Don from Worcestershire started an email in a way that normally would result in a quick delete:
Before you cut me off I am a 78 year old gambling historian, specializing in horse racing between 1850 and 2015.the age alone will convince you that my knowledge of this topic is limited.
It’s not the age, Don, it’s that the email starts with a long, dramatic, kind of non-essential story about your life, your ideas, your dreams, your goals, and your son. By the way, I’m sorry for your loss.
Yes, I read the whole email.
It took a long time to sift through the drama to sort out the issues.
- Spam – He had a lot of spam and used Akismet (yay!) to deal with it.
- Bandwidth – The spam made his site hit the overages on his hosting.
- Domain suspension – Due to circumstances, he was late in paying his feeds and the domain was sniped.
I feel bad. I really do. But here’s the thing, Don. Your domain is like your rent. If you don’t pay for it, you lose your home. And while this sucks a lot, and yes there were mitigating circumstances, you didn’t pay in time, and the company is legally within their rights to sell. It’s the same as your phone. No pay, no phone. It’s just that simple.
Now I have good news.
According to whois records, you still own your domain! So you actually didn’t lose the domain you lost the hosting plan.
These are different things. They’re very easy to get confused.
There isn’t a great analogy to all this, I’m afraid, but as it works, you’re paying for two things.
First you pay for the domain. This reserves your ‘name’ on the internet. I recommend paying for it first for a year and then, if you like how things are going, pay for as long as you possibly can. I did mine for a decade at one point in time. I knew I wanted the domains and I knew I was using them.
Once you have the domain, you need to pay for webhosting. The host is where you data is stored.
Now I need to take a digression.
BACK UP YOUR WEBSITE OFFLINE.
If the backup tool you use only lets you backup to your webserver, it’s a shitty backup tool. Stop using it unless you are automatically downloading that backup somewhere else.
Because you see, Don, what happened was that you didn’t pay for your webhosting. You didn’t pay for the storage unit that housed your data. And they can auction that off like they do on shitty shows like Storage Wars.
So what do you do when this happens?
If it’s just the webhost, it’s easy. Contact the webhost. http://www.whoishostingthis.com/ is a great resource to find out who your host is. Be honest but keep it short. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t able to pay on time and my site was suspended. Is there any way I can get it back?” That’s it! That’s all you have to do. If you’re lucky, they may still have all your data. You pay, they flip a switch, it’s back.
The worst case … that’s why you need backups.
If it’s the domain registration, though, that can be a mess. If you bought the domain through your webhost, it may surprise you to find out that the host doesn’t have control over your domain registration. The host is an intermediary. That means, if you go to your site and see a placeholder page owned by a domain registrar, it may or may not be a cybersquatter.
You may have heard about domain hijacking or domain theft. That’s when someone changes the registration of your domain name without your permission. A hijacking is not the same as when you’ve failed to pay for your domain and the registrar slaps up a placeholder. A great many hosts put up a branded placeholder if you’ve registered a domain and not yet updated content. Sometimes it says “This domain has been registered at…”
If it says “This domain is suspended” then the issue is with the webhost. If it says “This domain has expired” then it’s likely to be the registrar. You need to figure out who the registrar is, log in with your info, pay the fine, and get the site back.
I strongly urge you to put a reminder in your to-do list or whatever you use to keep track of things. “Domain name renewal due on day X.” It’s like paying your rent. Don’t forget. Make reminders. Do it.
By the way, no matter whom you talk to, don’t give them the sob story. While they do care, in as much as any human does, it rarely changes the reality of what’s going on. Shit happened, you couldn’t pay. Your personal drama is not their problem. I know how harsh that sounds, but it’s not. And the more you make it how you need an exception because you’re a special case, the more people hear it as an excuse.
I know it’s not. You know it’s not. Except sometimes, Don, for a lot of people, it is. If I told you how many idiots complain they couldn’t pay for $4/month hosting, while stilly buying a top of the line iPhone, you’d understand why it’s draining.
And as someone who’s fucked up before, I find that being honest where it’s my fault gets better results. “I’m sorry. I screwed up and didn’t pay. Is there anything I can do to get my content back? It matters a lot to me, and I’d appreciate anything you can do to help me.”
By the way, Don, I see that you have your site back right now. You should upgrade. You’re running WordPress 2.6.1 and that’s really old and vulnerable.