Argh! The agony of being a webmaster
In addition to Restoring Tally.com, I also run the RestoringForeskin.org website. RestoringForeskin.org offers foreskin restoration information to everyone and it has a private on-line community for restorers. The private side has restoring blogs, foreskin restoration progress pictures uploaded by our members, a chat room, and a forum.
Restoring Foreskin.org is growing by several hundred members a month. We have over 1,000 visitors to the site every day. Drupal is the content management software that makes the site work. As popular as the site has become, we have outgrown the shared web server we had been using.
For the past several weeks I have been setting up a virtual private server (VPS), which is a virtual machine (VM) dedicated to being a web server. A VPS is like a bare-bones computer that has to setup. It is powerful, but requires knowledge and work to install and configure everything. In contrast, a shared web server is like oatmeal. All you have to do is add the website. It will work, maybe not well and maybe not fast, but it works.
Late Saturday night (early Sunday morning) I finished my testing of the VPS. I was satisfied everything worked well enough to move the site. It was after 2am and only a few were on the site. They were all in the chat room, so I announced that I was going to move the site. The chat room would still work because it is hosted on another server.
It took me less than an hour to move the site to the new VPS. As part of the move, I had to change the DNS information for the restoringforeskin.org domain name. The new web server has a private name server and I had to change the DNS to refer to the new name server.
When you go to a website on the Internet, the address or domain is sent. The ISP (Internet service provider) that provides internet service also has a DNS name server that looks up the IP address from the domain address. The IP address is needed to travel the Internet. If the ISP cannot find the address (because of change like we made), you are at the mercy of the ISP. The ISP can pass the request on to another name server, return an error page, or put up a spammy parking page in the hopes they can make some money if anyone is fool enough to click on one of the links.
When a DNS is changed, it can take up to 1 or 2 days for the changes to propagate throughout the Internet. Normally, this is not a problem as long as the original server remains on-line. Everyone sees the old site until the DNS information changes, then they see the new site. At least that is how it has worked for me in the past. But not this time.
After I changed the DNS record to point to the nameserver for the new VPS, many saw a parking page. Hmmm. Worse, the parking page showed pictures of buxom lasses and had links to various dating and porn sites. Oh, no! I have worked hard to avoid RestoringForeskin.org getting a reputation as a porn or dating site. Now it is in everyone's face.
The parking page, with one version pictured above, was totally unexpected. As soon as I saw it, I knew something had gone terribly wrong.
I started scrambling to find the cause. Several times I thought everything was working again. Sadly, I was mistaken each time. I worked until 6:30 am before I finally went to bed. I thought it was working. After a few hours of sleep I awoke to many messages from members who could not log onto the site. Oh, Oh. I worked on it all day Sunday until about 4am Monday morning with little luck. Monday morning I had to get up early to run an errend. I was disappointed to see that the DNS still had not resolved itself.
Maintaining websites is not my profession. I can make my way around Linux, but I am no expert. I needed help. I found that help on a web hosting forum. With the help of someone much more experienced than myself, I finally got the DNS problem worked out.
When setting up the nameserver and the DNS on the VPS I followed some less-than-clear instructions and made some assumptions. I do not do this for a living, so I do not have a good understanding of how to set up the DNS. It took most of today and that helpful forum user to set me straight.
It turns out that I had configured my A records improperly for the nameserver's domain. Instead of setting the A record for the main nameserver domain, I added the records to another DNS Zone. Because a proper A record was not set, the IP address could not be determined for my secondary nameserver, which caused a bogus IP to be associated with that nameserver. When the bogus IP address was used, that darn parking page was returned and seen by too many people. Fixing the A record and cleaning up a few other mistakes set everything straight, but the damage had been done. The bogus IP address was, and still is, floating around in the Internet, just waiting to redirect some hapless person to that parking page.
The correct DNS information is being propagated through the Internet. Hopefully when I wake tomorrow morning everyone will be directed to the site and see what the want to see, what they should see.
Forum thread: VPS with private nameserver domain different than primary domain
- What's My DNS? A website showing the IP addresses returned from many DNS name servers. There should only be one IP address for all servers.
- verifyDNS A website that returns DNS information for a domain name.
ViewDNS.info Another website that shows errors in the DNS propagation.
- UPDATE: On being a webmaster: An update Read about how the last of the DNS issues was corrected!