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Recent issues with NorthwestFirearms.com

Discussion in 'Questions, Problems, & Feedback' started by Joe Link, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. Joe Link

    Joe Link Portland, OR Well-Known Member Staff Member Lifetime Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    Hello everyone. I want to take moment and let everyone know about the issues we've been facing with NorthwestFirearms.com, the reason for them, and where we go from here. This is a bit long-winded, so for that I apologize.

    First, for those who don't know who I am or haven't met me in person, I'm Joe Link, and I've been the sole owner of the site since I developed it in August of 2008. I started this site with one goal in mind that I still work toward today. That goal was to create a site for Northwest firearm owners that would aid us in better organizing ourselves to fight anti-gun legislation on all levels of government. In order to do this, I knew I'd have to create a resource so useful that people would keep coming back on a daily basis, form relationships with their fellow gun owners, and really engage in the community with other like-minded individuals. Though we've had our obstacles, I'm happy to say that this has been an overwhelming success, and people are taking notice at our numbers and our activities. I've made many calls to members of congress in Oregon and Washington over the past month. Not only do members on both sides of the aisle know who we are, even our opponents have commented on how polite and well written members of our community are when communicating with them. I've also had multiple members who have served Oregon for over 20 years tell me that they have *never* received so many phone calls and emails for *any* issue for as long as they've been in office.

    As most of you remember, our problems first started with the malware warning issued by Google that kept us down for four days a while back. What had happened is one of our ad networks that we use, iSocket, was flagged by Google for distribution of malicious code. What this means is Google thought someone uploaded an image or code that was meant to infect other computers. This flag didn't just hurt NWFA, it affected every website using iSocket, including some very large ones. I'll tell everyone right now, I am paranoid about the security of this site and of our members. If I get even a slight indicator something is amiss, I'll close the entire site until I can confirm otherwise, if it means keeping our members safe. This is what I did. The next day iSocket and Google both reported that it was an error on Google's part. However, I had several members reporting actual malware. I made the choice to hire two independent companies to ensure our site was clean, which took an additional day. In the end, they found no sign of malware on NWFA. By this time it had already been down almost two days, and vBulletin had just released a new version of their software. I took this opportunity to do the upgrade at that time, along with some other maintenance, since we had already been down so long. Those of you who know anything about programming, scripts, and databases know that upgrading forum software is not like upgrading Firefox, or even Windows for that matter. Once we got the bugs worked out of the new software, we brought the site back online. I still employee the services of one of the anti-malware companies to actively scan the site for any malicious code, for the protection of our members.

    After the crash a very serious problem that plagued the site was a severe delay of email notifications, in many cases several days. As many of us rely on these notification to alert us of replies to our threads and PM's, it crippled our communication. This issue was a symptom of a much more serious problem, which brings us to our current situation.

    To put it simply, we've outgrown our server, again. This incredible growth we've experienced in the past year has increased our traffic by 65% and our membership has grown by over a third. We now have over 4.5 million page views per month. Many are blaming our web host and suggesting alternatives. I assure you, they have been nothing short of incredible with their service and support . Those of you who think this is run on a home server in my closet, all I can say is I wish! We're on a dual Xeon server with eight cores, 8GB of RAM, and four hard drives with a Tier 4 host. If you'd like to learn more about what Tier 4 hosting entails, click here (there are only a handful in the entire country).

    If anything the blame falls on me for not being more proactive in anticipating our needs and taking the appropriate actions. The fact is I've known we were going to outgrow this server for some time now, and I've been putting it off because I really don't like soliciting our members for donations. I've always felt that if members felt that NWFA was worth supporting financially, they would, and they generally do. Combined with the ad revenue we're able to pay our bills, but it doesn't leave a whole lot left for big expenses like migrating to a newer, more expensive server, or the increased monthly fees that continue after that. From the beginning I pledged to keep ads placed in tasteful positions that don't interfere with the flow of the site, and I've done so. We could probably double our revenue if I accepted the offers from these ad networks, but I will never compromise the functionality of this site for money. I feel our mission here is too important, and I want people to keep coming back.

