What should you do when your website is down and your web guy goes AWOL?

When your website is compromised, it’s time to call for back-up 

What do you do when your website is down and your web guy goes AWOL? The answer, in my case, was to call in the expert(s) – aka Wynn Jones of Praetorian Security.
It’s a business owner’s worst nightmare – or at least for those who trade or primarily work online. Your website has crashed and because you did everything through a freelance web designer, you have no clue as how to go about fixing it and no account details with which to phone up the web host and start talking servers.
It goes without saying that when your website is down, it can cause irreparable damage to your business and sends you into a panic only other website-reliant ventures can truly understand. This guy from Smart Passive Income explains it pretty well here in So THIS is what happens when your server goes down for a week
When the Scotland B2B website went down for a week, you could call it my week from hell. I first noticed something was up when one of the ads on the homepage kept disappearing and, on checking the Theme Panel of the site, saw that another code had been appeared in its place – diverting visitors to another site via a pay-per-click set-up. Each time I changed the code back again and replaced the ad, it soon reverted to the redirect.
After much Googling, I soon began to realise that this was JavaScript malware and something I definitely couldn’t handle myself. I didn’t know to what extent the hackers had infiltrated the website and where else they had changed the code.
Cue Wynn Jones of Praetorian Security… our paths had crossed briefly via email and at the odd BNI and networking meet-up and we’d vaguely agreed to work together at some point, although neither of us had really done anything about it. But his name sprang to mind once I started considering website security and how I could rid Scotland B2B of the malware which threatened to take the whole operation down. A quick word with a local business contact confirmed my hunch that Wynn was probably the best man for the job.
Luckily, Wynn was available that day and wasted no time in taking the task on and scanning the site for the bad guys – or the bad code, as the case may be. Later that day, he had rid the website of the malware, added extra security and gave me some tips to prevent it happening again – all without causing a stir or affecting Scotland B2B’s daily readership.
Happy days? Not quite. The next morning, I woke to find the website gone and only a 503 error citing Service Unavailable. Panicking again, I contacted Wynn who, despite running a series of checks, couldn’t pinpoint the problem.
It could have been one of many things – disk space, the CPU, bandwith, or a surge in traffic (as a result of the security breach). The only way to find out for sure was to contact the web host which, in turn, could only be done through the web designer who held all the details. It sounds relatively simple, but not when the web guy isn’t around, won’t return your calls and, worryingly, has succumbed to the same error message across all his websites, including those of his other clients.
After nearly a week of downtime (and being unable to track the web guy down), Wynn offered a solution – migrating the site elsewhere, to another host. Thankfully, he had backed up the site and was able to move it elsewhere – with the exception of the images.
Even that wasn’t straightforward. I had to get the domain name transferred to my hosting account rather than the AWOL web designer’s to be able to point the DNS to the new IP address. Then I set about the task of uploading all the images to the site and restoring the aesthetics to their former glory. That is every single image on the site (and given the nature of the site, there are hundreds upon thousands). Perhaps the worst part – for me – was waiting for the DNS to propagate. But Wynn even managed to fast-track that for me so I could at least get access to the back end to start repairing the damage.
I have learned more about websites in the last week than I ever really planned to – including the ins and outs of 503 and 508 errors, how to write basic code, how to run a command prompt and ping a website, and how to keep cool when it all goes wrong.
But I couldn’t have done this without Wynn’s help. I can’t thank him enough for taking my umpteen calls a day, answering my emails ‘tout de suite’ and for ultimately getting Scotland B2B back up and running. Nothing was too much trouble and for that I will be eternally grateful. He will also be my go-to web guy from now on.
I guess you could call it a win-Wynn situation.
Check out Praetorian Security – based in Fife – for more about what Wynn does.
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