Opinion Tony Richards
The dreaded 404 error page. The dreaded 404 error page.

Hurricanes, quakes — and 404 errors

Migrating to a different server took rather longer than expected

What a week: hurricanes and earthquakes have dominated the news (rather than homicides, which I see as a marginal improvement). But much less obvious have been the 404 errors, although their effect has been felt by many.

Three years after launching Mexico News Daily the server on which we were hosted, somewhere in the United States, began laboring under the load.

Spikes in traffic caused by big stories proved too much. Efforts were made to reduce the strain on the server but to no avail.

Our provider asked us to look elsewhere for server hosting, while observing that he planned to change his terms of service: no more news sites.

We soon found someone else, a reputable firm whose customers are high-traffic websites, and on Wednesday night we moved.

We resumed publishing Thursday but soon noticed there was a problem. We could see that many readers were getting 404 error pages, which come up when a link is not functioning.

On Thursday, 634 readers were served a 404 message. On Friday the number leaped to 2,155, about 10% of all readers that day.

So far today we’re at 157 so it appears the phenomenon is over.

The problem is related to server caching, a process that temporarily stores web pages so they can be delivered quickly without all the file requests that serving a page generates.

I have moved web sites before over the years, but never one with the level of traffic that Mexico News Daily enjoys, and I had not expected the change to take so long to complete.

A website/domain migration can often finish within a few hours, a process known as propagation, but service providers warn it can take 72. In our case it did.

It was distressing to watch our analytics reports indicating that every hour hundreds of readers were being sent to links that didn’t work. Not only that what they saw of the website itself was the version from Wednesday evening before the migration.

No new stories were appearing and there was nothing we could do about it but wait.

We hope the waiting is over and that most of the subscribers to our email, Mexico News Today, will encounter functioning links after we sent it this evening.

Some may not and to them, and to everyone else who was frustrated by the inconvenience, we offer a heartfelt apology.

I hope it will be a long time before we have to consider moving again.

The writer is publisher and editor of Mexico News Daily.

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