This is the story and all the messy details of how I lost my photography business’ 8-year-old website at Bludomain, a hosting service “for the creative professional.”
Last week was busy! Along with a regular schedule of newborn sessions, family sessions, and maternity sessions here in my studio, editing, album design, and ordering appointments. I had a workshop coming up over the weekend that I would be teaching here in the studio, then a quick flight to Florida for a beach session, and then a couple days later a short, much-needed vacation with my husband.
And then the bottom fell out. I was driving home from the studio and received an Instagram message from a photographer friend of mine that my website was down. Okay… slightly annoying and instead of running inside from work all day to see my babies and eat for the first time that day, I would have to park myself at my computer and send off a help ticket to my host and domain owner, Bludomain.
After being with them for 8 years, this was nothing new and happened occasionally, but thankful I had been one of the lucky few who they seemed to address quickly and fix such problems. A wrench in my day, but nothing horrible. I had actually just paid my yearly domain renewal fee a week or so before, so I knew it was nothing I had done.
This was the email response I got back from them.
We are so sorry for the continued downtime. The RAID array has failed on this server and we are in the process of restoring it at this time. We are acutely aware of the inconvenience this has caused you, and we are doing all we can to ensure it is resolved. We would like to provide an accurate timeline as to how long it will take to resolve this, however it is difficult to estimate that with this type of issue. Please rest assured that our entire team is doing all they can and we will update you as soon as we have news. Due to high ticket volume please do not respond to this message. We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience.
Okay. Again, I get that crap happens. And then the magical website people fix the technology and we are on our way again. A day or so out a website being down is NOT the end of my world.
A day goes by and nothing happens. I write:
I saw on the FB page to ask for an update through a ticket… is there any news? Are there back up servers the sites can move to, to be up and running?
The accounts on the server are still restoring. We will notify you as soon as cPanel is available. Our priority is to get cPanel and mail functioning ASAP.
We will update you when that is done.
Apologies again for taking so long. This is an unprecedented occurrence for us.
Again, nothing I can’t handle. I do get most of my new inquiries from my website because I am #1-3 on the first page of Google for every single search term (which I spent 8 years working my tail off to become), so any more than a couple days of this and it could begin to affect me, but at this point they are acting as if they are working to fix the issue and all will be well soon enough.
I don’t know much about technology, but I do major companies have backups, etc.
Another reply from them:
We are so very sorry for the continued inconvenience this down time has caused. Our first priority is to get email back up and running but to do that the accounts first have to be restored. As you can tell this is an extremely time consuming process. Without getting into details that are too technical, this is a simple case of where a machine has failed us, with catastrophic results. All we can do, given this scenario, is to work as diligently as possible to get the content back up and running.
Moving forward I would like to offer some options, unfortunately neither option is ideal:
1: Wait for the account to get restored; you would have your email back within the next 24 hours or so but the website and content will take a bit longer to restore. This process could take several days.
2: As a second option we would like to offer you the choice to move to a new hosting account with a blank site of your choice. We can reconfigure email for you and assist you with uploading your content – content from your previous site is not accessible at this time, however. Please let us know if you want to move forward with this option.
Unfortunately, in retrospect, this is not an issue anyone could have predicted, once we resolve this we will do all we can to ensure that it does not happen again.
I don’t use my email through them because all of a sudden on Jan 1, 2015, I started going from 0 spam emails a day to about 500 a day. So I basically had to shut that down and move to Gmail. At this point I don’t really care about anything, I just need them to put my site back up. And I don’t use their templates. I am basically using only their hosting services.
Here’s my response to that:
I don’t want to make a whole new website…is it guaranteed that when it comes back (within a couple days) all of the content will be just the same as it was before this?
We can expedite the restoration of your account and email and images should be restored. We would need to set up a blank new site and we can assist you in uploading the images to your site. All the text content would have to be re-entered… sorry.
It was this email where I started getting nervous. Wait, alllll my content is gone??? 8 years of blogging 2-3 times per week, all of the copy I had stayed up til 2 am some nights creating and tweaking, 8 years of links to where I was published with my work, interviews, etc. Reviews from clients I had put up. Just gone???
