It usually takes a couple problems hitting at once to cause a major server outage. This happened last week when Tweet Marker’s SSL certificate expired. I have the SSL set to auto-renew, but it still requires manually installing the new certificate, and other problems happened along the way.
First mistake: I didn’t realize it was expiring. Those emails go to an account I don’t check very often, littered with spam. And the email to confirm the renewal went to yet another email address that no longer worked. When I had moved the DNS hosting to Amazon’s Route 53, I had neglected to move over the MX records.
After fixing all of that, I tried updating the app on Heroku to use the new cert, only to get stalled as Heroku’s new SSL add-on rejected it. Certain I had done something wrong, I fumbled through a dozen Heroku SSL how-to posts before finally reverting to their old SSL add-on. It’s no longer documented and is in fact actively discouraged by Heroku, but it also has the lucky trait of actually working with my certificate. Updating DNS caused another hour-long delay because of the high TTL.
I sent two support requests during this process, so I thought I’d rate how each company did:
- DreamHost: Before I figured out the bad email address, I sent DreamHost a question about why the SSL certificate hadn't showed up yet. They responded very quickly, and even included a "P.S." that they were fans of Tweet Marker. Basically they provided excellent support, the best you could ask for.
Heroku: When the new SSL add-on wasn't accepting my certificate, I filed a support request with Heroku as well. The response was an automated reply that they don't do support past 6pm. For a hosting company that charges a premium, this was a disappointing response. (They responded first thing the next morning, though.)
This SSL glitch was the only significant outage Tweet Marker has had in its first year. I learned a few lessons, took the opportunity to check backups and EC2 servers, and now I'm ready to move on. Hoping for an even better year 2.
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