The Demise of NetherByte and the Portability of Worlds

On the bright side, with the previous bit of unpleasantness with NetherByte still relatively fresh in my brain, I had already started thinking about swapping Minecraft hosting services.

I was not, however, sure I would have to do it so soon.  And then a reader posted a link to an update about NetherByte that brought things to a head.  The announcement said:

Dear whomever this may concern,

NetherByte will be shutting down due to an unexpected issue with our CEO. Unfortunately there is no capability of continuing business.

Services will gradually shut down within the next 2-4 weeks and will not return.

If you have any concerns or queries please raise a ticket at https://netherbyte.com/billing/

Our TOS at https://netherbyte.com/tos may help answer any questions, please read before contacting us.

– NetherByte team.

Well, that escalated quickly.  My immense thanks go out to Onwuka for bringing this to my attention! (And if you chose NetherByte as a hosting based on my post, I do apologize profusely!)

You see, NetherByte wasn’t sending this out to their customers.  I certainly didn’t get this statement in email.  No, this is apparently their current response to any support tickets being opened up.

Basically, if you were a happy customer experiencing no problems, you wouldn’t have known a thing until NetherByte shut down and you lost all of your data.  This is not the behavior of a business in trouble, this is the behavior of assholes.

I won’t bother linking to the statement in the post  (though it is in Onwuka’s comment if you must see it first hand) as I suspect that link will be dead soon enough.

Meanwhile, the terms of service document to which the statement links has the following “get out of responsibility free” statement:

We reserve all rights to terminate your service upon any violation of these terms of service or for any other base if deemed needed and appropriate by us. Termination of your server before the end of your billing period does not qualify you to any kind of refund.

Screw you, but all official-like!  Six month hosting plan purchased in July, gone before October.

And, as an additional kick in the nuts, there is no date on the “we’re going out of business” statement.  So the whole thing is going down 2-4 weeks from when?

It was time to get the hell out of Dodge.

So I got on the server and kicked everybody off… well, Aaron offered to log off after I gave him the situation… brought the server down and backed everything up to my local drive.

Then, as that was copying, it was time to figure out where to jump.

I went back to the providers I had looked at when I first went the hosted server route and decided, after looking through them, that I was going to take the opposite approach.  I ended up with NetherByte because I went for the absolute cheapest solution available.  That was fine for a trial run and I learned quite a bit.  This time around I would go with a premium service.

The first thought was Minecraft Realms, the official Mojang (now Microsoft) hosting service.  The problem there is that their services are very limited. (And, also, Microsoft.)

So I went back to the list and decided to go with the service I highlighted in that post, MCPro Hosting.

MCPrologo-fullThey host a lot of big realms, their press is good, and the main complaint I have seen is just value for the money compared to budget hosting services.  So I went through their setup, told them what I wanted to run… vanilla Minecraft with a maximum of 20 players which, given that we have 5 active, 4 semi-active, and a couple potential players, seemed about right…  and let them pick the hosting plan for me.  Like Santa, they chose to give me coal.

Coal is what you get!

Coal is what you get!

We were running with 2GB at NetherByte, but that was on the assumption that would want to run some mods and such.  Knowing we are going to stick with vanilla Minecraft for the time being, going with less RAM seems okay.  Only my daughter is agitating for mods at this point.

Now we’re into monthly MMO subscription territory… as opposed to $22.50 for six months with NetherByte… but given that I haven’t been playing WoW for a bit, that is probably a fair price.  The server gets a lot of use.

So I click the button and committed to six months with MCPro Hosting… there was a price discount… and received the confirmation email right away.

Then it was time to get things setup.

I logged in and went to the hosting control panel… MCPro uses Multicraft for that, like everybody else… started a world so it would lay down all the files, then stopped it.  I then got the FTP credentials, logged in with WinSCP and renamed the key files and directories, the copied over the files and directories related to our world.

The copying of files was the longest part of the whole process.

Once that was done, I started up the server and logged in.

Everything seemed to be okay.  I went to the nether… all of our nether work had gone missing when I tried to restore our server after NetherByte wiped our partition… and that seemed to be fine as well.  All the usual structures were in place.

Some nether forts

Some of our nether infrastructure…

I sent out the new server address and got Skronk and Aaron to log on and look around.  Everything seemed fine.

So there we are.  We went back to work on things in the world, leaving NetherByte behind.

Now there is the question of what to do with the old server for the time it has left.  I thought about removing the whitelist restriction and posting the address here to let people have at it, but something about that seems wrong. (Though if you’re dying to see it, I could still hook you up I suppose, if you drop me an email.)  I might just let my daughter experiment with mods on it for a while and see what becomes of the world.   But for the moment it is down just to keep us from accidentally logging onto the wrong server and freaking out that something has gone missing.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of things I have to contend with.

I am going to try to simply ignore the fact that the control panel at MCPro says that we are using 100% of our memory allocation no matter what is going on.

One player shouldn't spike memory, right?

One player shouldn’t spike memory, right?

The IT person in the back of my brain is convinced that once you get beyond 50% of capacity you have to start planning to expand.  My gut response is to upgrade to 2GB RIGHT NOW… because that was what we had at NetherByte and I never saw the meter hit 100%.

However, we’re only a day into this, performance with three of us online together seemed fine, so I am just going to take a deep breath and leave it be unless we find that there is an issue.  I can upgrade at any time or swap over to Spigot, which as I noted previously, is supposed to be better at memory management.

