More web hosting thoughts

I learnt early on that you get what you pay for, and web hosting is no different than any other good or service. There was a time when $3 – $6 a month got you a pretty good deal as the explosion in hosting services was happening, but as with all services that are shared, the only way the economics work out is to over subscribe.

The same happens with internet service (if everybody downloads at full speed at the same time, the “promised” throughput will fail miserably) and with hosting.

Usually, you either suck it up and deal with glacial response from massively shared mysql servers, or someone destroying the IOPS on the SAN, or you move to a provider that isn’t a dirtbag, and you pay more for that service.

Of course, if you have done that, and you get long downtimes and poor support, well, you moved once.

Last week and a half were trouble for my web properties. The hosting I used, a VPS on A Small Orange was part of a lengthy and poorly handled downtime. Staring around X-mas eve, and continuing through to the 3rd of January, their VPS services were hosed. Hosed bad. Like can’t ping, no network route, and the brief flashes where I could ping, the storage was offline, so that my websites were down.

Down hard.

Like thousands of their clients (or soon to be ex-clients) I dropped support tickets. They were ignored.

Also like thousands of their clients, I requested a live-chat support contact. After 4 hours of waiting in their queue, I gave up.

My VPS *finally* came up mid morning on the 2nd, and I quickly began the move, getting all my important sites off them, and trying to untangle my online persona from them. I feel lucky, as I was only down two and a half days…

Then last night, I get this message from their “Escalation Manager” (uh, yeah, I believe that – poor dude probably was the sacrificial lamb):

Hello,

My name is Michael xxxx, and I’m a Manager here at A Small Orange. I wanted to reach out to you via this ticket with an update, and let you know where we stand on the outage that has affected your services.

As of 7PM EST on 1/2/16, we are glad to report that the vast majority of services have been restored to a fully operational status. We are aware of some that are still encountering problems, and we are working to resolve those as quickly as we can. If your VPS is one that is still affected by this outage, please refer to our ongoing status updates at this URL:

[ https://status.asmallorange.com/?id=599 ]

You may also respond to this ticket if you have questions that are not covered by the Status post, but responses will likely be delayed while we address each inquiry individually.

We know that you’ve come to expect a far greater level of service from A Small Orange, and in this instance we have failed to meet your expectations. We’d like to convey our sincere apology for the unprecedented downtime during this outage. We appreciate your sticking with us during this time, and we are working hard to avoid such problems in the future.

Michael xxxx
Escalated Support Manager
asmallorange.com

Clearly a form letter, as both my tickets had the exact same verbiage. Not that I blame them, there was probably a few thousand that needed to go out.

I am lucky, I don’t make my living with their services. I am a hobbyist, and do it for fun, grins and giggles. But from reading the threads on twitter from their customers, and their facebook page, it is clear that a lot of people who do make their living with their hosting were not so fortunate.

Here’s a case where I didn’t go cheap, I bought a self managed VPS, at a cost of $400 a year, and for the traffic volume I generate, it is overkill, but to get access to the better service, and the more attentive support team, it was worth it to me.

Of course, A Small Orange has faltered. But, poking at it, they are part of this massive holding company, Endurance International Group, who if you google a bit, you will find plenty of ammunition to hate them and what they do/how they do it.

They buy up hosting companies, and strip the support out of them, to build a bigger and bigger presence, and universally, these companies they bought will have an outage, something that in their original configuration would have handled it with aplomb, but is now a major fiasco.

While they don’t anywhere “list” their holding completely (you can find it by searching), here is their marque of top brands (that you want to avoid – note A Small Orange is prominent.)

Many will leave, but often they have to rehome to a (you guessed it) EIG site. The number of quality services that are independent is shrinking. Perhaps one day we will all be on EIG or go to Amazon AWS (many people griping on Twitter during this did go to AWS).

Sucks.