FAQ: Planned dotMailer downtime — Saturday 26 October 2013

About this FAQ

This FAQ contains important information about planned upgrade work which will result in dotMailer downtime with impact on your contacts.

What is happening?

On Saturday 26 October 2013 we will be performing some system upgrades (upgrading our database software) which will result in our database and services being unavailable for up to four hours between 11am and 3pm  UK time (10:00 – 14:00 UTC).

Why do I need to know?

During this time many of our services will be unavailable – most notably the following:

More detail is given below later in this FAQ.

What do I need to do?

  • Please read this FAQ thoroughly.
  • Take this upgrade into account when planning your campaigns for the next couple of weeks. It may be advisable to reschedule campaigns, or to disable tracking, to avoid clicks on broken links during the system downtime.

1. How will my access to services be affected?

1.1. dotMailer

During this period the dotMailer application will be completely unavailable; you will not be able to log in to the service.

1.2. dotMailer API

The dotMailer API will be unavailable during this upgrade work.

1.3. dotSurvey

dotSurvey will be unavailable during this upgrade work.

While dotSurvey operates on a different database; login credentials are shared with dotMailer.

1.4. Lead Vision

Lead Vision will not be affected by this upgrade work.

1.5. Support forums

Our support forums for dotMailer and dotSurvey will be online during the system downtime. It may not be possible to log in to the support forums.

1.6. Facebook application

The Facebook application will not be accessible during this upgrade work.

1.7. dotCommerce

Shops built by our agency team using our enterprise level dotCommerce platform will be unaffected by this upgrade (except where there is integration to dotMailer).

1.8. dotEditor

Websites built using dotEditor, our CMS platform, will be unaffected by this upgrade  (except where there is integration to dotMailer).

2. How will my contacts and campaigns be affected?

2.1. Emails content and rendering

Campaigns that have already been sent to your contacts will continue to be readable. Images will download and will be displayed as normal.

2.2. Links in emails

For a period during the system upgrade, links in emails will cause an error.

The following error will be displayed:

Down for planned maintenance
Our technology partners are currently working on planned system enhancements. Please bear with us and try again in a few hours.

down_for_maintenance_600px.png

Links which are set to “do not track” will be unaffected – these will link straight through to the link specified.

do_not_track.png

If you have campaigns with critical links that must work during this period, it may be advisable to remove tracking from these links.

2.3. Unsubscribe links

Like other links, these will not be accessible during the system upgrade. Users will see the error message detailed above (see 2.2. Links in emails).

2.4. Forward to a friend links

Like other links, these will not be accessible during the system upgrade. Users will see the error message detailed above (see 2.2. Links in emails).

2.5. “Can’t read / View in browser” links

Like other links, these will not be accessible during the system upgrade. Users will see the error message detailed above (see 2.2. Links in emails).

2.6. Sign up forms (including forms using the Facebook application)

Sign up forms to add new contacts to your address books will not work during this system upgrade. Users will see the error message detailed above (see 2.2. Links in emails).

2.7. Replies to campaigns

Replies to campaigns will continue to be received; these will be processed and available in your account shortly after the completion of the upgrade work.

2.8. Surveys

Surveys built using our classic survey tool will not be available during the upgrade work. Users will see the error message detailed above (see 2.2. Links in emails).

Surveys built using dotSurvey will be available and will collect responses without interruption. Survey response data that would normally be written to dotMailer will remain in dotSurvey but will not be written to dotMailer. Users will see the error message detailed above.

2.9. Microsites

Pages built using our microsite tool will not be accessible. Users will see the error message detailed above (see 2.2. Links in emails).

2.10. SMS unsubscribe

SMS unsubscribe requests will be honoured. The opt-outs will take effect shortly after the completion of the upgrade work.

2.11. Scheduled sends

All scheduled sends due to be sent during the system downtime will be sent shortly after the system comes back online.

2.12. ReMails

All scheduled sends due to be sent during the system downtime will be sent shortly after the system comes back online.

As “opens” will not be recorded (see section 3. What will be the effect on reporting data?), contacts opening emails during the system downtime will not be considered as having read the email and may receive your ReMail campaign.

2.13. Triggered campaigns

In most cases campaign triggers due to run during the system downtime will not be processed (some campaign triggers which would have been due to run close to the end of the system downtime will run).

2.14. Site and ROI tracking

Webpages using our Site and ROI tracking will continue to function (although the tracking will not function).

2.15. dotCommerce shops

Shops built by our agency team using our enterprise level dotCommerce platform will be unaffected by this upgrade (except where there is integration to dotMailer).

2.16. Websites

Websites built by our agency team will be unaffected by this upgrade (except where there is integration to dotMailer).

2.17. API integrations

Our Salesforce, Dynamics, SalesLogix, Magento and ACT integrations will not synchronise during the downtime. After the downtime these will resynchronise without any data loss.

