Monday, 15 August 2016

SkywavesDX Forum - Back Soon! (Hopefully)

The SkywavesDX Forum is back online. Wondering why it went down? Read below to find out.

The SkywavesDX phpBB forum has been in operation for almost two years but was forced offline during the first week of August. There was a problem with the hosting company, 123-Reg. Here's a rundown of what happened and a little bit of info into the background of how things work.

The phpBB forum platform requires a certain range of versions of php to function correctly. If there is an incompatibility of php versions, it won't run at all. "php" is a scripting language used by the hosting company which, in our case, were 123-Reg. (Those 'in the know' will now be cringing!)

The problems began about 17 months ago when we suddenly found ourselves unable to update the forum software. Software updates are necessary to keep the forum functioning properly and include new facilities, bug fixes and, more importantly, security updates. However, the forum should continue to function satisfactorily without these updates, providing they are carried out at least occasionally.

When it came to performing the software updates, we decided not to install each update immediately on their release as there can be teething troubles which require software patches and further updates, so it's always a good idea to wait a week or two, or just keep the updates one version behind.

Back to 123-Reg, who stated they were running the latest versions of php on their servers, yet it seems they weren't. Something was obviously wrong, but 123-Reg claimed everything was fully up to date. We knew it was likely to be a php incompatibility issue because of the MySQL error messages which were displayed each time we tried to perform a software update.

We now had a real problem. Would 123-Reg eventually fix this problem? We assumed so as we knew it wouldn't only be SkywavesDX which had been having these problems, so we decided to wait and see. Besides, the alternatives, i.e. changing hosts, would be a nightmare in itself. (In fact, we have since discovered that this php issue was a common problem with 123-Reg.)

As long as Skywaves was running, that was the main thing, but we were aware that a major forum software update which required a newer php version would probably spell the end of SkywavesDX at some point in the future. As it happened, the forum didn't even get that far! On Saturday August 6th, there was a total breakdown of SkywavesDX with a new MySQL error which, yet again, pointed to 123-Reg being the problem. We contacted 123-Reg and asked them to fix the problem, but no replies were received. On August 8th, the decision was taken to promptly go through the upheaval of changing hosts.

1%1 Internet were chosen as they have the highest uptime of all the major hosting companies and I know people who have used them without fault. This includes an entire technology college who use 1%1 Internet and who have never experienced a single problem with 1%1 in several years! So the domain transfer and changover process has begun, but the problems haven't stopped there.

Although the transfer process was initiated almost a week go, it still hasn't actually taken place. 123-Reg are dragging their heels for some reason, but we do have a date of August 18th for the transfer to have been completed. Once this has happened, it then takes up to 24 hours for the new domain to fully propagate around the internet, so we still cannot see SkywavesDX being back before the 19th at the very earliest.

My own experiences of domain transfers are all horror stories. The worst experience I had was with a company called Web Mania. I decided to transfer my domains from them a few years ago due to a few issues, but they wouldn't release them. After SIX WEEKS of trying and many emails to them, most of which were ignored or fobbed off with standardised replies, I was forced to involve OFCOM, who got them to release my domains IMMEDIATELY! (OFCOM were equally as effective with two separate problems I had with Virgin Media. One regarding a mobile phone issue and another with a home multimedia package.) It became apparent that Web Mania were trying to steal my domains as they were TLDs (Top Level Domains) and therefore quite valuablem. (I was once offered £1000 for the Skywaves domain by an American marketing company. Needless to say, I refused as it was then used by our group.)

The fact is, all hosting companies seem to be as bad as each other. My own hosting problems didn't stop after moving from Web Mania to Dataflame as they too presented me with many problems. Also, their own servers were hacked one day and my personal web space became an illegal Lloyds TSB Bank login. Dataflame firmly put the blame on me and never apologised for their own security breach.

So, all things considered, I wouldn't be surprised if the SkywavesDX phpBB forum is offline for a while longer, but we are keeping a very close eye on things and aim to get the transfer done as soon as possible. As things stand, I anticipate the earliest return date for the forum to be August 20th. Fingers crossed!

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