About 4500 Internet Group customers have been emailed with the bad news that their Websites have disappeared from the Ihug homepages machine in the wake of a severe disk crash on Monday.
While some users are reportedly angry that their sites were not backed up, Ihug director Tim Wood points out that the hosting service is free and its terms and conditions state that backup is the customer's responsibility.
"We don't back up home pages," says Wood. "There are 12,000 individual clients, and try and back that up would be impossible and expensive. We're finding that most people have done their own backup."
The ironically-named crash.ihug.co.nz was relocated to the site of Ihug's satellite uplink in California in April, after outbound international homepage traffic topped 130Gb the month before.
Ihug programming manager Bryan Christianson says the company detected a problem with the machine about midday on Monday and asked satellite provider PanAmSat to power-cycle the machine "and it came back up unable to see any of its SCSI devices.
"There's a bunch of low-level firmware commands you can give that will check out the SCSI stuff, and they came back with really horrible error messages saying 'there are no devices'."
Christianson says Ihug staff member Matthew Oram, who is in the US, was called to the site.
"We have a spare pre-configured root disk sitting the chassis of the machine, and he was able to get the machine running on that drive. But the user files live on a separate RAID - and that RAID was basically toast. We lost about a third of the files.
"Emails have been sent to all those customers and we'll probably follow up with snail mail too."
Christianson says most customers seem to have had backups, but "unfortunately, there may be some customers who've had their site developed by third parties who've installed the site on our machine and never even given the customer a copy. But that's only apocryphal."
Wood says the company is now considering making backups of all its virtual domain hosted sites and "but even that's a huge amount of information that changes hourly."
Ihug's VIPNet business customers, who pay a premium for business service, are likely to have backup provided as part of the service.