FlockHosting Blog

Trouble Ticket Wisdom: Is my email/site down?

knowledgeA common trouble ticket that finds its way to the support desk is

“I can’t seem to get email, my website is down! Why is everything offline?”

Well there are a few reasons as to why things could actually be offline:

  • Scheduled Maintenance
  • Unplanned Server Outage
  • IP Blocked by Firewall

So what do you do when these things occur? How do you know? Well let’s go over a few ways that your ticket would be cleared up:

Scheduled Maintenance

It happens sometimes, there are software updates which require a little downtime, some are quickly scheduled for safety’s sake, others planned weeks in advanced to address bigger issues, or even just general housekeeping! So how do you find out about these sorts of outages? Email! First and foremost I email customers about LARGE outages – so be sure your email on file is to an address NOT associated with your service.

Now for quick and priority always be sure to check Twitter or Facebook, chances are if it’s quick you’ll see a notice, and sometimes a rundown of what’s going on.

Unplanned Server Outage

This happens! I’m sorry, sometimes things outside of my control, hardware failure, power issues, datacenter server attacks, you name it! So when things go completely wrong and my hands are tied waiting for the datacenter I tend to keep updates on Twitter and Facebook, if it’s something major it is posted here at the blog too!

IP Blocked by Firewall

You set up a new email address and the password won’t take – after about 3 tries because you may of just hit S instead of D you realize that it is giving you a new error – chances are you got blocked by the firewall which likely thinks with all this password failures you are up to no good!

Previously I’d of sent you to another website, but now I send you to FlockHosting’s website to find your IP address give the number in green to me in a ticket, and ask to see if you have been blocked, if it’s not a firewall block the IP still helps me determine what is going on!

There you have it!

You’ve just read up on several scenarios related to outages and being unable to access your website, do remember you can check on the fleet server status by checking in the customer zone – but usually the above will help you stay up to date!

Have a question? Trouble Ticket Wisdom will come from tickets but too if you have a question about how to do something, open a ticket and let me lend you a hand! Who knows your issue may appear in one of these posts!

WordPress Attacks!

If you are a user of WordPress I’d ask you to please consider installing the Limit Login Attempts Plugin [Link] over the last 24 hours there have been several blogs under attack – appears to be directed at the login process for WordPress so this plugin will help limit the number of times some one can attempt to guess your password! Too a STRONG password is key!

Need help making a stronger password? Your password of “password” is not safe try to have something stronger, use this Online Password Tool [Link] helps you create a password, I’d recommend 8-10 characters long, and if possible check all the boxes, if you use !@#$%^&*()_ type characters it does help secure your password more as it’s not the standard single word password which some dictionary based attacks may guess.

Please be safe with your installs! If you are in need of assistance to get things secured up please don’t hesitate to open a trouble ticket!

Updating Support

When FlockHosting started 9 years ago, support was easy to manage and handle thru Instant Message — Some customers from those early days still occasionally chat with me on AOL Instant Messenger, however things grew and got busy, and having a direct line sometimes slowed things down vs. helped as it was my personal IM account so even being online in the evenings meant I was on-call.

Well as of this morning as the new website came online I’ve brought back Chat, you may have noticed something on the main page, here on the blog, and even in the customer zone using SSL! A little bar that looks like this:

I am excited to bring this functionality BACK to customers for ease of support, REAL TIME help, simply click it and your off and running!

Why Bring it Back?

FlockHosting has gone thru a lot of changes over the years, from the look of the website to the tech powering the servers – and as things are moving forward and changes are happening I wanted people to really have an easier connection to getting ahold of me, and the option too as the company expands and grows (as I am praying it will!) – I need a set of tools to empower employees to serve you!

Plus as FlockHosting does not offer telephone support, this is an alternative that’s protected by SSL in the Customer Zone, so chats are secure, and for the simple Q&A here and there, it’s easy to use and on-demand!

What it’s Not…

End of the day, Support Issues may be better served thru Trouble Tickets, if something is detailed and your REALLY having a hard time with something laying it out in a ticket is quicker than a live chat about it – same with some billing issues – Tickets allow for more data to be collected/reviewed and resolve quickly.

What it is…

Great for questions, help on a problem your currently diagnosing, quick pre-sales questions, order/account management errors that may crop up, in the end a ticket may need to be made, but if you have a question and you’re hoping for a more “INSTANT” answer, this will work just fine.

Talking out an idea too is welcome here! If you have questions or an idea you’d like to really work out either a new website, your current website or a “What if” website, my 15 years in this industry as well as colleagues I have at my disposal who fill in the gap where I am not too savvy – are at your disposal, I want to see your website succeed and do well! Be it your blog, community, gallery, event… You name it. I am here to help!

