A few weeks ago I noticed that I had not received any new emails for a day or two. Odd I thought, but it’s summer and maybe people are just on holidays.
This was a day before I was leaving for a trip, so I was in the process of checking in my family for our flight, and making a number of last-minute AirBnB reservations…using my email – which I quickly realized was offline.
What was a minor inconvenience became a major problem – I thought maybe my account had expired or something had gotten disconnected in my email settings. OK, that shouldn’t be much of a problem, so I opened a support ticket with my website hosting service BluDomain…which is when I learned that not only was my email offline, my entire business website had been permanently deleted, and was unrecoverable.
This is now an emergency.
Here is the support ticket reply I received from BluDomain:
We are aware you are experiencing some extended down time. Please read the FAQ below for details and how to proceed moving forward.
1. What happened to my site and email?
On Thursday, June 21st, we suffered a loss of your server due to a RAID server failing and when they replaced it, our hosting server team, a second server failed. The data is irretrievable, and all websites and blogs are not recoverable. All database backup methods were lost. We immediately hired a 3rd party consultant to assist us in navigating in the email recovery, making sure that what we were told was accurate and helping with backup data recovery expertise. We have met this circumstance with the utmost urgency and have been working around the clock as a team to try and respond to inquiries and get things resolved. If your emails are not synched we can set up a forwarder to a working email for you. Just let us know the email you would like messages forwarded to and we can set that up.
2. Why have we not been notified of this outage?
Unfortunately we are unable to send a server wide message when that server is offline. We will be sending server wide notifications once all cPanel accounts have been restored.
3. How do I get my email working?
We are working on restoring mail now but if you are not receiving it let us know via this ticket and we can expedite its restoration. If you need email right away we can also set up a forwarder – if you want to do this please send us the email account you would like to forward your messages to.
4. Why was there no back up?
Ordinarily there are backups kept weekly but the backup drive that the databases were on became corrupt and was not recoverable. This means that all database driven sites or blogs are irretrievably lost and must be replaced. Needless to say, we will be taking all steps, moving forward, to ensure much greater reliability and redundancy. We have been in existence for almost 2 decades and have never encountered an issue like this. Once we get back on our feet we will be researching the cause.
5. What do I do now?
a) We think it is Important to put an email address and or phone number on your index page so that your clients can reach you. We have already created default index pages so that your clients know it’s a hosting issue. Please provide us with the text you would like on your index page so we can post that up while you work on your new site.
c) choose a site at http://www.bludomain.com/
websites/ to replace the site you had. We will set it up for you as promptly as possible, with all add ons and features for no charge. Do not make the purchase via our site – you can just notify us via this ticket and we will get it set up for you.
d) complete editing your site and request to go live via this ticket.
We are deeply sorry and are acutely aware of the incredible inconvenience this has caused you. Please bear with us as we do all we can to rectify this and know that we are working diligently on your behalf to get this resolved. Your patience and understanding is greatly appreciated. Any further questions can be addressed via this ticket.
BluDomain Support team
At the time, my primary concern was getting my email back online. Not only was this a family travel emergency, all of my business email is routed through my BluDomain account, and I had already missed a few days worth of correspondence.
To their credit, BluDomain support was able to quickly reset my domain’s MX records (I use Google’s G Suite to route my Gmail through my domain name), but it still took a while for the reset to propagate before my email was back online.
In my case, I was not too concerned with my BluDomain website. I was lucky, this happened to be one of my first websites and I had not updated it in years. In fact, I had been meaning to delete it and start fresh for ages.
However, this is not the case for most BluDomain customers. For many, their BluDomain website was their primary business promotion tool.
The task of building a new website from scratch is one thing, but many have lost years worth of blog posts, keywords, testimonials, client galleries – along with all the Google juice and backlinks that goes with it.
Imagine spending years working to get your photography website to the top of Google – just to see the entire thing blown up in one day.
Lessons To Learn
I initially started using BluDomain as my website host many years ago (at least 10+ years, back when I first set up my photography business and branding) because BluDomain offered some really nice template sites, and at the time is was a hassle to put together a good looking website on your own.
Since then I have switched over to WordPress and now run five other websites hosted by BlueHost.
However, my initial email setup was done through BluDomain, so I kept my old BluDomain website primarily because I was too lazy to switch my email and domain name over.
Many other BluDomain clients didn’t have such a lucky escape from ruin and now face a nightmare trying to rebuild their websites and salvage their SEO from nothing.
LESSON 1 – make an offline backup
I have screwed up one of my WordPress BlueHost websites more times than I can remember. However, they were always easily restored from an automated cloud backup. At most, I’ve lost maybe a day’s worth of work (mostly because of my own failures with WordPress). But what the BluDomain loss shows is how important it is to also have your own complete backup downloaded and stored locally.
Don’t trust your host or your host’s backup service – download a backup of your entire website manually yourself, on a regular basis (monthly or even annually would probably be ok depending on how often you update it). Fortunately, with WordPress this is relatively easy – it might be a little more complicated with a template based service like BluDomain.
LESSON 2 – consider using a cloud-based email
Using a branded email (ie. firstname.lastname@example.org) is generally considered to be much more professional than using an open email (ie. email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org etc.).
However, this requires a hosting account with access to your domain’s MX records. If your domain host goes down (or out of business), your email will be offline.
After this incident with BluDomain I am seriously considering switching over to a simple Gmail account for all correspondence.
LESSON 3 – customer service is important
I have to give BluDomain credit – faced with a tsunami of angry customers they were able to get my email back online relatively quickly. However, they don’t offer telephone or live chat support – which would have been very helpful in this situation.
I don’t want to make this post seem like a promotion of BlueHost, that is not my intention, however BlueHost and other similar hosting companies do offer telephone or live chat support.
Speaking from experience, BlueHost’s live chat support has helped me out many times.
It would also have been a useful first step for BluDomain to immediately go through their customer lists (even if it meant doing it manually) and send all their clients a notice that their website and email were offline. The fact that this didn’t happen right away and they seem to be acting like nothing happened is troubling (nothing on social media, nothing on their website).
To be frank, I’m not sure how BluDomain can survive this level of failure as a business. I know that I will certainly be transferring my domain to another hosting company as soon as possible.
I do feel very bad for BluDomain – their templates are beautiful and they are a relatively small business. What happened may have been totally out of their control, but the internet never forgets and rebuilding a level of trust will take a long time.
Maybe that is the biggest lesson to learn – assume that your website hosting company will go out of business tomorrow and you’ll be prepared.
Did You Lose Your BluDomain Website or Email?
Have you been affected by BluDomain’s data loss?
What happened? Have you recovered anything?
How do you safeguard your website and email – what tips could you offer?
How important is your website to your business?
What would you do if your entire website and email were permanently deleted tomorrow?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!