Outage – Explosion at The Planet

Dear Members,

We would like to offer you our sincere apologies for the interruption in service many of you experienced last weekend. During the outage our forum remained online and we attempted to keep all of our members up-to-date via our Service Status announcements.

What happened?
On Saturday 31 May at approximately 11pm GMT there was an explosion in The Planet Data Center in Houston Texas. Electrical gear shorted, creating an explosion and fire that knocked down three walls. Thankfully there were no human casualties.

On the instructions of the Fire Department, The Planet then turned off all power to the Data Center resulting in 9,000 servers being knocked offline.

How did the outage at The Planet affect StatCounter?
This affected StatCounter in a number of ways:

  • Some of our database servers went down
  • Our dns servers were temporarily offline
  • Some of our incoming mail servers went down
  • Our blog was unavailable
  • Some of our web servers went down
  • Some of our partitions were knocked offline

How did this mean for StatCounter members?
Different members were affected in different ways.

Members with projects on the following partitions were most seriously affected:
c1 (PN 0), c7 (PN 6) , c8 (PN 7), c14 (PN 13), c16 (PN 15), c17 (PN 16)
These members lost between 24 and 30 hours of stats over Sunday GMT and part of Monday morning.

Members with projects on the following partitions were unable to log into their accounts for a number of hours following the outage but stats continued to be recorded:
c4 (PN 3), c5 (PN 4), c6 (PN 5), c12 (PN 11)

New members and people who had just created new projects with StatCounter in the hours immediately prior to the outage temporarily “lost” their accounts/projects. This is because, since these projects were not on our last back-up, restoring the back-up did not “bring up” their projects. In this case, our advice is to generate a new project and re-install the StatCounter code on your site.

All other members lost about 3-5 hours of stats from approximately 11pm GMT on Saturday night. In addition members experienced difficulties reaching the StatCounter site and logging into their accounts.

As servers at The Planet come back online we continue to work to try to recover as many stats as possible to minimise the loss of information experienced.

Why doesn’t StatCounter have its own Data Center?
By outsourcing our server technology, we can keep costs down, minimize downtime and devote more resources to our members.

Why was StatCounter using The Planet?
StatCounter is powered by over 130 servers. These are located in a number of Data Centers in the United States and in Ireland and are spread among a number of hosting providers although our main hosting partner is The Planet.

We chose The Planet as our main hosting partner as they are the largest dedicated hosting service in the world and due to the apparent reliability of the service they provide.

We believed The Planet to be one of the most reliable and redundant data center providers in the world, particularly as they host servers in multiple centers in Houston and Dallas.

From The Planet website:
With multiple state-of-the art data centers located in Dallas and Houston, Texas, The Planet provides On Demand IT Infrastructure backed by complete redundancy in power, HVAC, fire suppression, network connectivity, and security. So if any of our data centers experiences a disruption for any reason, your eggs (or servers) are never in one basket.

The Planet have let us down, and in turn, we have let you down. For this we are truly sorry.

What did The Planet do wrong?
Accidents are a fact of life, however, we believe that, had The Planet operated in the professional manner we expected from an organisation of its standing, the disruption experienced could have been substantially lessened.

For example, The Planet have hosted our DNS for a number of years, however, it was only this weekend we discovered that, although our DNS servers are on different subnets within The Planet, the servers are actually all in the same location. We will be submitting a complaint to The Planet in this regard. We fully expected that The Planet would have implemented a geographical spread in our DNS servers – this was not something that we thought we would have to request or confirm – particularly since we have servers spread through all The Planet data centers. We have now secured the services of a new geographically spread, redundant DNS provider.

We also feel that the extent of the damage could have been acknowledged and communicated by The Planet in a more timely fashion. While we decided to implement our back-up plans early on, others waited many hours in the hope that The Planet would come back online, only to find that restoration of service was continually delayed.

In addition, we found that our efforts to communicate with The Planet were largely ignored or dismissed with a “template” response. This was particularly galling as we received a presentation glass globe (see below) and a letter from The Planet CEO on FRIDAY thanking us for being one of their largest customers… then Saturday… THIS!

Thank you For making a world of Difference – The Planet ???

Why couldn’t The Planet get the Data Center back more quickly?
We don’t know. Hundreds of angry customers have been asking this question.

What action did StatCounter take when this accident happened?
We immediately began work to restore full service as soon as possible.

  • Initially, and in the absence of any official information from The Planet, we worked to establish exactly what was causing the problems.
  • We started a thread in our Service Status forum to advise our members of the situation – this thread has been updated continuously.
  • We added a notice to out homepage to advise members that service was limited.
  • We procured the services of a properly redundant and geographically spread dns service and re-routed all our servers immediately.
  • We prioritised the restoration of all our affected partitions from our latest back-up taken in the hours before the outage in order to resume tracking stats.
  • We configured new servers.
  • We redirected web servers which were temporarily down due to the outage.
  • We responded to as many tickets as possible to try to explain the situation to our members.
  • We migrated our affected mail servers to a new data center.