Times of Operation

My goal is to keep this schedule best I can:

  • Monday thru Friday 9AM till 5PM
  • Saturday – 10AM till 2PM
  • Sunday – Closed

All these times are Pacific and they are not the only times, if you have been a customer here and interacted with me in tickets/email/etc. you know I don’t always keep “standard” hours as far as times of the day I’m awake, so if my evening is mellow and I’m working on some servers, you may see me on anywhere from 5PM->3AM easily – don’t hesitate to contact me!

When is it okay to chat?

Anytime. I can’t repeat this enough to customers:

I am a resource, I want to be a help!

You may already have a “Webmaster” or company that has designed and deployed your website – Excellent! They are a great member of the team of support you have for your website, but add my name (Chuck Brown) to that list, if you have a “What if…” or “Can I….” type situation, and your designer/webmaster isn’t sure – Simply fire up chat.

FlockHosting is not some cold-calculated business for me, chatting DOES NOT start a meter running calculating a cost for help, my help to my customers and visitors looking at FlockHosting is 100% free – I truly hope and pray you can use the information in my brain as a blessing to you and your website!

I hope you give chat a try if you have a question – the website will continue to get some extra makeovers here soon, more resources, more support documents, some extra support guides & videos! So stay tuned for even more!

Mission Trip Donations!

Now some of you may or may not know the true “SIZE” of FlockHosting, some folks login and write “To Whom it may concern” some however know the simplicity of it “Hey Chuck!” 🙂 since day one FlockHosting has been a one man shop, granted now days I have some hired help so to speak with some of my datacenter agreements, so I can branch out and have a bit of a personal life, and fixes can be deployed without me having to cancel on say my youthers and a trip to the movies (or a date) 🙂

To that end, FlockHosting isn’t just a business to me, it’s a personal investment of time and effort, and today I am asking for a favor – a friend from a local church is trying to raise funds to go to El Salvador for a week on a mission trip, she is trying to raise funds quickly as it’s in July – she needs just over $1000 and has already reached just past the halfway point but could use some help.

Now I know there are some of you that’d in a heart beat jump in and offer some funds without hesitation, and I appreciate that – however I want to do my part too and thank folks for helping out – so if you’d like to donate here’s what I’d like to offer in return:

  • You can choose to give and ask nothing in return. I do appreciate those who can give freely!
  • For any donations over $10 gets you up to 5 – 1GB Email accounts on the enhanced email service for 1 year
  • Any Donations over $50 gets you the above 1GB emails, however instead of 5 -> 10 and an additional 250MB of Storage for your website & 5GB of additional bandwidth for your website, for the life time of your account.

I wish I had the t-shirts I have been working on for the new website launch ready, but I’ll throw in a t-shirt or coffee mug to anyone who does donate the moment they are ready!

Again, this is completely optional, and I know money for most is tight, but every little bit helps, and I am happy to offer some perks for donations please don’t consider them a bribe to do it, I just like to bless those who bless others!

If you would like to donate, please either open a trouble ticket or email me chuck (at) flockhosting.com and let me know how much you’d like to donate, even $5 is awesome! I’d say I’d even take a buck, but sadly credit card or paypal fees would eat that entirely. So if you can donate I appreciate it, it’d help my friend out and help her get a week to share the love of the Lord in El Salvador for a week!

Software Notes: Upgrade WordPress

As part of what I hope to be a regular posting on ways to use various apps – this first post really covers an important thing at the moment – if you have a WordPress blog you utilize for your blog/site/etc. today is the day you upgrade.

Currently there is a worm roaming the internet which attacks specifically old WordPress installs – it checks most likely for common URL formats so for instance wp-admin, looking for a way to attack – there have been reports of modified permalinks and added administrators for future use – so today is a good day to upgrade!

If your on a newer version of WordPress and just need an upgrade – use the internal “Upgrade” button that appears, it works great, brings your files up to date, and gets you blog off and running very quickly – if your on a version before the addition of the built-in upgrade process  – then you will need to upgrade via Fantastico if you used it to install -or- you can do a manual upgrade by downloading the latest version at WordPress.org – the process for a manual install is pretty simple – if you have a custom template use leave the wp-content folder as-is, that will save your themes and plugins – then all WordPress files – EXCEPT wp-config.php and wp-content from your FTP folder.

This will give you a folder with maybe some files you uploaded but primarly wp-admin/wp-includes will be gone – now unzip the file you downloaded from WordPress.org and upload those new files in – once uploaded you can login, it will make a note you need to upgrade, this process upgrades your database format to the latest version it’s usually fairly quick and painless, next after your logged in goto your Plugins section and if any plugins need an upgrade, be sure they are upgraded as well.

Now if you get stuck, or need assistance in upgrading – open a ticket, I am more than happy to help as it’s easier to upgrade that help in repairing damage – so please don’t hesitate to open a ticket – the assistance is free (tips are welcomed) but this help comes with no required cost, I may get a small backlog, but I’ll do what I can to assist and help get you up-to-date.

So go forth, update!