Bob and George
Sunday, March 20th, 2005 #1798
A&E Biography Month Server Issues
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As stated in the comic, the site started on Tripod. Technically, it's still on Tripod, at bob_and_george.tripod.com, though I've just set up a redirect to take it to the main site. Many of my first sites were set up on Tripod.

However, Tripod didn't allow several features that I knew I would eventually want, and as the site grew, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I started running into bandwidth limitations. In fact, something very similar eventually happened to 8-Bit Theater in its early days. Luckily, one of my readers, a guy named Khuffie, offered to host the site on his server, where he hosted his site, Zelda Legends. At the time, it seemed like a great idea.

I talked with his server admin, and the deal was that I wouldn't have to pay anything, but I would have to add banner ads to the site, which would take care of any server costs. Even better, once the server costs had been covered, anything else would trickle down to me, so I might actually make some money off the site.

Unfortunately, this coincided with a period on the internet in which server and bandwidth costs increased while ad revenue plummeted. Many sites had serious problems and very, very few webcomics found themselves able to support themselves through ad revenue alone. This meant that not only did I not make any money off the site, but the server admins found themselves having to add more and more ads to break even, including the introduction of pop-up and pop-under ads. (For those of you unfamiliar with pop-under ads, they're the ones that open a new window under the existing windows, so you might not even notice them until there's fifty of them slowing your whole system down.)

When I'd finally had enough of it, I decided to simply get my own independent server space, which I found for a decent price at PlanetGAC. Unfortunately, the service was fairly unreliable, frequently needing server reboots. Finally, one day, the server admin just up and disappeared; he completely stopped responding to email requests. Last I heard, he went to Florida for a funeral and never returned.

Looking for a better situation, I got my community staff together and asked them to look for an alternative. After a couple of weeks of that, the decision was made to switch to Serverfly. They had a really good deal on unlimited bandwidth, which sounded just right to me. (Give me a moment to compose myself...) So good, in fact, that I prepaid for two years in advance, which came to over $400, at a time when that was a helluva lot of money to me. I spent a month getting the site ready for the transfer, trying to make it as easy as possible on the readers.

Four days after making the transfer, I received an email telling me that I had gone far over my allowed bandwidth. Apparently, sometime between when I'd visited the Serverfly website to confirm the unlimited bandwidth deal and when I actually signed up, the company had changed the unlimited bandwidth deal to 25 GB per month, far less than what I knew I would need, as at that point, the site was using 25 GB of bandwidth per day. By the time I had even noticed the problem, I had already used 100 GB, putting me at 75 GB of overage, for which I would be charged something like $4/GB.

When I attempted to cancel my service and get a refund, Serverfly fucked me even harder, saying that I didn't qualify for a refund because this mistake was mine and according to their terms of service, user error is not one of the acceptable reasons for refund.

It wasn't until I threatened to get the Better Business Bureau involved was I offered anything, and at that, I was only offered half of what I had originally paid. While I was deciding whether or not to accept that offer, I asked what the actual overage cost would be. The response was that it would take a few days to come up with a final number. Those fucking assholes were actually stalling, since the refund period would end in a few days, at which point they wouldn't have to give me anything back at all! Realizing this, I was forced to accept their offer, after which, amazingly, they were able to immediately give me my overage number.

My only vindication at all was that they quoted my "total" bandwidth used, which was more than I would be refunded, meaning that I would still owe them money. I pointed out, however, that with the original 25 GB removed, my actual overage amount was less than my refund, and they owed me a few bucks. They responded, saying that what they actually meant to say was that the bandwidth they quoted was actually the "overage" amount, not the total. I basically told them to go fuck themselves; they had used "total" in the their email, and given how strict they were about their wording in their terms of service, I would be expecting a refund. Their last email, lacking any of the polite language used in their previous emails, confirmed that I would be receiving a small refund, and that was the end of that.

Of course, I still didn't have a server for the comic. Luckily, Brian Clevinger from 8-Bit Theater hooked me up with his server guy, JD, at Myrmid, who offered me server space at a reasonable price.

That was pretty much the end of my server problems. The site eventually left Myrmid when it grew too large, moving to a dedicated server at HostGator, where it stayed until the comic ended. After that, I moved it to a virtual server at HostGator, where it remains today and will probably stay for a good long while. I imagine eventually I'll move it to something even smaller, but for now, it's worth keeping it on a Virtual Server.
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