You may have wondered what happened to Dimensions Online for the past week. We've been deluged with calls and email, wondering what the problem was or whether we had decided to call it quits.
The answer is that while I was on a business trip to Japan, the folks who administrate the high-speed communications line that connects the Dimensions Online server to the outside world made some changes that made it inaccessible (and me quite unhappy). Specifically, they turned off name service.
For the technically inclined, here's what this means: every server computer has an Internet address that consists of four numbers, like 199.182.037.160. Since it'd be difficult to remember all those numbers, web sites have names instead. But when you request to go to dimensionsmagazine.com, your computer asks the Internet where it can get the numerical address for dimensionsmagazine.com. The Internet then tells your computer which "name server" contains the information, i.e. knows that the actual Internet address of "dimensionsmagazine.com" is 199.182.037.160. What happened to us was that that entry was deleted from the name server's database.
For us that was disastrous because for a whole week we also didn't get any email for any of our publications.
After a lot of back and forth, the Dimensions website is back online. However, I'm afraid that more problems lie ahead. As you may recall, a few months ago, we had to move from the main server in our building because we caused our landlord too much traffic. We set up our own server, at substantial cost. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, the guy who leases the high-speed T1 communications line we're using decided that Dimensions causes too much traffic on his line and he wanted us off. He was also morally offended by a website that caters to fat people and their admirers, but that's another sad story. I looked into getting our own T1, but that costs over $1000 per month. I ended up installing a dual ISDN line with data compression. It will likely be a good deal slower than what we had, and it still costs $450 per month.
You may wonder why we don't just put our site on a commercial server so that we don't have to worry about hardware and comms lines. The answer is that Dimensions Online is a huge site with tremendous traffic. We'd have a hard time finding someone to host such a big site, and then we'd risk getting shut down due to excessive traffic, as happens all too often to ambitious websites. Many of our visitors know firsthand what that feels like...
In any case, I'm sorry about the downtime. I know that many of you have come to see our web boards as a place to hang out with friends, our chat rooms as a place to have fun, and our site in general as a source of entertainment and information.
Bottom line: we learned a thing or two of just exactly how much can go wrong with a big site, and also how expensive it is to run one. Still, don't fear that we'll just go away. That won't happen. As a matter of fact, we may have some news for you soon that will blow your socks off.
Conrad H. Blickenstorfer