Cutting Corners in Webhosting

I’ve postee occasionally about the problems with the webhosting industry as a whole; all the clueless people who don’t know how to run servers but still do anyway, all the false advertising, and all the other problems that plague the business.

Well, the past couple days have demonstrated another important reason why one should be very, very careful about who’s hosting your website.

A lot of people running RedHat Linux have been reporting that a recent software upgrade from the company has flat-out, outright killed BIND on their servers. BIND, for you who don’t know, is the nameserver daemon, which controls the DNS records for domain names.

You need two nameservers for any domain; it’s a requirement. However, far, far too many companies cheat, and make both “nameservers” the exact same physical machine, answering on two different addresses. It saves money, and is a lot easier to administer. But it’s not just stupid, it’s monumentally stupid.

Why? Because when the RedHat bug hit, people on affected servers suddenly found “both” their nameservers down, and their domains unresolvable. That means their websites won’t load, their email won’t be received, and stuff just generally doesn’t work. All because they chose a dumb, shortsighted hosting company.

If their provider had gone with a better, redundant setup, the slave server would still be responding to queries, and in most configurations would still be responding to queries for seven days after the parent nameserver stopped. That gives the hosting company an entire week to fix the problem without services being down. (Things might be a little slower, as the one nameserver wouldn’t be responding, but 100% of services working at 80% speed is better than 0% working at any speed.)

Until this week, if you asked most of the kids using one machine for all their nameservers about it, they’d dismiss it by saying “well, if the server’s down, then the server’s down, and nothing is going to work anyway, so what’s the point?”. Clearly, the point is that if the server is running, but BIND isn’t, it’d still be good if, you know, something worked.

I consider redundant DNS one of the surest signs of a competent hosting provider. Entropic Memes is hosted by Redpin, who have several nameservers in the US, one in Germany, and one in the UK; our DNS servers are the German, and one of the US ones. In almost two years, we’ve never had a problem, with DNS or anything else.

Sometimes, you get what you pay for.

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General | on August 30th, 2006| Comments Off on Cutting Corners in Webhosting

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