Server cognizance

Server maintenanceOn Valentine’s Day our server went down.

You might think, one ought to be smooching one’s honey on Valentine’s Day, not tooling on the computer. But we host a significant number of romance novelists. And whether it’s fair or true to associate Valentine’s Day with romance or if that’s just a hyped up Hallmark manufacture, the fact remains that romance novelists by and large update their sites for Valentine’s Day and run various promotions. So, for our server to go down precisely then was an ulcer-worthy disaster.

But this post isn’t about ironic timing. It’s about the fact that servers are actually hardware: machines with fans and plugs and circuits and components that don’t do well in floods or massive power outages or someone’s failure to dust. We tend to consider the internet to be this amorphous, yet dependable “out there”, often forgetting that it is comprised of machines with moveable parts and people monitoring said parts… People who hopefully speak the same language as you.

So imagine for a moment that on the day you advertise a big promotion on your site, with media tie-in and audience expectation, there is an electrical storm in the city where your server is. Your site goes down. What do you do? What can you do?

I read somewhere that Martha Stewart has a server in her basement. I once mentioned that to Abi, and without missing a beat she said, “No way are we sticking the Wax server in my basement.” What she was really saying was: “No way am I going to be the only person in charge of our server.” What did I want to do, make her a walking basket case?

Caring for a server must be a really nerve-wracking job. The only time anyone notices you is when something goes wrong. Our server is three thousand miles away. Sometimes that gives me hives. But it is monitored 24/7 by people who do nothing but servers, and that is some comfort. We talk to them often. Even when nothing is broken.

Where is your server? Do you know?

8 thoughts on “Server cognizance

  1. Haven says:

    Mine is in FL. I think I’d be more of a nervous wreck if it were in my house. I panic enough when the weather gets bad and the thought of needing to rush away comes crashing through my brain. I mean, I only have two hands. What do I grab?

    My laptop? Back-up? Clothing? Try to gather the kittens (umm, I have a lot of them)? Save my most favorite books signed by favorite authors?

    And I can almost promise you I’ll be the one in her pjs. Since that is my workday uniform.

    Talk about panic attack! That gives me the hebejebes.

    I hope your server never goes down again! I know I have major withdrawals when some of your client’s sites are down. It’s not a pretty sight, I swear!

  2. Maya Rodale says:

    Thanks Emily, that cleared up some internet mysteries for me! But I have no idea where my server is. If I did, I might start regularly checking the weather report for that city.

  3. Emily Cotler says:

    Haven, I hope our server never goes down again, either. And yes, the kittens, the kid, the emergency kit backpack… I live in an earthquake zone, you know…

    Maya, your server is in Andover, MA. Not known for earthquakes or hurricanes. Blizzards, maybe. I’ll do that worrying for you.

  4. Haven says:

    Oddly, when we lived in San Diego I was ok with the possibility of an earthquake. My fear lies with hurricanes and tornadoes. And right now we have a hurricane heading our way.

  5. Abi Bowling says:

    Oh Haven, I’ll cross my fingers and send good vibes your way.

    I’ve resisted commenting on this post because Emily is right, server stuff can give me hives. While I am thrilled beyond belief that I do not house our server (and I don’t even HAVE a basement, so where would it go?), the fact that it is so far away sometimes does give me hives as well. When we have a server glitch (big or teeny) I am immediately on the phone with server tech, no matter what time of day, no matter whether my three-year old is vying for my attention from the backseat of the car! Then again, I live in a high fire zone, and last October we were almost evacuated. I packed my desktop and all my backup drives in the car, just in case. A suitcase of clothes, the passports, and stuff for the cats followed. If the notice came, all I would need to do would be to strap my son into the car and zoom away. If I also had the server to worry about, what would I do? Leave it there so sites could stay up as long as possible or disconnect and try to connect elsewhere? There are too many ramifications to running a server from your home so I leave it up to the folks who do it for a living!

  6. Sure do. Where ever you put it! It is an interesting notion that most people don’t consider–where their server sits. Mine was in Missouri for years and never had any problems, but along came some bad weather, just like you said, and bye bye server. But then again, we all have this unrealistic expectation that everything associated with the internet is just there 24 hours a day by . . . well, magic . . .which just isn’t the case.

  7. Oh, and generally servers don’t give me hives, but mohair does. In a big way.

  8. Part of the reason the ‘Net is comforting to people is precisely because they don’t want to know where the hardware is or who’s tinkering with what/when/why. I begrudge even my local machine’s boot-up time, which logically having written enough setup code makes no sense, but there you have it. Comfort and security make the thing more accessible. So of course, like we don’t appreciate having toilet paper in the house 24×7, the lack therof would send us all cussing and angsting. 🙂

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