We occasionally get an email like this:
SERVER DOWN – My WordPress site is down. It doesn’t respond to FTP or anything else. I also can’t access the Lightning Base website or the control panel. Are your systems down? Help!
Luckily, almost every mail we’ve received like that was because of the same thing – our firewall blocking the customer. Their site was still accessible to the rest of the world.
Lightning Base is designed keep your WordPress sites secure. Part of this involves a fairly aggressive, active firewall. If someone is trying to guess your SFTP password, they get blocked. If they’re posting malicious code to your site, they get blocked. If they start scanning for vulnerabilites, they get blocked.
But on the other hand, if you forget your SFTP password… you might get blocked as well. Or if you do something else that looks suspicious, which can happen when working on a site. A lot of webhosts just let this stuff through, because dealing with support requests from clients is a hassle (it’s also harder to lock things down when you’re not just focused on WordPress), but we don’t.
Add in the fact that our firewalls can communicate, so getting blocked from one piece of our infrastructure might keep you off other parts – and you have a recipe for trouble. When you get blocked, the connection just dies, the server never responds. It appears the server is down.
So Unblock Yourself (Automatically!)
The first fix for this is that we have moved the main Lightning Base control panel onto a completely separate system. So if you get blocked from your site, you probably won’t be able to visit the main Lightning Base website, but secure.lightningbase.com (the control panel) and status.lightningbase.com should still be available.
Even better, when you login to secure.lightningbase.com, it will automatically register your IP, check the firewalls for blocks, and clear your IP if it’s listed. Simple.
If that does not work, or you’re trying to unblock a client, you can also manually clear IP’s from the firewall.
This will allow you to access your WordPress site again.
You get a simple form, pre-filled with your detected IP address (or you can enter another). For security’s sake, we’ll only allow limited usage of this, but it should be plenty for the occasional accident. As always, our support staff is happy to help out as well.
Our New Status Page
In addition to the above, Lightning Base now has a much more robust system for informing clients of our system status.
If you are having trouble accessing your site, I encourage you to visit status.lightningbase.com.
This page includes a blog and Twitter feed which will be updated if an issue will not be resolved within a couple minutes. It also has instructions for unblocking yourself from the firewall, who to contact for help, and a link so you can check the server status.
And An Automated Monitoring Site
Server status is provided by our new public monitoring page – up.lightningbase.com
This page is automatically generated by Pingdom, making it completely independent of our infrastructure. You might notice some extra services on there… both the EU hosting location and email service will be announced in the coming days/weeks.
I’m excited about the firewall unblocking addition, as it will let our customers easily resolve one of their most common issues, rather than nervously waiting for our support staff to help out.
In the event of a real problem, the status page will provide a quicker (and less support-intensive) option for getting updates. And our new monitoring page should both be convenient for customers and great for showing off Lightning Base’s reliability.
If you have any thoughts on how we could make these upgrades more useful, please get in touch.