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Well, THAT Explains It

February 21st, 2008

Email-Mad-0208For the past month or so, any comments made by visitors have been posting OK (or so it would appear to me), but I have not received any of the email notices that usually come for them. I couldn’t figure it out, but assumed it was a problem with my blog script. I tried to change it, but nothing happened. No biggie; I still got comments through the blog control interface, and I could sort out the problem later.

In the Computer class I teach, I use a web page test on one of my domains that uses the formmail script to generate emails; the students fill out the answers on a web page and an email gets sent to two of my accounts (one main, one for backup). About a month ago, it stopped working. I added a third email account, and that worked–but I could not figure out why the original two did not. I figured that something had gone wrong in the formmail script, that certain domains were not being properly accepted. No biggie; I could just rely on the email address that did work, and fix the problem later.

I also did not receive any email in general sent to certain accounts, but did not notice it because I have so many accounts on so many domains, and never heard from anyone saying, “I sent you an email, didn’t you get it?” There were the other problems, but with my busy schedule, I kept putting off trying to correct them.

Then today, I started to write an email while my students take their midterm, using one of the accounts that is supposed to get the test results but is not. I thought, hey, maybe the account is full. Sometimes that happens, even when I set my email accounts to delete retrieved messages from the server. But the accounts were nearly empty, with lots of room to spare.

Then I did something I should have done a while ago: I checked the history of the email connected to certain domains sharing the blogd.com web hosting account. And indeed, none have gotten any new email for a whole month. And that just happened to be when I had demanded my web host move me to a new server when the old one had constant outages.

Apparently, when they moved me, they neglected to activate the email. I should have seen this right away, but I (a) trusted the web host to do the elementary tasks correctly, and (b) chalked up the other problems to scripting errors, which show up enough in truth.

Swell. So now I’m waiting on a helpdesk ticket to get things back up and running. But it shows you how easily you can lose a big chunk of your service if you’re not vigilant; it also makes me wonder, how do most people get along supervising their web sites? I mean, I’m no supergenius hacker or anything, but I do have a lot of experience and some very elemental web admin skills. What about people who really don’t know much about this kind of thing and depend on their web hosts to handle it all right? Man, that must be hairy for some people… I mean, if I can lose email for a month and not notice, what must some other people be living through?

On the other hand, perhaps, maybe people who don’t handle scripting up close simply yell to their web host for help whenever anything goes wrong. Had I done that, I wouldn’t have suffered with this so long.

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