3. What will be the effect on reporting data?

For a period of the upgrade work no tracking data will be recorded.

    • Email opens will not be recorded
    • Clicks in emails will not be recorded (and will not link through - see 2.2. Links in emails).
    • Site and ROI tracking will not be recorded

No campaigns will be sent during the downtime; as such there will be no interference with bounce data.

4. What differences will I see?

Nothing. Really, after all that, nothing.

Okay then – we’re upgrading our setup and many aspects of the system will run faster. In normal day-to-day use, you won’t see any change. These improvements will, however, make way for a number of data intensive features such as benchmarking statistics, improved data segmentation, searching and data mining.

All data and features will, after the upgrade, be in the same condition as before but on better underlying technology.

5. You’ve said four hours, do you really mean it?

We will be working to keep the actual downtime to an absolute minimum. You should, however, plan for four hours downtime.

6. What are the plans if something doesn’t go as expected?

We have been running a series of tests on the new hardware and project and will continue to run tests up to and after the upgrade on 26th October; should there be any unexpected events which lead to us postponing the upgrade, we will always give you at least 14 days’ notice of the revised date.

We have set a limit of four hours on the day of the actual upgrade; if there are any problems with the new system that arise on the day that cannot be resolved within the four hour window, then we will revert to the old setup. No data will be lost and we will restore the system to its state before the upgrade began.

7. How can I find out more information?

If we have any further information to share before the upgrade takes place, then these will be announced in our user forum.

You will be able to follow our progress on the day on our Twitter feed.  We will (as usual) be using the hashtag #dMmaint if you wish to filter for just our maintenance tweets.

8. Who will be doing this upgrade work?

The crack team (fuelled by tea and burritos) performing this operation will include:

john.pngJohn Adkins — Head of Product Development
Employee number one; this is John’s eleventh year at dotMailer.  Apparently he remembers when dotMailer was nothing but fields.

vic 100.jpgVic Girling — Development Operations DBA
Developing and maintaining the databases that allow dotMailer to send billions of emails every year, Vic joined the team last year and has taught us all to believe that TSQL is beautiful, and that rum is evil.

Alex_W.PNGAlex Webber — Development Lead
Alex is the brains behind some of our more data intensive features; he can usually be found deep in code, immersed in database tables, or finding new Mexican food outlets for product development team lunches.

andy.jpgAndrew Gretton — Development Lead
Designated team cynic, Andrew is the one who comes up with all the technical reasons why many things are impossible. He made the tea once, it was a Tuesday I think.

 

Ben.PNGBen Ricketts — Development Lead
Ben is the world’s most cheerful and helpful developer, except for when the trains are delayed when he becomes grumpy.

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Comments

  • Avatar

    Hi Stoo,

    While we're certainly looking forward to the upgrade, we're really concerned about the time that it's happening.

    For a service provider like dotmailer we would really expect this sort of planned maintenance to happen overnight when there is likely to be much less activity. 11am till 3pm is potentially a prime time for users to want send emails (which they might have scheduled on Friday), as well as for customers to want to click on links.

    We integrate dotmailer into our own platform (www.spektrix.com) and then provide it to all of our clients. We, like you, run a Software as a Service platform. We do feature releases every 8 to 10 weeks, however we always perform these upgrades overnight, between the hours of midnight and 6am (or to 8am at the very latest). Would you not consider doing the same? I realise this may not work for some of your international clients, but my understanding is that your UK client base is still your largest by far.

    I will wait to hear from you before we inform our clients about the down time in the hope that you will be able to reschedule it for a more convenient time.

    Feel free to give me a ring if you would like to discuss - 020 7785 6967.

    Many thanks,

    Michael

  • Avatar

    Hi Michael,

    You're right in that overnight is a quieter period, however the window of opportunity overnight is only about four hours, as the morning peak which is our busiest time of day starts again just before 0530. For this work there will be a continued period of monitoring after the upgrade, as such a longer wait before the morning peak will allow us to identify any issues.

    Typically our weekly feature upgrades happen on a Wednesday night, these taking place with no downtime. Exceptional upgrades such as this usually taken place on a Saturday afternoon, as this gives us the longest window of opportunity for complex work (and Saturdays are generally quieter than Sundays); however such upgrades happen less than once a year. Usage of the application is changing to be more global, and from bulk sends to be more transactional; so with each upgrade we will evaluate the most appropriate time. Thanks for the feedback though, we will take it into consideration when planning the next upgrade.

    It's possible that you may be able to arrange special terms with regards uptime and notifications; however as these affect all our users, special cases are rare. Your account manager would be the first port of call for this; if you don't have a direct dial for him/her, you can call through on 0845 337 9170.

    Regards,

    Stoo

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