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Errors with .htaccess : Site Down with 403 Forbidden Errors


It is well known that .htaccess file largely controls the way your server responds to queries. While traveling across cities I checked my site to find 403 Forbidden errors on all pages. Upon checking my email I was surprised to receive a message from Dreamhost support notifying me that Googlebot isn’t working properly with my sites and they just blocked it via .htaccess for me and the load on the server is dropping to normal. I thank you all for the concerned emails readers sent and I explain how I fixed the issue.

The hourly statistics (which I use to track my site downtime) revealed that the site was down for the last 15 hours. I sent out several support messages to Dreamhost notifying them that they had created some misconfiguration of the .htaccess file.

Learning from the experience when my site was down for 36 Hours last time, and I myself had to fix the Internal Server Errors; I decided that waiting for a response and possible fix would take several more hours. Since the entire site as well as the WordPress admin was down, the only way I could access the .htaccess file was to download it. Maybe I could fix it and get my site up myself…

How I fixed site .htaccess error

Since I was away from my home computer, I needed to get an FTP client fast. I quickly downloaded my favorite FTP software Filezilla. I downloaded the latest Filezilla 3 Beta, installed it on the local computer, logged in to my webhosting, but the .htaccess file was nowhere to be found. I realized that since .htaccess is a hidden file, you needed to enable Filezilla to show hidden files. But the option was nowhere to be found.

Then I realized I should have downloaded the Filezilla 2.2.3.2 (the regular full version, after all beta’s are still in testing). So I uninstalled Filezilla 3 Beta (I still do not know why they have removed the option to show hidden files in the beta), and installed the current version Filezilla 2.2.3.2, logging in via FTP, found the option to “show hidden files“, found the .htaccess in the root folder and downloaded it

I opened the file in wordpad and found this
<Limit GET HEAD POST>
order allow,deny
deny from 66.249
</LIMIT>

Obviously that was what was blocking the site. Since I had never edited my .htaccess earlier, I deleted all that text, saved the blank file and replaced it on the server. And the site went live instantly.

htaccess errors

Dreamhost has promised better webhosting this year and to err is human, so I guess it is an isolated case. At least they let me know they were tweaking the .htaccess file, and not disabling my site (which I suppose most other webhosts would do) and they *do* respond to feedback.

NOTE: This is my personal experience of how I fixed my .htaccess error. I am no professional expert for managing this issue. If you have no idea about how this works, seek professional support. I am not responsible for any errors you many commit following my experience.

Update: Dreamhost support has apologized saying it was an error on their part. As I said they are genuine guys and incidents do happen with anyone. However, they have configured my .htaccess again to block Google (I hope this is temporary!), to keep the server running (rather than disabling the site; Thank you). Here is what the .htaccess looks like now.
<Limit GET HEAD POST>
order deny,allow
deny from 66.249
</LIMIT>

It was another learning experience for me and I still recommend Dreamhost. So incase you missed the blog for those 15 hours, do check out the site again.

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