That new server

Moving servers seems to happen too often and hopefully the latest will be the last for a while.

When the server was set up at the data centre, a couple of odd things happened with the way some software was installed.  The simplest (though more expensive) solution was to accept an upgrade offer.

I guess it is a testimony to good planning and good tech people that the whole thing was remarkably painless and for about 98% completely transparent.  What a relief…it is always stressful for me.  I end up dreading turning on my computer in the morning half expecting to find dozens of support tickets…but it didn’t happen.

The only issue was 1 customer who didn’t follow up on a warning email I sent about a change of IP address and 5 people who use Outlook who needed to change a setting to be able to send emails.  That’s it!  Bliss.  Relief.

Here’s what is running now:

Dell hardware with 8 x Intel Xeon E3-1270 v5 @ 3.60GHz processors
4 x 2TB Hard Drives
Hardware RAID 10 – this makes a real time copy of the hard drives in case one fails
10TB Bandwidth
CentOS 7 operating system
PHP7 with PHP 5.* also available
A good strong firewall

The server is running at about 25% of its capacity.  This is a good thing.  Having made the mistake of letting a server get too crowded in the early days, I won’t do that again and look forward to 123host explanding to another server.

While talking about servers, a timely reminder about backups.  123host user accounts are backed up every night to BackBlaze B2 which is ridiculousely cheap at $US0.005c per Gb per month.  If you have a lot of files to store, it is worth checking out, but it doesn’t have a particularly friendly user interface.

Each nightly backup is kept for 14 days.  There is also a weekly copy kept for 4 weeks and a monthly copy kept for 2 months.

This means I can restore files from any day up to 14 days ago.  Or any of the last 4 Saturdays.  Or the 1st of each of the last 2 months.  If that can’t find the file you are looking for it must be long gone.

If you are a 123host customer, you know that one of the aims of the business is to provide the sort of customer service we wish we received elsewhere.  I have had a mix of excellent and appalling customer service recently.  We all know which we prefer.  Here’s some stats that I love…and they are pretty consistant going back years.

February 2017 support ticket response time average

March 2017 support ticket response times (so far)

And for those who understand such things, here is a snapshot of the server right now – Load Averages: 1.08 1.33 1.35 – I haven’t seen it go above 3.5 yet, I’m pretty happy with that.

Everything about this server is better.  It is faster, it is more powerful and you (my customers) are having fewer issues, and there were never many!

Outlook receiving but not sending [RESOLVED]

I am aware of the issue of outlook receiving email but not sending.

Been working on it much of the afternoon without a result so far so have escalated it to people who are smarter than me.

If it is affecting you please open a support ticket from another account if you can, that way I can keep you informed with what is happening.

[UPDATE]  This has been a tough one to crack.  Some changes were made on the server.

In outlook go into the account settings and change the outgoing SMTP server port to 465 and be sure that SSL encryption is selected – how you do that differs in each version of outlook.

Any problems, open a support ticket at

Possible service disruption

This coming Saturday morning (March 4th [NOT February 4th like I said in the email :o( ] ) from 0200 Eastern Australia Time there is a possibility of individual sites being down for a short period. While this is bad news, it is the prelude to some good news.

123host is growing and is moving to a brand new more powerful server with an upgraded operating system and component software. I’ll give some technical details later and not bore those that aren’t interested.

The data centre has suggested that since they are going to move sites individually and change the settings for each account one at a time, disruption will be minimal if at all. This is promising…in theory…but I know that nothing is foolproof, hence this email to give you notice.

We have investigated settings and as far as we can tell you likely won’t even notice the change except things may be faster. However if there are any problems come Saturday morning, send an email to immediately.

Tech specs of the new server – if you are interested in what it all means, do ask.

  • E3-1270v5 Latest Intel Skylake Architecture
  • 48GB DDR4 RAM
  • 4 x 2TB SATA Drives
  • Hardware RAID 10
  • 10TB Bandwidth
  • CentOS 7.x latest
  • PHP 7
  • cPanel latest

If you are one of the people who opted out of newsletters, stop reading now!


Ages ago I advised about free SSL certificates being issued to every domain. Read this for my thoughts going back to September last year.

I know that some of you have moved your sites to https instead of http and I have assisted with a few of them. Unfortunately it sometimes isn’t straightforward and here is the unavoidable technical talk made as simple as possible

When using an SSL certificate, data is encrypted while transferred back and forward between the 123host server and a visitor to your site.   People may intercept your data (unlikely), but shouldn’t be able to decrypt it. Easy to understand so far?

