check-in call with Angela did not start well. “Oh, um, it says Account Suspended…?” She was right. ExWeb offline, all email down. This was an emergency. Messages started coming in through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: ExWeb was completely inaccessible during our busiest week of the year, and people wanted to know what was going on.

Customer Support could not help and escalated me to the “Legal and Abuse team,” which did not sound positive. Their messages read like a mashup of boilerplate phrases, alternating between formally apologetic and stridently assertive: “While we try to avoid disruption of services for our customers”, “we have been forced to suspend the account”, “prevent resource abuse and its impact on other accounts.”

Not what we want you to see when you come to ExWeb

It has been a busy culmination to the Spring Himalaya season. Admittedly, our traffic figures were through the roof. Just as the surge in climbers during a weather window creates bottlenecks on Everest, it seems that our traffic was creating problems on our shared server, and the hosting company was not impressed.

We immediately upgraded to a dedicated, more robust server, and started hurriedly moving files across. Although the migration and setup only took a few hours, the site effectively remained down for longer than expected, as we had to wait for the address of the new server to propagate to nameservers across the world. In the end, about 30 hours passed until services were fully restored for all ExWeb users.

We have been assured that this will not happen again. Even so, we will be moving to a new hosting company, which will not take such draconian measures without notifying us in advance.

It was disappointing that ExWeb went down, especially at such a crucial time, but this points to a very good problem to have: ExWeb traffic is surging and we must grow with it. We are now actively looking for partners for this growth phase, which will mean more in-depth articles over a wider range of topics, better site functionality and, well, no more Account Suspended messages.

ExWeb traffic for the past year. Including (1) a Google Analytics glitch, and (2) The Great Server Offlining of 2019.

I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for ExWeb going offline and thank you all for making ExWeb as popular as it is. We are especially grateful to everyone who reached out to let us know the site was down. We really appreciated your concern and it feels good to know you missed us. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please send them through to me.

Rowan White

Owner and operator, ExplorersWeb