Web hosting company accidentally deletes part of the internet while trying to clean up its servers

The firm hosts 1.7 million websites – many of which have been knocked offline since the weekend

A company accidentally deleted a large part of the internet while cleaning up its servers.

UK hosting company 123-reg, which hosts 1.7 million websites, has said that an error during maintenance of its systems had deleted many of its users’ files.

It remains unclear whether or not those websites will be restored and how many of the company’s users were hit.

But some users said that they had lost access to all of their files and websites after the “catastrophic error”.

“At 7am on Saturday morning someone at our hosting provider ran a script that had a catastrophic error in it,” software firm INNMaster wrote on its news site. “The result was that the script deleted the servers and websites of all their customers.”

The company said that it had its website backed up and so could – after some time – implement its disaster recovery plan. But a number of other companies do not appear to have had such safeguards in place and so may have lost access to their website.

The problems affected those customers that use 123-reg’s virtual private server (VPS) product. VPS allows people to host their websites on a company’s servers, rather than buying their own to store their pages and send them to users when they request them.

Since the weekend, 123-reg’s website has been updated with posts about the problems. One told users that if they have a local backup of their files they should use it, but didn’t give an update on how much data was being restored for those that didn’t.

123-reg said in a statement that it "would like to extend our apologies to affected customers and assure them that we are doing everything we can to restore their data as quickly as possible".

A representative of the company admitted that an error during maintenance work “effectively deleted” the contents of some of its servers. “"We can conclude that the issues faced have resulted in some data loss for some customers," the firm admitted to the BBC, saying that it had begun a “recovery process”.

The company said in an email to customers that it was now trying to copy recovered files onto new servers and that some websites would be restored overnight. It also confirmed that it would look over all of its automated scripts and make sure that websites couldn’t be deleted without human intervention in future.

The story mirrors that of another web host that became famous after saying he had deleted his entire company by accident last week. He has since claimed that his story was a hoax.

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