    Monday our server went down, and went down hard. Most of you were unable to access the site, and for those who could simple pages took several minutes to render and load. I've been working night and day on this trying to find a way to go a little bit longer with what we have now. A bit more optimization here or there, reconfiguring the applications that the site runs on, tweak settings, and anything else myself and four tier 3 technicians could imagine. Unfortunately, none of this worked. This morning we decided to bring our server up in a 'limp mode' of sorts, with most features disabled, limited PM's, no search feature, no activity stream, no regional classifieds. Even in this limp mode, this is merely a band-aid which will not last. We are left with only one option: we have to upgrade to a newer, faster server.

    As I've said before, I really dislike soliciting donations from our membership, and we've only done it once before, for our last server upgrade. I wrote this post for two reasons, I wanted to let everyone know the facts about what's going on, and I wanted to let people know that if you've gotten something out of this site that's worthy of a donation, or if you've been sitting on the fence, now is the time to do so. If you have any questions for me, please send me a PM and I'd be happy to answer them as soon as possible.

    If you'd like to make a donation, please click here. If you'd prefer to not use Paypal please follow the instructions on the bottom of the donation page.

    I really appreciate all the help and support, both past and present.

    Thank You,

    Joe Link
    guitarguy, Barone20, 41mag and 102 others like this.
  2. willseeker

    willseeker N. Portland. Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the update Joe!

    I also try and filter conspiracy theory from fact. In these times, a bit of paranoia is a good precaution.

    Thanks for your vigilance in keeping us safe and informed.

    Be well,
    Wildcat and (deleted member) like this.
  3. tommy98466

    tommy98466 University Place, WA Active Member

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    Joe. A check is in the mail. Thanks for a great site.
  4. OEDub

    OEDub SW OR Coast Active Member

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    The check is in the mail. Thank you for everything that you do keeping NWFA online for everybody to utilize! I really, truly wish that I could do more but everything helps, I suppose.
  5. Joe Link

    Joe Link Portland, OR Well-Known Member Staff Member Lifetime Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    Thank you very much guys. And yes, everything helps! :thumbup:
  6. macdougall29

    macdougall29 Newberg, Oregon, United States Active Member

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    Thank you for everything Joe! I will continue my support...:thumbup:
  7. mattdomes

    mattdomes Newberg Active Member

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    Just upgraded from Bronze to Gold!
    Burt Gummer, Elkman, Lush and 3 others like this.
  8. HenryJ

    HenryJ Eastern Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I'd like to see the search function work again. Paypal'd my support.
    Thanks for what you do!
    Asavage270 and (deleted member) like this.
  9. Mutoman

    Mutoman North Bend Active Member

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    It about time I renewed my membership anyway; thanks so much for the site, it's one of the best!
  10. pakrat57

    pakrat57 Reedsport Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    My favorite forum, donation sent.
  11. FortunateSon

    FortunateSon Marion County Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I love the site. It's entertaining and educating, not to mention that I buy and sell here. Thanks Joe.

    I bought a Bronze today, wish I could do more.
  12. Mica

    Mica Eugene Active Member

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    Never new where to donate. Wish I had more to give.
  13. dinehpride

    dinehpride PDX Member

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    Thank you for all the hard work,
  14. Mikej

    Mikej Portland Gold Supporter Gold Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    Thanks for the in-depth explanation of our issues Joe.

    And, there'll be two Gold Memberships purchased from our household, one for myself and one for Wifey.....Comming through paypal in the next day or two.

  15. 2gr8dgs

    2gr8dgs oregon Active Member

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    I have to have my NW firearms.com
    Thank you Joe!
    Donation on the way.
  16. westy39

    westy39 Montana Member

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    I will be sending you a bit of help in the mail. Thank you for what you do......
  17. Modeler

    Modeler Molalla, Oregon Soccer Fan

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    Thanks for the info Joe. I'll upgrade my membership on payday.

    I also appreciate the status information you've been posted on the FB page. Much better communication than that time in January ;-)
  18. 97321

    97321 Albany Active Member

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    Considering how much time I spend here, a donation is completely in order.
  19. Bajakiter

    Bajakiter Salem New Member

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    Thanks for all the hard work Joe, I just got my membership!
  20. Mark W.

    Mark W. Silverton, OR Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    OK guys its time to sell a brick of .22 to help buy Joe a new server Everyone should help a little bit.