November 23, 2014

GoDaddy Disruption Hurts Small Business Sites

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An outage possibly resulting from a deliberate hacker attack on GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain registrar, took down or affected millions of Websites and e-mail accounts hosted through GoDaddy as well as domains registered with the company Monday. Many of those, including Small Business Trends and its related sites, belonged to small businesses, and most were not too happy to say the least. Here is basically what happened:

Downtime

From the front lines. GoDaddy spokeswoman Elizabeth Driscoll reported the outage began around 1:25 p.m. EDT, and by 5:43 p.m. the majority of service to the company’s customers including an estimated 5 million Websites, had been restored. Though one Twitter feed belonging to a hacker group called “Anonymous” took credit for the outage, another seemed to distance the group from the attack. Associated Press

Tango down. A Twitter user with the handle “Anonymous Own3r” claimed credit for the outage using the hashtag #tangodown, apparently to indicate having taken the company offline. One tipster told a journalist the failure was caused by inaccessibility to GoDaddy’s DNS servers. Failure may have included GoDaddy phone service and anything else requiring access to those servers. TechCrunch

Reaction

Hopping mad. Some online business owners and operators didn’t bother to hide their fury. Editor Mike Daly not only vented his own frustration over the unnamed hacker who claimed responsibility for the attack, but shared the reactions of other angry business owners and managers. No matter what the motives, they made it clear that small businesses had been hurt in the process. Adotas

Puppet show. On the other hand, some businesses responded to the situation by thinking creatively. One even created a puppet show, complete with musical performance, to share more about the plight of small businesses affected by the outage. Here is a list of how other small business owners reacted with great creativity to help customers adapt. Vocus

Alternatives emerge. Of course, another reaction came from GoDaddy competitor HostGator. It’s important to remember in small business that problems experienced by competitors and their customers can also be opportunities. In this case HostGator offered huge discounts on its services for customers using the coupon code “Godaddyisdown.” Shout Me Loud

Aftermath

Lessons learned. For all the headaches Monday’s outage brought, online marketing consultant Brian Saemann argues it is also a great reminder of how vulnerable your online business assets can be without the proper precautions. Of course, the GoDaddy outage could have happened to anyone, but there may be steps you can take to make your online presence more secure. Go Beyond SEO

Back to normal. As Monday’s GoDaddy drama subsided, some additional details about the extent and nature of the problems that may have affected an untold number of sites, many run by small businesses, emerged. GoDaddy says no sensitive information was compromised during the “attack”, but details about how it happened are sketchy and business owners remain concerned. PC World

10 Comments ▼

10 Reactions

  1. Note:

    Hostgator, Bluehost, and hundreds of other companies are owned by EIG whose focus is cheap hosting. They throttle with a very heavy hand. While probably everyone in the world, at least by now, knows about the Godaddy outage, the heavy throttling could be far worse for small business owners as they may not know when customers can get to their sites.

    • Hi Peter,

      Thanks for pointing that out. That’s really interesting what you mention. Would be interested to learn more about that, how to recognize it, what to do, and so on.

      – Anita

      • Hi Anita:

        Basically if the owner of the hosting provider is EIG (Endurance International Group) — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endurance_International_Group — then there will be throttling.

        Throttling can be heavy (i.e. valid use triggers it) or light (typically only triggered if there is malicious activity).

        If I was looking for hosting (we are a small business hosting provider helping other small businesses), what I would do is ask the hosting provider if there are limits on RAM, CPU, processes, inodes, or any other type of resource… and then what are those limits and how are those limits controlled.

        Where things get fishy is when CPU, processes, and inodes are on the list. RAM you can kind of predict the need based on the software, but CPU, proceses, and inodes are difficult to anticipate in advance.

        So if you hear a provider stating yes, they limit CPU, the # of processes, RAM, inodes, etc… then I would recommend checking how often valid activity (shopping cart, blog page, an advertisement on a blog, etc.) might be either slowed down (which may cause time outs) or otherwise blocked.

        For small businesses throttling is more hazardous than an outright outage.

        If your site is down complete along with millions of others, you can point to the provider…. but if millions of others are up… and you are getting that key sale in your shopping cart only to have the customer get a 403 error message…. you may or may not even know you lost the sale… throttled, and no notice.

        Thank you.

      • Thanks Peter! Very helpful to know that. Another example of all the things the non-techies among us don’t know, that can hurt us….

        One thing I’ve learned is: cheap hosting is pennywise and pound foolish. For instance, we had so many problems on a shared server. Ninety-eight percent of them disappeared overnight once we got control over what could be placed on our dedicated server.

        Anita

  2. I don’t doubt for a second that most of us know a business owner affected by this. It’s a shame.

    • Hi Dave,

      We were impacted on all our sites. Traffic was at about half-power yesterday so we lost ad revenue. Plus there was lots of extra work to figure out what was happening, and then deal with customer support. We had to respond to a large number of people. We had dozens of emails, IMs, even phone calls. We also had to notify the team members, selected authors and moderators (some of whom didn’t have access to email because it was hosted at GoDaddy!!!). And then we had to update social media accounts. It’s a bigger deal than it sounds, because we have a half dozen sites — so everything was multiplied several times over.

      It was pretty much a wasted day for us.

      And I know we were lightly impacted, compared to some others.

      – Anita

  3. Pretty amazing stuff.

    None of my sites are hosted there. Thank goodness.

    There’s an old saying…it has something to with eggs…baskets…

    Someone help me with that cliche, please.

    @Anita, I didn’t notice any slowdowns on your websites, BTW.

    The Franchise King®

  4. Very shocking info,thanks that all my sites are not being hosted by GoDaddy.

  5. Anita:

    Good managed hosting — secure, PCI Compliant, not overloading the server — can often be used in place of a dedicated server.

    We are a SoftLayer Certified Partner, and the amount of calls we get (for which on one hand we are glad as it is business) from customers who did not know ALL operating systems are insecure out of the box, and ALL servers are insecure when provisioned, etc.

    Thank you.

  6. Hi Anita,

    Thanks for this helpful re-cap of the situation. It’s amazing how many small biz owners just don’t know what to do or how to protect themselves in situations like this.

    We have seen small local hosts go down for much, much longer than GoDaddy did and the biz owner can’t do a thing because they don’t own or control their own domain name.

    Hopefully, small business owners will learn a lesson from this mess and organize their digital assets….especially their domain name!

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