My reply to him:
I’m so confused. So if I want to do something now I’ll lose everything and have to basically start from scratch or if I wait it out I’ll still have to do that? I don’t use your email, I use Gmail, so I’m not worried about that. Is my prophoto site going to be gone either way???
Unfortunately that is correct. I am so sorry. We can reconfigure a new site for you but we cannot restore the external site. So sorry.
WHAT?! So in 24 hours we went from it will take some time but we are getting sites back up to basically we lost all of your work over 8 years, but we’ll give you a new website template (remember, I don’t even use their website templates!!). Ummmmm this is becoming a nightmare at this point. And remember, they own my domain name. When I was new and didn’t know better I purchased everything from them, so www.jennycrugerphotography.com lists their name as the owner (until today!)
At this point, I asked about backups, etc. He offered to initiate a domain transfer (this is still Thursday, June 21st) and I am just in disbelief this is happening. I’m about to lose everything. I know right away that losing that site and content my SEO will disappear.
We do have back ups… the only issue is that the folder that contained the mySQL databases became corrupted, and those cannot be restored.
And so I said yes, do that and give me my domain back and I will just start again. Because I sure as hell was not willing to work with them anymore or have their hand it anything of mine. So that night I started over with www.jennycruger.com completely, which cost me about $500 at the time. At about 11 pm I hired someone to help to me do the things I couldn’t figure out in building the new site for a couple hundred dollars and at 2 am I crawled into bed and cried myself to sleep.
To the Internet (which, remember, is how almost all new clients hire me!) it was like I was completely GONE and a brand new business. I had poured so many hours into my website to get a high Google ranking over 8 years and it was wiped out completely.
Friday: At 6 am, my 4 hour old woke me up and I continued to spend my only day ‘off’ in weeks with my children working on getting my new site up and running.
I taught a workshop all day on Saturday and Sunday. Monday morning I left my house at 5 am for a flight to the beach to photograph a family. At this point, I hadn’t heard anything from Bludomain about giving me my domain name back so I began sending emails.
4 days later I don’t have my domain back and email them and get this from Aundrea, the owner.
She has NOT emailed me whatsoever and even so, it makes no sense for me to ask to have my domain transferred to me on THURSDAY and then on Monday she is writing “I’m going to unlock it”. It should have had that done days ago.
I continue to write you that we can’t point your domain name if you are transferring it, I’m going to unlock it so you can transfer it and then have your new hosting company do what is needed.
Over the next few days, I heard NOTHING from them. I am sending her an email or two every day being over-the-top patient.
I’m checking in again to see the process and timeline on this. Maybe you have sent an email but haven’t gotten anything since your first one to me and it looks like the domain is still in your hands. I went from #1 to completely dropped off Google already so getting this sorted is a pretty urgent matter.
Nothing. Finally, I sent an email that my website (the one she owns and lost) is still down and I kid you not, her response is:
What site is down – the site below is live?
Ummmmmm Oh. My. God. She is looking at my signature in my email of my NEW site I probably spent a good 30 hours on over the past 4 days thanks to HER company. Of course it’s live.
Cue more tears and outrage. HOW is this happening.
At this point, other photographers who have lost everything are finding me and we have started a Facebook group for those of us in this position to help each other and figure out what we can do.
It took 2 more days after that (and tons of back and forth, more separate help tickets submitted to Bludomain) to finally get my www.jennycrugerphotography.com domain BACK in my hands and pointed to my new site.
It really should have been a quick process for them. So much for being willing to ‘help’ me in any way to get THEIR mess fixed.
And really, it’s not at all fixed. I own the domain now, but every link is broken so the SEO is completely gone. Had they gotten it to me right away when I asked on Thursday and actually helped me, I could have set up the brand new site on the old domain and not completely dropped off Google.
About the author: Jenny Cruger is a photographer based in the Nashville, Tennessee area. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Cruger specializes in family photography in Nashville and also specializes in maternity, newborn, and baby, and family photography. You can find more of her work on her (new) website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.