The 4th Emergency Service

…with apologies to the RAC, or was it the AA?

We mentioned in our last blog entry that sometimes we don’t look after all of a client’s online operations – it might be that we manage their email but they look after their own website, or we provide their web hosting but they deal with their own email; the permutations are endless and are usually the legacy of a piecemeal engagement with the internet, which often means that ‘someone in the office’ was given responsibility for this area, often a ‘someone’ who didn’t have much idea what was involved.

We had to deal with the fall-out from this for a client the other day. We host the email services of a specialist magazine, but they used another hosting company to host the website via a web designer (a nice clunky set-up just ripe for problems). One aspect of their in-house management was another third party who held the domain and managed the DNS information. DNS is one of the vital links in the chain of making sure that your online world stays on online.

They had decided to move to us for website hosting and asked us to help in transfering from the old host and solve their dependence on its proprietary scripts and applications. Over the course of a few days we determined what the website required and got some forms and scripts written to allow it to work and whilst at it, made it a little easier to get at the data and to look after it. After checking the new website, they switched the website via DNS.

One day last week their emails disappeared into thin air which, to be fair, is where many people imagine emails go before they arrive, but the problem was that the emails didn’t arrive. They came to us asking for help, and it was quickly established that they had misunderstood DNS and so it had been set incorrectly. This was a minor detail for us to sort out and the problem was soon resolved, but it worried our client at the time. Their professional image is important to them, but bouncing thousands of emails and losing the website wasn’t doing much for it.

It wasn’t the first time a client had brought us that sort of problem and it won’t be the last, but it is completely avoidable. If you don’t understand all about registries, registrars, zone files, DNS servers, TTLs and hosts then know at least that they are vital and core parts of your internet presence. Check through everything three times or more before you hit that ‘Submit’ button, or take it to the people who do this sort of thing every day and can take a huge load off your shoulders. There are IT ‘specialists’ out there who make a fortune from frightening people and convincing them they can’t do a thing for themselves and must pay a fortune for specialist services. These people are the snake-oil salesmen of today, but it is the case that some elements of setting up and maintaining online services can be very complex and – more importantly – can cause immense problems and loss of business if that maintenance falls short.

OpenSure customers get all this support for free, it’s all part of the pick’n’mix service. If you have any concerns about the maintenance of your online services or if you’re considering outsourcing them, then drop us a line at and we’ll be very happy to have a chat.

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