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I’m from Missouri (now)

Switching Net hosts offers a lesson in propagation. Diversions hed: I’m from Missouri (now) dek: Switching Net hosts offers a lesson in propagation. by Michael Finley

I recently switched Net hosts. The company that housed my Web site for three years, Verio of Silicon Valley, was raising rates and getting a little too picky with me. So I decided to try my luck with a company in Missouri, NVHost. They offered me an attractive package, and I liked their attitude–sort of a friendly shrug.

And there was something about having a Web host in Missouri. You don’t think of it as one of your major technology states–perfect for me.

Being an old pro, I gave myself lots and lots of time. My contract with Verio lasted through the end of the month. My great desire was that there not be a break in service, no downtime. So I scheduled my start-up with NVHost to begin 15 days before Verio shut down. How about that? In high-level performance circles this is called replicate redundancy–multiple backups to ensure success.

Now, in order to effect the switch, I had to go to Network Solutions’ site, the primary registrar of Internet domains, and fill out a form authorizing the switch. The purpose of this is security. There have been numerous scandals of people stealing Web sites, by applying for them and taking them over, altering the IP pointers, and removing the data to a friendly host. I sure didn’t want that to happen, so I gladly filled out the forms.

Here’s where everything went to hell. If I simply checked the appropriate box and hit Reply, the form said, the switch could commence. I did this and sat back, confident the switchover would occur in 24 to 48 hours. Didn’t happen. When I went to mfinley.com, I could tell I was still in Silicon Valley. (I had left a special marker on that version of the site.) Several days passed. Still no change. I began to panic, and dashed off e-alarms to everyone–Verio, NVHost, Network Solutions, even my local ISP–asking what was wrong. I tended to blame NVHost, since they (in my new version of things) had gulled me into switching. Greg, the guy at NVHost, assured me they had flipped all the right switches on their end. Verio announced they could no longer talk to me since I was no longer (gulp) a customer.

Up to this point, everything had occurred online. Now it was time to pick up the phone. I pleaded with Network Solutions to see if the switch was pulled. “We can’t do that, sir,” they said, “because you haven’t given us authorization.”

“Untrue,” I insisted. “I have a copy of the form right here, checked box and all.” They promised to look into it, and they did. Here is the galling part. It turns out that hitting Reply on the authorization form doesn’t work if your e-mail program is set to wrap words. Mine was set that way, so Network Solutions’ computer–you’d think it would not be an utter imbecile, being in charge of the Internet and all–just stared at it, unable to respond.

I persuaded Network Solutions to finally flip the switch, and ran to my screen to see my Missouri Web site. Now I got nothing, neither Missouri nor Silicon Valley. My 70MB site was just four characters now–404.

I called Greg in Missouri, who added a new word to my lexicon–propagation. Since the Internet is decentralized, flipping a switch only begins an action, it does not complete it. Every network in the world would have to receive the news of my new address, and this process, called propagation, could take 48 hours. (It actually took 96.)

I finally broke Internet silence and came online again, two weeks after going down.

New motto: Live by the Net, die by the Net. And turn off that flippin’ wordwrap.

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