How will StatCounter prevent this happening in the future?
The bitter irony of this recent episode is that we have been working on our new beta system since September last year. We decided to develop this new StatCounter system for a number of reasons, one of the major motivations being to improve the architecture of our system so as to insulate it against major outages such as the one just experienced. Considering that we have never before experienced an outage of this magnitude, we are bitterly disappointed that our new system was not up and running before this episode.

Once “normal” service is restored, work will continue on the beta project as planned. The sooner we launch the beta, the sooner we can minimise our vulnerability to this kind of outage.

I’m not happy – how do I complain?
We completely understand why you feel aggrieved. Should you wish to submit a complaint to us please do so by logging into your StatCounter account and clicking the “support” link in the top menu bar. Within this area you will be able to submit a ticket to us – we will endeavour to respond to you as soon as possible.

How do StatCounter feel about what happened?
We are so desperately sorry that any of our customers had to experience this outage. We also feel so humbled by the numerous messages of support that we have received. At a time when we feel so terribly for the interruption in service suffered by some of our members, we have been just bowled over to receive so many of messages of encouragement. While we always knew that we had a great bunch of members, your support and patience throughout this episode has been nothing short of incredible and served to help maintain team morale in a very difficult situation. We are so grateful.

We hope this blog post has gone some way towards summarising the main issues relating to the recent outage. Work continues to restore full service. If you have any comments or queries, please do post them below.


  1. It’s all good, dudes! Obviously this is pretty much the definition of a freak accident (save for like, meteors or something), and clearly very frustrating for you guys since the safe guards you thought were in place… weren’t. I appreciate how hard you’ve worked to keep everyone informed of what’s been happening, (as someone else said, IF ONLY other companies put that much effort into communication!) and I, for one, understand that sometimes shit just happens! Hope everything goes well with getting things back to working order. 🙂

  2. Your candor and responsible attitude more than make up for what little responsibility you had in this unfortunate accident. Keep up the good work. I’ll forever recommend statcounter.

  3. Thanks for your honest efforts in explaining the outage. Your transparency is more valuable than losing 24 hrs of access data. Accidents are a fact of life and I hope that Planet Datacenter takes some lesson from this outage…particularly when they are handling 9000 servers…and contrary to their claims, they were keeping most of their eggs in one basket while claiming otherwise.

  4. Very much appreciate the update. It’s hard to find companies that care enough to provide great customer service and communication like you do. I can’t imagine having to deal with another company (and hope I never have to.)

  5. thanks for your complete explanation. My heart will go on with statcounter.

  6. I agree.

    You do provide a great service, for no charge. That’s not an easy feat.

  7. Hey,

    You are one of the best. Take it easy. It’s not your fault. And thanks a lot for this post.

  8. Hey, you guys run an excellent service, and you’ve done
    an great job dealing with this difficult situation.

    Keep up the great work!

  9. Bah! So we lost a little bit of data, maybe. Who cares..? The way I figger (about this and life in general…) there’s no blood and everyone’s still alive, this too, shall pass. Oh and BTW can I just say MERCURY IS RETROGRADE! WHat does that mean..? You can see the info I have, and my experiences, here:

    Good luck & keep up the good work!

  10. You guys ROCK! And I mean ROCK. Even if I was paying for an upgrade to service (and I’m here admitting that I’m not) I’d still say you rock.

    Your service is invaluable. And friggin fun. So don’t sweat it b/c in the grand scheme of things this is small. And you’re so much bigger than that.

    Now, those things being said, bad things in threes and all…paypal, this planet crap, and…please tell us someone over there had a bag hangnail or got their hair cut badly or something like that.

    Keep up the great work over there, folks. And thanks for the great updates of everything!!

  11. Excellent job guys to keep us up-to-date. If only companies had the same level of professionalism and customer service.

    As for “The Planet”, if having a spatial spread of the servers servicing a single customer is a common tactic in this industry, they are partially at fault and must compensate you for your troubles.

    At any case I hope you have a trouble-free recovery and year.

  12. Statcounter provides a tremendous service. Their are certain accidents you can not prepare for, but Statcounter did its best to keep users informed and updated. Thank you.

  13. What a horror story! I appreciate the effort to thoroughly explain this situation, which was inconveniencing me while you worked to get back online (my pages with counters were loading very slowly); and it made it impossible to change a counter when I needed to. I then went to your website but could not even get the Forum working, so this is the explanation I was seeking (though of course it’s infinitely worse than I imagined, and not your ultimate physical responsibility.) Keep up the good work, and thanks so much for your invaluable service; it’s superior to all the other counters I’ve tried.

  14. Life is life…
    I love this counter.

    Thanks for the explanation.

  15. As usual, you (Statcounter) are doing a fantastic job at a very difficult task – for free for a lot of people, and extremely low cost for those of us with paid subscriptions.

    As usual, the level of professionalism at Statcounter is complete and commendable. Accidents occur, gremlins invade, stuff happens, and it’s not always under the control of anyone human.

    Thank you, every one of you, for shouldering on, explaining the problem, picking up the pieces and getting back to it – and for letting us know what’s up. Transparency and honesty are coveted qualities in an internet entity. Keep up the great work.

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