Having 404 Error day


Yesterday was a 404 error day. One of our Ultra Cloud Hosting clients discovered that the A3 Ultra Cloud Hosting & Support plan ($49.50 / month)  just save him $800 – $1,000. After a call for help on skype and a follow up email with a long list of site features on the clients site that were not working I took a quick look.

404 Error Page Not Found

What I found surprised me a little but it looked like a very simple 10-15 minute fix. This site in question is owned by a business person in a very specialized industry. We built an application to run the very specific features required by his industry and it is the ‘engine’ of the site. Hence the Theme that we created for it is designed to tightly sync with the App.

The surprise I got was that the Theme had been deactivated in its place was the basic WordPress Twenty Ten Theme. This to me immediately explained the long list of 404 error ‘Page not found’ errors on the site.

Theme Twenty Ten is the most basic WordPress Theme, a simple blogging theme. Using it to try and run an advanced fully featured App would be like trying to fly a jet with a lawn mower engine. Its gonna crash, or in this case return a heap of 404 page not found error messages. I immediately assumed – simple fix. Deactivate it – reactivate the purpose built theme, check the features and all done. 10-15 minutes – a 5 minute explanation to the clients staff member, happy client, happy user, how hard can it be?

Very is the answer. Re-installed the Theme only to discover that not only was the Theme CSS busted but the core functionality of our App code was broken. How could this be? Anyway – 5 hours later the site is back up and running – still not perfectly – more to come today.

The question is – What happened? The answer is – human error!

On investigation we found that a number of pages that carried code essential to the core functionality of the Application had been deleted, by mistake of course. The net result of this action was that many of the associated event driven functions of the App not only just stopped working but broke down completely. Guess its  bit like your car when it runs out of oil and you keep driving – it does not just stop, it blows up.

The tragedy of all of this is that the staff member had sent us an email 14 days ago – it never arrived, after investigation we worked out why, but that is another story. We back up all of our clients sites every 24 hours on a 7 day rotation. If we had known in that time we would have just rolled the site back to a time before the problem. All issues fixed in about 15 minutes flat.

My best guess at the moment is that we will spend anther 4 possibly 5 hours working through the remaining issues, all up 8-9 hours and the clients site will be better than new.

Now here is the great part for our client. Our hourly charge rate is $110. If he was one of the handful of clients we have on our basic hosting plan paying just $34.50 a month then the first hour would be at our cost and the rest at his. Fortunately for him as a Cloud Hosting client paying $49.50 a month he is not faced with an $800-$900 repair bill – he pays nothing.

The lessons learned from today’s post are.

  • Things go wrong and clients and their staff  make mistakes. That is good – Its all a part of learning.
  • The only people who don’t make mistakes are those that don’t use their sites.
  • If something on your site is not working – contact your web developer.
  • If you can’t work out how to do something on your site – contact your web developer.
  • If you think you’ve done something ‘bad’ to your site – contact your web developer.
  • If you are using your site you will make mistakes – well all do – that is how we learn.
  • If you are not on our Cloud Ultra Hosting plan and you are using your site  – as today illustrates that it is inevitable that somewhere down the track you or one of your staff will make a mistake and it will cost you a whack of money.

If you are on the Cloud Ultra plan – it is not only the worlds leading Cloud Hosting environment – its incredibly cheap insurance.