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  1. #1
    SitePoint Evangelist Fergal's Avatar
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    Solving / Managing a Technical Problem

    I own a website that runs on a professional, paid software product (vBulletin) and is hosted with a very large, well known and highly regarded hosting company (Servint). I also hire the services of a technical admin who provides good quality services to the site, in areas where I don't have the required technical knowledge.

    The site has experienced serious database issues and these are the responses I've received:

    Software provider says it's a hosting problem.
    Hosting provider says it's a software issue.
    Admin - honestly admits that he doesn't have the knowledge or experience to solve the problem.

    I have spoken to a Technical Admin of the software product who is a real expert in hosting related database issues for that software. He would charge me a few hundred dollars to look at the issue, but isn't prepared to guarantee that using his services will solve the problem. Personally I'm reluctant to hire him, because it's a lot of money and I feel that I shouldn't have to, given that I'm paying top dollar for quality hosting that has an industry reputation for providing great support and that I am paying for a professionally supported software product to run the site.

    What should I do?

    Thanks!
    Fergal Crawley (Previous Username: Proudirish.com)
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  2. #2
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    I've worked with vBulletin forums since, well, there was vBulletin and the simple reality is that databases get corrupt when there's high levels of concurrent usage. While I won't go down the technology argument too far this is more common with generic scripts like vB which have to cater to a wide range of hosting platforms than what you'd see if you built your own system ground up. Generally this can be fixed, sometimes with just a few queries, sometimes with hours of digging.

    As for your circumstance you may not like what I'm saying but it's going to be on you to get this fixed.

    Basically you have providers tasked with parts of the equation but no one in your scenario is responsible for your site.... Your hosting company provides hardware and bandwidth but unless that crashed and caused the issue, it's not on them to have any involvement with what you install, even if they try to get involved when they can. Then you have a piece of software that comes with install help and bug support but again is no fully managed system -- their line (and what lets them make the licensing fee be so low) stops at functionality. Your technical admin is the only real possible person on the hook but if they've been hired to build and customize rather than manage and protect, that's a pass as well -- plus they don't know what the solve is.

    What you're expecting is managed support and what you're paying for (from what you've explained) is scripts & servers. I realize you may look at the costs as expensive but having someone responsible is thousands of dollars a month on top of hardware whether things go wrong or not -- it's a common gap and frustrating but it is reality.

    But more than who to blame, right now you need to be online. You have a serious painpoint and none of the other parties will feel it the same. The longer it takes to get back, the less people will return. So get your site back up, figure out what you think is fair but again, unless you're paying a very big bill for a fully managed solution to someone that you didn't mention, I doubt you'll see a nickel.

    And moving forward don't assume your software or hosting covers your world. Things will break... someone hits delete, you get hacked, the database goes down again. Put the money in, get your site to a place where it backs its self up and where it checks and repairs corruption now.
    - Ted S

  3. #3
    SitePoint Evangelist Fergal's Avatar
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    Thanks for the great reply Ted. I do realise that the buck stops with me and that I am ultimately responsible for the site. I posted here to ask for advice on how to handle the situation, I'm not trying to assign blame on anyone else.

    My forum isn't large by any means, it has less than 2,000 uniques per day and has less than 150K forum posts. Unfortunately I can't spend "thousands of dollars a month" to support that. There are countless people investing a lot less than me in their forums (e.g. shared hosting and open source forum software) who keep their sites up and running successfully.

    So my question is what am I doing wrong and what do I need to do to fix it?

    Thanks!

    Edit
    Put the money in, get your site to a place where it backs its self up and where it checks and repairs corruption now.
    I'd welcome some suggestions / ideas as to how to get started.

    Thanks again!
    Fergal Crawley (Previous Username: Proudirish.com)
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  4. #4
    SitePoint Evangelist Fergal's Avatar
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    The vBulletin.com site is currently showing the same error as my forum. Maybe I'm just using the wrong software!
    Fergal Crawley (Previous Username: Proudirish.com)
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  5. #5
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    The vBulletin.com site is currently showing the same error as my forum. Maybe I'm just using the wrong software!
    That's the page vBulletin shows on any critical error. You certainly have alternatives in the price class but while there's things some of them do better (like forcing a more redundant database structure) it's not the forum software so much as the posting to the database and moving won't solve that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Proudirish.com View Post
    There are countless people investing a lot less than me in their forums (e.g. shared hosting and open source forum software) who keep their sites up and running successfully
    Bigger, older, more used, more changes, it all contributes to the amount of corruption that exists in the database. Your hosting gives you the resources to support more traffic but has little to do with your backend issues. This doesn't mean that you need to spend thousands a month, my point was simply in setting expectations -- that's what it takes to get total ownership of a site.

    So what next... You can either hire a the admin you were referred too or try and find someone else. Light database corruption is really solved with a few database commands to repair tables (it's all built in to mySQL), from there you move into more serious repair processes and/ or backups (you do have backups, right?).

    Once you're live I highly suggest insuring a more automated and in-control backup system (read: have your database moved off of the server nightly). My personal approach for sites has been to combine that process with a quick sweep of the database for corruption issues nightly -- it takes your site offline for a few minutes but in the communities I've worked with where the approach was put in place there's pretty much never an issue.
    - Ted S

  6. #6
    SitePoint Evangelist Fergal's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot for your very helpful advice Ted. Yes, we do have back ups. I'm working on getting the site back up and running now. Once we do that, I will start implementing your suggestions.
    Fergal Crawley (Previous Username: Proudirish.com)
    Business Advice Forum - Webmaster and Business Forum < Get a free link & win $5,000
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