Shared Web Hosting and E-mail Service Down

2003-06-03 by Ivan Vachovsky

Aplus.Net servers are built with redundancy and are subject to 24/7 monitoring and control. Your web site and e-mail will go down for reasons by Aplus.Net very rarely or practically never. Aplus.Net has exceeded the industry standard of 99.5% uptime consistently as reported by third party monitoring service "NetMechanics".

Unfortunately things happen on the Internet, beyond Aplus.Net's control, which may affect the performance of your web hosting and/or e-mail. Here are the most common problems.

1. Denial-of-services (DOS) attack. It happens to every provider in the web hosting industry and moving from one provider to another will not protect you. The nature of DOS is such that it is impossible to subdue such attack within minutes. It takes hours to recover. There is no cure for it. Typical action is to isolate (block) the server subject to such DOS attack so that the rest of the servers remain operational. If your web hosting or e-mail service happens to be on this server it will be down until the attack is gone. Typically 3 to 5 hours. Hopefully stronger legislation in the future will discourage all sorts of hackers and criminals who are doing DOS attacks today.

2. Failure at our upstream provider(s). This is much more rare event. It happened to Aplus.Net 2 times for the last 5 years. Aplus.Net has redundant fiber and buys services from the most reputable vendors such as UUNet, Sprint, AT&T. We pay 3-4 times more for bandwidth than some of our competitors in order to provide the most reliable service to our customers. Our upstream providers employ multiple fiber links and all sorts of redundancy. If they are down the whole Internet will be down since UUNet as example controls 45% of the whole Internet.

3. Failure at your provider. If you cannot see your web page and your Aplus.Net support rep is telling you that he sees it, you may check with your Internet provider. Sometimes some providers lose part of the Internet or intentionally filter it (to punish a spammer as example ). This is relatively rare occurrence and varies, depending on the provider. The smaller the provider the more likely this to happen, however very few people will be affected.

What to do in order to neutralize the negative effect of DOS attack?

A. Use POP 3 client for your e-mail. The e-mail services and web services are running different protocols and rarely both are affected. If you are using POP3 mail it will not be affected by a DOS attack targeting the web server.

B. Get "dedicated server" if your application does not tolerate outages. Shared web hosting is inexpensive for a good reason. You share the server with others. If one of them is subject to DOS attack, than all users of this shared server suffer. DOS attacks are typically targeted at a particular person. It is like having a drug dealer as a neighbor. You may expect some shooting around. Unfortunately Aplus.Net cannot do a background check of your "neighbors" in the shared server. Getting "dedicated server" will solve the problem. You will never suffer the DOS attack unless it is purposely targeted at you. "Dedicated servers" are not that expensive nowadays and it is an option worth considering depending on how important your web site is.

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