Cloudflare have us over a barrel

Due to the nature of script kiddies (someone with limited knowledge of hacking using bots/scripts/paid services to attack a host over the internet) being able to hire a devastating "DDOS" attack on a website, a service such as Cloudflare (CF) is required to help block attacks and keep the website safe.

Most website owners use CF, the free plan more than adequate to protect from attacks. Unfortunately we wanted more protection over our website so have used the Pro plan at $20 per month for the last 18 months. Believing the extra features would benefit our site in case of problem (mainly the ability for CF to load our website from a backup) and after paying some $300+ to CF, we found that this feature did not work yesterday!

Part of this problem was that Cloudflare use their own SSL certificates (instead of ours which are valid for 540+ days), and yesterday even this multi-million dollar company displayed problems and took us down with it. For some reason loading out of date (Cloudflare SSL) certificates when trying to load our website from a backup server.

 

 

There is an option in Cloudflare to use our own SSL certificate instead of theirs, but to use this feature we'd have to pay Cloudflare $200 per month!

We could look for an alternative to CF but no doubt there would be new issues to face after switching elsewhere.

 

Unless we paid another £1000+ per month (plus £2500 on computer hardware) for a clone setup in a different location using completely separate everything (internet provider connected to a different phone exchange, video server providers, webservers etc) there are single points of failure beyond our control and out of our hands.

 

Reliability issues?

Unfortunately each aspect of this project means many possibilities for problems. Local computers, local TV signal, local internet line, local electricity, remote video servers, website programming, security updates, webserver, Cloudflare(!) etc.

With 20 minutes video downtime during the England v New Zealand game (nice timing, less than 0.003% chance of this happening, 20 minutes out of 1 year+ of uptime!?) perhaps fresh in some people's memories (a fault on the BT network nearby, resolved within 24 hours - should have been 4 hours as we pay so much), now this fault with a WordPress update (WP is used by 75,000,000 websites) not installing correctly and then Cloudflare dropping the ball when switching to backup version of the website. It might look like we are unreliable but:

Stream uptime is actually over 99.98%!  Other than the 1-2 hour downtime in the last 16 months or so (20 mins mentioned +1 hour in January), the streams themselves are extremely reliable (they automatically restart every few days but this takes seconds, and some of the less popular channels need manual restart on occasion).

In January one computer had an issue but I transferred the channels to another computer within an hour or so. Talking of odds: I was out of the UK at this time. Everything had been perfect for months so I thought I could get a short break but the universe had other ideas. One computer (out of four) in the UK developed a fault, I logged in remotely to resolve it when at this very time the entire internet went down in the town I was at, no mobile signal, no internet in my hotel, no internet in bars or restaurants. This lasted for 1 hour, you calculate the odds. 1 hour out of a year uptime? Under 0.01%.....the chance of a computer breaking at home during this time? Astronomical!

And yes some of you might have been affect by our own SSL issues in May, after our 12 month anniversary our  SSL certificate expired and we missed renewal notifications (email must have gone to spam and been missed), causing a few hours of website issues for some users while a new certificate was issued, but the streams were still working and we have since renewed for 2 years and moved SSL provider to the same as our domain name so everything is in one place.

So on that note:

What options are there if the website was ever offline again?

Use a VPN and connect directly to the BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub websites (All4, My5, UKTV Play, etc). We can offer discounts for vpn-uk.co.uk or you can hold on for a few weeks as VPN access will be bundled in with British TV Club memberships (this option will be easiest so you don't have to remember 2 different website logins). We already have users testing and it has been working fine for a few months. yes we mentioned this ages ago but recently got side tracked with the IPTV server.

Using an IPTV box. If it wasn't for the downtime yesterday I would have been working on the members database linking with the IPTV server.  So you can log in on your IPTV box and watch our channels without going via the website. More on this very soon. In the meantime consider buying a "Formuler Z8 IPTV box" so it arrives in time when we can provide details on how to connect to our IPTV server. I highly recommend the Z8 as the developers are improving it all the time.
If you can't afford a Z8 then look on Ebay for Z7 or Z7+ or also working very well is "Dreamlink Dlite" IPTV box.  Timeshift, recordings work great (requires a USB memory stick).

The VPN is the best option for resilience. If our internet line had a fault then the channels would be offline on the website and the IPTV server. The VPN server is separate, and you would get the channels direct from the BBC / ITV website etc.

Failing that, watch some stuff on Youtube! There is a lot more on there than people might realise, full length documentaries, old TV programmes, all sorts. What are your interests?

Unfortunately I don't think there is anything in life which is guaranteed to work forever and not develop faults. Cars, washing machines, computers, electricity supply, etc. Even the biggest companies can have issues!

22 comments

I have found your service excellent and yesterday was the first time I was unable to log in and watch the tv channels. I have found your service so reliable so I realized immediately there was a technical issue. Although I unfortunately don’t understand your technical explanations I do thank you for taking the time to explain it all. I do hope you are able to resolve the issue and we can return to normal soon.