The problem comes when within your site some content is included using http instead of https, it could be a link to a style sheet, an embedded image or something else. This results in a ‘mixed content’ warning because insecure content (http) is being included in a secure page (https). Still with me?

When there is mixed content, instead of the page having a ‘secure’ padlock


it is displayed as insecure.





Not only is the data not secure, there is also apparently a penalty in search engine ranking for insecure sites.

You can test your site easily. Simply use https:// instead of http:// and see what happens. If you get the padlock and secure notification jump in the air and click your heels being careful not to hurt your back. If it doesn’t work as expected you can sort it out yourself or ask for my help – and I am happy to lend a hand. But…

This is my final offer to help people switch to https for free. After April 1st I will charge $55 inc GST to help you do this no matter how simple or complex. You already have the free SSL certificate, it is now up to you.

Looking for a unique domain?

I have just added hundreds of new domain types to the list of domains to register.  You can now register domains such as,, and more – there is wide enough choice to suit just about every individual or business.

Here’s an offer to get you started; for a limited time .me domains are only $15 per year to register and then $35 per year to renew. But if you grab www.(YourName).me for up to 5 years when registering, you get the discount price for the duration.

How is that? – and yes, this is a real URL these days.


This won’t apply to everyone, only those of you using WordPress.

I am pretty easy going and try to be generous with my time and skills, but am going to start billing people who have problems and they haven’t listened when I advise about upgrading WordPress. There are some serious issues with older versions, several sites had content injected into them earlier this month when a security hole was discovered.

The current version of WP is 4.7.2 and upgrading is usually trivial – log into your dashboard and in the At A Glance box it will tell you the version number and generally advise if there is an upgrade available…one click will then do the job.

Here’s another ‘amnesty’ offer. If you need help upgrading ask before April 1st or you are the fool as it will cost you $55.


And to finish up, I have been pretty disillusioned with the unfunny stuff on facebook recently to the point where I have cut down how much I use it.  So here’s something to lift my, and hopefully your, spirits and a compilation of Buster Keaton stunts to make you laugh

123host – weeks ahead of the pack

I have been banging on about SSL certificates here and here and it turns out I was quite prescient.

In January 2017 Google is shifting the balance of internet security and the Chrome browser will report http:// websites as being not secure compared to https:// websites, it is likely all browsers will follow suit. You can read the Google blog post here

I am not going to go too deeply into SSL certificates and what it all means, you can read this if you are interested – but do note that their business model is now broken as SSL certificates are free – for everyone.

The good news is that if your hosting is with 123host you already have a free SSL certificate installed and you have https:// available whether you are using it or not.

Go ahead and try your domain but put https:// in front of it instead. There should be no error or warnings unless the domain is less than 24 hours old – certificates are checked and issued every night.  You’ll see a padlock next to the url

SSL enabled URL

So what do you do next? If you are using WordPress go into the dashboard and change the URL from http:// to https:// in two places there.  If the links in your blog have been constructed properly it should all just work.

If you have a custom website of some sort simply start using https:// instead.  Again it should all work assuming it has been built properly.

If you are having any problems with https:// on your site open a ticket and the security gnomes will go into action.

Don’t ignore this. If you do, after January 2017 people will see something like this if they visit your site in Chrome.

Google error message

If you don’t act now and need my help in 2017 I will charge for any work done.  How’s that for forcing the issue :o)

Vote 123host

For those of you not in Australia, today is election day here. To all Australians I urge you to vote wisely, vote early, vote often. For me it was easy to choose 1st and 2nd preferences and then I had to decide who I loathed least…in descending order.  Don’t ya’ love democracy?

If you haven’t voted, here are the latest 123host announcements and electoral policies.

When elected, 123host promises to continue to follow up the handful of ‘something is a bit slow’ reports promptly. We will also rapidly discover that for a couple of days the network was running on half duplex before it was reset to full duplex.

As part of our new communications policy we will also explain the difference between half duplex and full duplex by likening it to using a 2 way radio Vs a phone – you can skip this paragraph if you don’t want your brain to bleed. Half duplex conversation only goes in one direction at a time, that is what happens on a radio – you talk, you release the button, you listen. Repeat. Full duplex is like a phone, you can talk back and forward without having to wait for the other end to finish…that is sometimes called a political debate.

123host has always been a strong supporter of backups and our policies have continually reminded you, our appreciated supporters, of the value of backups. In recent times we have been requested by constituents to rescue them when something has gone wrong. By increasing the expenditure on backups we promise to continue to provide regular backups and to keep them offsite.

