I got an email from a friend yesterday again pointing one of his friends at me for a web problem. Last time it was something about her distant relative and the fact that for some reason her web site had disappeared. The relative had lapsed on the payment for the hosting, not only for her site but for his own too it turned out. After a day of convincing the hosting company that we really were the owners of the domain, and getting a backup restored, the site owner took over paying for the hosting and all was well. That was over a year ago and things have gone on fine, until yesterday.
This time, again her web site has disappeared - but she's been paying for hosting, and I know because I still get a copy of her invoice - and the last one was on November 7, 2010. Today it is only November 19th, and since the invoice was marked "paid" there should not have been an issue.
So I did a bit of digging, and found that the Domain Name Servers (NS.NEUREAL.COM) were not responding. Neither were any of the domains for the hosting company itself, including the one on the invoice where the actual invoice itself should have been available online (https://my.emcvps.com/cp/g.cgi/k,doc/id,xxxxxx)
This looked like a problem at the server level - maybe anything from a Denial of Service attack to some major facility event (fire, explosion, etc.) so I told her to wait until morning to see if things cleared up.
This morning I went looking for the site again, and again found that even the DNS servers didn't come up. Then I tried the phone number on the invoice; it goes to some clothing company now. Something was really not good, since getting DNS changed to point at least SOMEWHERE is something that any system admin worth their salt would do - and for any hosting company to not have secondary servers in completely separate facilities with separate network feeds is inexcusable. So I continued searching - and found: http://www.scribd.com/doc/27473740/EMC-Telecom-Myriad-Latest - which appears to be related to the sale of EMC Telecom Corporation and portends that there is some sort of dispute with the purchasers.
At this point I'm guessing that this has resulted in the EMC systems being turned off. If anyone has other information, I'll try to include it here - and if someone has definitive information, please contact me and I'll post it - email@example.com
I've moved her site to my hosting. Fortunately I retained a backup of it from the last time I'd worked on it, and the site has not changed since then.
Let this be a lesson to you - ensure you have backups on something other than the service provider's system - your home computer, some online backup service, anything - but somewhere that YOU control separately from where your site is hosted. Last time we almost ended up having to rebuild the site from the internet archives site http://www.archive.org/ which had most, but not all.