I also suspect that the display is incorrect… or that I am not an expert on how the Minecraft server allocates memory… or both.  I am also leery of how much CPU we see to be using.  Sometimes I just shouldn’t be allowed to see these sorts of things.  I will only make changes if we seem to be running into performance issues.

I am also a little annoyed about the server backup scheme at MC Pro.

NetherByte didn’t do anything special on that front.  They let you use the Multicraft control panel scheduled tasks option to do a scheduled server backup if you wanted.  That would put everything in a .zip archive for you, which is handy if you want to download it regularly… and I was doing that.  They would only let you have three .zip archives on the server, but that was enough.

MCPro appears to have disabled that functionality in Multicraft.  I tried to setup up and it gets disabled when it tried to run.

Instead, MCPro has their own backup scheme and gives you 1GB of space for backups.  However, our world is already 522MB when compressed into a .zip archive, so I had to buy more space in order to have more than a single backup.

A further annoyance, is that the backup process is not automated, I have to go and press a button rather than having it run while we’re all logged off and asleep.   And I cannot access those backups directly.  So I cannot just have a script setup to download the latest backup to my local drive, which I find mildly annoying.

But I am going to try and take a deep breath and not worry too much about these things for now.  If we have problems, other hosts are available and I can always just copy the world uncompressed if required.

This, as I have said before, is why I don’t self-host the blog.  I would get wrapped up in the details of hosting rather than spewing out text on a daily basis.  (And still I find things to complain about on that front!)

Addendum: Actually, it looks like there is a way to .zip up everything and download it, but it isn’t automated and you have to use the web FTP client to do it.  Still not happy about that.

9 thoughts on “The Demise of NetherByte and the Portability of Worlds

  1. magnoz

    About 100% memory usage: Just a guess but since Minecraft is written in Java the virtual machine might only do garbage collection once memory gets scarce, thus always using all the memory it was given at startup.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @magnoz – I should have mentioned that the 100% memory thing was not the case with NetherByte. Using the same Multicraft meter, I could see memory usage fluctuate with users and what they were doing. I suspect it is just broken at MCPro.

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  3. Onwuka

    Glad you were able to get on and move your world someplace (hopefully) more stable. The loss of mine, while annoying, really isn’t that big a deal as I had only been playing with a friend for a couple of days before we were shut down – and we still don’t really know what we are doing.

    In spite of their “we owe you squat” policy, I opened a grievance with paypal and maybe I’ll get something back. But again, not that big a loss if I get nothing. An inexpensive life lesson that I seem to learn and unlearn repeatedly throughout life. The cheapest option generally sucks. It would not be accurate to say that I chose netherbyte ‘because’ of your post. More that I got interested in a multiplayer server reading your posts, and independently arrived at the same doomed decision as you.

    I signed up for another hosting service – provision host. I’m not an I.T. guy, so I don’t fully understand the differences under the hood, but their interface ‘feels’ better and is a bit more expensive. We started over with fingers crossed.

    After the initial annoyance, we did get a good laugh out of the whole thing. We had a good time speculating possible ‘unexpected issues’ that the ‘CEO’ might have gotten himself into.

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  4. corhi

    I and my small crew (8 people at maximum login) have been using MCProHosting since late February/early March (with an upgrade in July from the “Dirt” plan to the “Stone” one). The only time I haven’t seen the memory usage maxed was just after I’d had the world offline for a while in order to make a backup, and by 10 minutes later it was back to full-ish. At first it worried me, especially when we’d go off exploring in different directions and the server would lag and/or crash, but the plan upgrade seems to have fixed all of that.

    All of which to say–not that my view carries a lot of weight as nobody knows me from Adam, heh–I’ll second your choice of MCPH for anyone else looking for a server home (new or not). The server interface itself is very easy to work with (even if you’re a complete novice to FTP browser interfaces, as I am) and the few interactions I’ve had with their support team have been top-notch.

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  5. .xyd

    “This is not the behavior of a business in trouble, this is the behavior of assholes.”
    I couldn’t agree more with you there. It’s unfortunate their business is in trouble but they should minimally let their subscribers know The End Is Near. That’s only good, decent behavior.

    Now, that said, I was just playing with the Amazon EC2 calculator and it seems one can get a low-IO Windows VM for free. Free. That’s my favorite four-letter word. Hmm… https://aws.amazon.com/ec2/pricing/

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  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Oh, and if you go to the NetherByte web site, it still looks like you can setup a new account. I didn’t go through the whole process, so I would hope that they would block it… but I wouldn’t be surprised if they still took your money.

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  7. Misterio7

    I’m glad i found out about this before the “2-4 weeks”, they should have at least emailed us about it! I’m sad to see them go tho, the price was really good for the hardware they offered.
    But It’ll be a pain to migrate my VPS to another provider…

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  8. Onwuka

    Paypal “decided in my favor” and refunded the full amount I had paid netherbyte. A nominal amount of money, but still feels good to deny those jerks a free pizza on me.

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  9. Ozhav

    I was a bit too late, finding out about it only yesterday. I had invested months of work and not receiving an e-mail really made me frustrated. I did notice that the ddos protection was funky, but I thought it would go back up in a few hours. Seems its not the case. Honestly, if they sent us an email everything would be great, or better than the current situation.

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