Unlike other candidates 123host is always transparent and tells the truth, so here are our two technical policy paragraphs about backups. There are three levels carried out – daily, weekly and monthly. Just how it sounds, that is how often a backup is carried out and then over-written. A monthly backup is done at the beginning of each month, similarly one is done at the beginning of each week. If you suddenly realise you need something you accidentally deleted a couple of weeks ago, these are your saviours. Then there is a daily backup enabling a restore from any of the last 7 days.

If you are running as an independent and have your own policy statement that includes personal backups, be like 123host and keep your backups off the main server. The whole idea is to have them available if something goes horribly wrong e.g. The Shooters Party wins the election. It is pointless having your backups on the original computer if it has been burned, stolen or shot at by the new Prime Minister.

I want you to hear from our Minister for Security, that’s me. I’m not talking about the security of our major political donors, we will always look after them. No, I want to address the security of the traffic to and from your website. If you aren’t collecting sensitive information or orders for products this may not interest you, but it is worth reading.

SSL certificates (Secure Socket Layer) provide encryption between the browser and the server to theoretically stop snooping on the data going back and forth. I say ‘theoretically’ because there is nothing that is 100% secure. The URL becomes https:// instead of http:// and there is usually a padlock icon in the address bar like this SSLYou can read about SSL here  – note the prices for their SSL certificates.

At 123host we are going forward with 3 word slogans and the next one is “Free SSL certificates” – we will not enter into any discussion on whether that is really an abbreviated 5 word slogan. Yes, each and every 123hosted citizen is now entitled to a free SSL certificate. In your cpanel area under Security you will see our new department called ‘Let’s Encrypt SSL’, no appointment needed. If you get stuck, open a support ticket – no cash donations required.

Longer term 123host voters have all received election material explaining that we have changed allegiances and have formed a coalition with a new domain wholesaler. The amalgamation will take about a year all up, and has been quite a pain in the proverbial. But we shall persist with what we know is good and decent and right. So when and if you receive an email with an EPP code (the password) for your domain, please promptly forward it to You will then receive a ballot paper asking if you approve the domain transfer, in this plebiscite (as in the possible upcoming ‘real’ plebiscite) vote YES to approve. The 123host party will monitor the situation closely and stay in close communication with people affected.

Finally, 123host has always been the party of great customer service but we have had to take a tough love policy recently with people who have failed to keep their party membership up to date. When an invoice is 14 days overdue your service is suspended. We are a compassionate party so your service will be unsuspended for a week and you’ll receive a gentle reminder – no thugs in our party. If there hasn’t been a payment or something worked out the next suspension will stick. You receive another reminder, gently but eerily threatening that if it it isn’t all sorted out in a few days, everything will be deleted. We don’t like having to do that, but we do also understand that sometimes projects don’t quite work out.

If you need time to pay or something is going wrong, speak to the party leadership. We are a party for the people.
Thank you for listening citizen.
Leader and benign dictator at

I am at their mercy…

123host users, you do understand that just like you pay me for hosting, I pay for a server.  Just like you count on me to provide certain services, I count on a data centre to keep the server running.

I do the day to day maintenance and tweaks on the server and have a contract with system administrators to do things that are too hard or too scary.  Think of it like you taking care of basic maintenance on your car, but taking it to a mechanic for serious work.


So…what happens when you take your car to your mechanic and when you get it back it makes a noise.  You tell them it is something they did, they say it is the way you drive.  You insist, they keep fobbing you off.  Eventually you demand they do a deeper investigation and gosh, look at that, it was something they did after all.

Similarly this week with the server outage.  My system admins identified the problem as being something going on at the server.  The data centre were adamant it wasn’t at their end.  My system admins dug deeper and were confident of the problem.  I got back on to the data centre and dug my heels in and gosh…look at that, it was a problem at their end.

I am sure you can imagine how infuriating this is.  Most customers maybe don’t notice as I don’t hear from them.  Some customers want to know what is going on and are frustrated but understand.  A few customers are justifiably angry as they are trying to run a business…one decided to quit 123host 🙁 and I don’t blame them, I wouldn’t put up with it either.

I have worked hard to build up a really high level of goodwill at 123host and to have it all undone by someone else was shattering to say the least.

Here’s what happened and you may be shocked at the proposed solution:  At 123host an offsite backup is run 3 nights a week.  That means quite a bit of data is being transferred at the time but it doesn’t seem to cause any problems.  I discovered that the data centre does its own backup every 10 days, that means quite a bit of data is being transferred.  Now imagine if they both happen at the same time!  That a a LOT of data being transferred and starts to look like 20 lanes of cars trying to get onto a 4 lane wide bridge.  If there isn’t any traffic, everyone moves quickly, but we all know what rush hour is like.


