April 29, 2016

Web-Hosting Disasters Show Your Business Is Still At Risk of Human Error

By Sarah Roberts

There are lots of risks out there to our data - that’s indisputable. But what may come as a surprise is the prevalence of ‘human error’ disasters. In fact, studies show as many as 75% of disasters are caused by human error.

Most people have caused an IT disaster in some way or another - even if it’s just knocking a cup of tea over a poor unsuspecting laptop. But not all disasters are created equal.

It’s far too easy to relegate a file to the recycling bin, but what about wiping out your entire… company? That’s what one man did, with a line of stray code.
Hosting provider Marco Marsala posted a (surprisingly blithe) cry for help on Server Fault. He accidently executed the command,

sudo rm -rf—no-preserve-root /mnt/hetznerbackup /

The “rm” tells the computer to remove; the r deletes everything within a directory; and the f stands for “force”, telling the computer to ignore all warnings.

The diagnosis from community members wasn’t good. User Michael Hampton wrote, “You’re going out of business. You don’t need technical advice, you need to call your lawyer.”

Worryingly, Marsala didn’t have a contingency plan in place.
“Well, you should have been thinking about how to protect your customers’ data before nuking them,” wrote one person calling himself Massimo.

A similar situation occurred on a much larger scale when UK web hosting firm 123-reg “effectively deleted” a number of customers’ websites. The firm hosts 1.7m sites, many of which hosted from a Virtual Private Server (VPS). In what was described as a “Clean-up Error” by the BBC, a massive 67 of its 115,000 servers across Europe were effectively deleted.

Among those affected was Scottish football club Ross County, which suffered four days of downtime. Tickets and merchandise sales were badly affected.

A 123-reg spokesman told the BBC, “it did not have a backup copy of all its customers’ data”. This blatant disregard for the safety of customers’ data is not good news for SMBs. Many rely on services like 123-reg for affordable hosting. 123-reg bills its sites as ‘reliable and secure’, but there is no mention of backup or business continuity across its site.

SMBs should speak to a Managed Service Provider to ensure that their website will be recoverable in the event of a disaster.

Relevant Articles

Subscribe to the Blog