I did send an email to you but not as a complaint. It was probably around 2pm and was only to check if you were aware of a developing problem. Just as you mentioned I checked into youtube and caught up with a whole load of stuff I’d been meaning to watch.
I think that you are doing a brilliant job and just feel grateful for that! Keep up the good work and thank you again.

i think your efforts to keep our streams working with very few issues are remarkable and i appreciate using this service every day. it makes watching british tv so much easier. many thanks.

nice to know what happened unfortunatly i know just what you mean i generate all my own power and run dvrs over the net here in a remote field in spain all works fine for months head back to england and a mouse nips in chews a cable trips the inverter always something you dont expect waiting round the corner but i apprecite what you do its not easy and your not a major player with unlimited funds so the odd outage is to be expected but of the few i have exepirenced you have been on the ball and thats what counts but hell its good to have british tv in the middle of a field in spain so keep up the good work just wish my spanish internet was as good regards gary

I like others used email to advise I experienced this problem, I assume you have received countless complaints, which I consider harsh when there are are only 2 bodies managing the service. I can live without TV for at least a few hours during the afternoon. I’m quite happy since migrating from Robs TV site and have no complaints.
My work network suffers more outages than your site 🙂 so props to you 2 for keeping things running.

No complaints at all. I`m just beeing really grateful for your great work, giving me the opportunity to watch British TV in Austria. Best regards and thanks a lot!

Thank you , you do a great job. You responded immediately by email when I informed you of a problem. I wondered if it was a localised thing at the time but thought you needed to know the nature of the warning that flashed up . Your Explanation is perfectly understandable and I’m just grateful you managed to get back and running so quickly, it’s always a problem when relying on 3rd parties .
I think anyone who was rude to you or ungrateful should be just expelled. There is never a good reason fir abusive rude behaviour . Thanks again
Jammie from Greece

I can’t thank you enough for your excellent service – and when I’ve had the slightest complaint, you have sorted it out immediately -we have a lot of problems here in Cyprus – certain videos can’t be seen here, and obviously we can’t get UKTV Play – but as you suggested, went on to U Tube and AFDAH yesterday, and thoroughly enjoyed it, until you came back on line again – once again – thank you so much for everything x

I did notice that your service was acting up yesterday but as one of your VPN testers it was easy to just go online and use the web based channels. Admittedly I don’t have access to all the channels (I don’t know all the web addresses) but some TV is much better than none. I would highly recommend ALL users to use the VPN when it becomes available. Its painless and very dependable and most of the popular channels are available if you use the VPN. I know what it takes to operate, run and maintain a “public service” which is what I class BTVC. A lot of heart ache and stress is involved and in my case a lot of sleepless nights trying to keep a service going. So more power to your elbow carry on doing what your doing and don’t let the buggers grind you down
Thanks for your efforts
Chris & Jackie from Cyprus

Just a few lines to say thank you for all your efforts in keping BTVC on line.
It is very much appreciated by many, the odd glitches and periods of downtime are nothing compared to the hours of un-interrupted streaming you bring to us.
As we live in a very poor receiption area with horrendous ping of 900+ at times, your site is a lifeline to us.
Thank you again,
Chris & Les (Corfu)

I too think you are providing an exemplary service and shouldn’t have to put up with rude or arrogant comments for problems out of your control. Please do keep up the good work 🙂

Yes i too would like to congratulate you on your constant upkeep of your excellent service. Everything break’s down once in a while but you have to be patient in the knowledge that someone is trying to fix the problem. I’m sure that the complaints are from people who can’t bear the thought of not having a tv picture. To them i say, talk to your other half or play cards

been so happy with your service since finding you, I’m just grateful you’re about and an odd problem with technical stuff is going to happen now and again. Thanks for the hard work.

Hello to all my dear friends from Robs it is nice to see you all again. I would like to thank the adinistrators of BTV Club for the great service they are providing for us. And when something like this happenes for one day there is always something else to watch youtube has a lot of tv series douentaries classic movies cartoons game shows and you can always chat vith us on Robs.

ohmygosh, I didn’t know this feature of chat was still available. hello to all from Rob’s! you cross my mind from time to time and hope y’all are well. (also, I have no complaints about the outage yesterday–it’s life, it happens)

happy there is a place to give positive feedback to all the hard work youv’e been doing in the last couple of year

hoping we can continue to enjoy it for many more to come

keep up the good work

🙂

sorry to hear you have been getting abuse from a few morons,just get rid of them,i think you have done a good job,im in netherlands and dont have much trouble,the invalid cert prob yesterday took me off for a few hrs,stuff happens,its life,i have been lookin at Formuler Z8 IPTV box,,im no good with tec,it says there a itvp code to put in it,before i buy box is this number something i get from you,or ziggo,my ip,,its 138.00 euro,so if someone can post answer,id be gratefull,keep up the good work

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