So all this data was trying to transfer and at the same time something happened to their backup that meant it had been running for 6 days or so.  SIX DAYS!  Eventually it caused such a bottleneck that though the server was still running it had effectively closed the bridge to all cars.  It took me hours to convince the data centre that the problem was at their end, eventually someone found the backup process and killed it and within minutes and ever since those cars are streaming across the bridge.

Since I do my own backups I asked them to turn that facility off, but it seems they can’t do that.  I asked “so what do you suggest I do?” and the unbelievable answer was “wait until it happens again and the call us and we will kill the backup”.  I laughed at the person who suggested such an idiotic idea – I won’t call it a solution.


Right now I am looking at the options for 123host and it is likely to me moving to a co-located server in partnership with an old friend of mine who also has a web hosting business.  This means that we would own (rather than rent) our own server and only be renting the space in the data centre.  It also requires a much higher level of skill to manage but that is what my server administrators get paid for.

Moving accounts to a new server is not a task to be undertaken lightly, but if we can work it out, it will be the last move for a long time.

Thanks for listening.

Getting spam under control – hopefully

I have implemented a new spam control system at 123host and in 12 hours I have already seen how effective it seems to be.

The system is known as ‘grey listing’ and here is how it works:  the 123host mail server will pretend it is busy and temporarily reject any email from a sender the server does not recognize.  The sending server will then try to send it again.

Spam usually fakes where it has come from, so the the (faked) originating server responds with “don’t know what you are talking about, there is no such email to resend” and the offending email is not accepted, much less delivered.

On the other hand, if the email is legitimate, the originating server will wait a short while and then try again, this time the 123host server will accept the email and remember the sending server for 7 days.

This has nothing to do with content or email addresses, it is simply testing the authenticity of the sending server.  It isn’t foolproof but it is already working well as far as I can see.

Gmail holds spam for 30 days before it is deleted, this is my mailbox today 😛


I receive about 10 spam emails every hour!  The good thing is that gmail has a fantastic spam filter.  I see maybe one spam per day in my inbox and haven’t spotted a false positive (not spam classified as spam) in a couple of weeks.  TRIVIA:  Bad emails are known as spam, good emails are known as ham.

Since I started greylisting this morning, I would have expected to receive about 120 spam emails.  In fact I have ‘only’ received about 30.  Still a lot, but a 75% reduction is remarkable.  And I imagine that for people who receive less spam it is more noticeable.

If anything unusual seems to be happening with your incoming email (apart from less spam – which is unusual), please let me know by opening a 123host support ticket.  I forgot to mention in the newsletter that you can edit the Configure Greylisting configuration in the mail section of cpanel.  But it is limited to enabling or disabling it for a specific domain.

spam100 updated

When I first started 123host I did all the billing and management manually, it wasn’t too hard since most accounts belonged to me, friends and family and there wasn’t much money involved 😛

tt wasn’t long before it started to get out of hand so I bought some software, that despite being a bit quirky, does a great job of automating much of the work.

Good news is that there was a major upgrade recently, particularly in the client area which from my initial play (I don’t use it much myself) seems much easier to use.

Even better is that many email related functions have been replicated in the client area so you hardly need to go into that big scary cpanel any more.

At the 123host home page log in via the link in the top right corner.  Use your email address and the password you received when you created your account – this is not your hosting password or if you are using it, your WordPress password.  So many passwords…sigh…

Click Services and then My Services in the dropdown menu






Next select the hosting package you want to work on, though most people will only have one




And either celebrate or be intimidated by the new array of choices

The quick shortcuts and quick create an email account are the most commonly used functions.  If you don’t undestand any of them you would do well to leave them alone, though if you want to look but don’t touch that is a good way to learn.

I am always happy to help you with anything you are not sure of.

Help me help you

At 123host the philosophy is to give the sort of customer service we wish we received from others…because there is some really crap service on the internet.

But you need to help.

If you have a problem it can almost always be fixed and quickly if you give some good information up front.

It is not uncommon to receive a report something like “Hey Steve, My email isn’t working”.  That’s it.  That’s all the info.  As you can imagine, it isn’t much to go on.

So here is what a good support request looks like:

Hey Steve.  Up until last night my email was fine but when I woke up this morning I can receive but I can’t send.  I am seeing an error message that says “whatevers” and here’s a screenshot of it.  I have also included screen shots of all the settings pages in my email account.

You get the difference, right?

Because with the first email, instead of me replying with “here’s the fix”, I have to reply with “are there any error messages?  Can you send screen shots?” which takes time, then you have to reply which takes time.

So help me help you by giving as much information as you can up front.  It is like the supply of toilet rolls, it is better to have a way too much that just a little bit not enough