My worst experience

My worst experience

My worst experience with a host

How it all began

It all started in September 2003 after experiencing some downtime (almost a day) with a host that I used. The trouble was not the downtime itself. I understand that some downtime will occur with any host. What bothered me was the fact that my emails and the trouble ticket I opened remained unanswered for about 3 days. Sure, my site was up by that time (the downtime was under 24 hours long), but I was very annoyed by the fact that my question was answered so late.

I had already spent quite a bit of time on hosting forums and I was rather aware which companies had a good reputation. Out of the companies that I felt to be OK I chose one (CredibleHost) and proposed them a deal: to host my website and I would place their ads on my website. So far so good.

Why did I choose that company?

I can't really remember why. It certainly seemed to be good choice. The fact that the owner (or one of them) was a woman might've had an influence. You know that in court women get shorter sentences. It's an idea that is somehow ingrained in people's minds: women are not as bad as men. The meanest people must be men! It might've been this idea that made me trust this company more than the others.

Mistakes in choosing them

One of the mistakes I made was not to pay a serious visit to their forums. I should've took a close look and see how they handled the problems and ask people if they felt that their particular problem was addressed properly. Was their problem solved? How long it took to get a resolution?

I was so keen to move that I couldn't think straight and be objective. All I really knew was that I had to move. I wanted to move!

The first sign of trouble (accepting the deal)

Things started with the wrong foot from the beginning. Why am I saying this? Because it took a rather long time to receive an answer from this company regarding my proposition. The invoked reason was that the two partners who own the company had to talk this through.

This would be easily understandable if we were talking about hosting a site with millions of visitors per month, one that would require lots of resources. That would in turn require some serious preparations on their part, but it wasn't the case. We were talking about a website that needed under 1MB of space and under 100MB of bandwidth/month. Why would this kind of website require 2 days of thought?

Other early warning signs

This early warning sign was aggravated by a mistake I made. I was so keen to move the site that I didn't take time to test the site in the new location. Stupid me! I knew better than this, but I just couldn't help myself.

I thought that any problems would easily be solved in the first 24 after changing the nameservers. With such a small site this wasn't an impossible target though.

Anyway, I changed the nameservers, but the site wasn't working on the new location. It gave a very strange error no matter which page I was trying to access. I notified them (on their forum) and the problem was acknowledged fast. One small good sign so far: the time of response was considerably low.

Time was however the enemy here. The nameservers were changed and it would only take hours before they would propagate. I was expecting them to figure out what was wrong. The lady answering my questions was baffled too. My website was the only one that wasn't working on that server.

We talked about moving the site to a different server which ran Ensim control panel. I was fond of and used to Cpanel, but what could I do?

I tried and tried on my own to find the cause of the error. The nameservers propagated by the time I finally found the source of the error: SSI didn't work on the server. Not that the mod_include module wasn't installed. SSI gave the error.

I used SSI to "include" the menu on each page. That was all. Luckily PHP was running OK so I used it to include the menu on the pages.

The thing that must be underlined is that I was the one who found the source of the error, not them. I told her about the SSI thing and the lady's answer was that yes, their Cpanel had an issue with SSI and they were aware of the problem. I informed her that I found that PHP workaround and I expressed my hope that the SSI issue would be soon solved.

Four months later SSI still wasn't working on that server. I guess I placed my hopes in the wrong place.

After this unsatisfying start I was already asking myself if I made the best choice with them. I even talked with my girlfriend about this and she encouraged me to move again. Next time I'll listen to her advice.

Confirmations of early warning signs

A few weeks have passed, things were running OK (except that SSI thing which I kept testing), and I almost felt ashamed for thinking about moving. I was content with the service (uptime I mean).

Then a new glitch: I downloaded from Cpanel the archive of raw logs to analyze it on my computer but the archive was all messed up. When I looked at it in Notepad, part of it was pure text. That's not how an archived file looks like.

I posted the problem on their support forum. To cut through the chase I will tell you that again I received an answer, but no solution. Not even a workaround. Luckily I managed to get the raw logs (in the non-archived form) by FTP. As I said, I received no solution, just a response. I had to find my own workaround again.

Sometime later the site experienced downtime for about a day. I sent an email and received a response that explained the reason. If I remember it right it was something about a DDOS attack. They can't be blamed for that one, but it would've been nice to be notified by email.

Then, about one month before the disaster, the server was hacked and all the index.htm files on the server were changed by the hackers. Fortunately I noticed this early enough and all I had to do was to I upload the index files.

By this time I was seriously considering moving, but since the holidays were near I decided to leave it for 2004. Big, BIG mistake!

The final straw

Usually the final straw is something minor that produces a big change in attitude. This time it was a major thing that produced a moderate change in my attitude.

On the 30th day of December 2003 I was trying to send an email when I noticed that the email service was down. I immediately tried to visit the site. It was down too!

Great! It was the best time! Right before New Year's Eve! You gotta love that timing. Anyway, I posted the problem on their forum. I received an answer that basically said the downtime will be over in about an hour. It was a maintenance related downtime. So far so good. I relaxed a bit.

Then, four hours later, I got worried again, as the website was still down. I asked again what was happening. No response until I left, on the 31st December for the New Year's Party. I had no access to the internet and I was away until the 2nd of January 2004. When I finally got back home, I checked my website. Down!

I asked again what was happening. As it happened before, the answer was basically worthless. I had mentioned my domain in the first post, but now she asked me to PM (personal message) her my domain. I did as she asked me to, although I lost almost all hope by this time.

She told me that the user account that I had (which contained dashes) was not accepted by Cpanel anymore and that she had to recreate the account. Then she asked me for a new username and password to use for the new account.

So imagine! Here I am with my website down for about 4 days now and while the site is down she asks me for a new username and password. I mean come on! Just create it!

Anyway! I gave her a new username and password. Then silence. I then asked her to point my site to it's new location at the new host (the site was still down).

She told me and I quote: "So you don't want me to re-create your account? I can't point it until it's re-created. Please advise. I can have site up and running in about 5 minutes I just need to recreate it. Please advise."

I changed the nameservers on the 5th and on the 6th of January the site was finally up at the new host.

I never lost my calm and I wasn't impolite for one second. I just kept asking for my account to be recreated. I never received replies to my last messages to her. Total lack of professionalism, that's all I can say. I never would've expected this.

Who's this company?

The company is CredibleHost.com. The lady that I talked is named Bonnie MacKenzie and she's rather well known in various hosting circles (like webhostingtalk.com for example). As I said, she and her company have a good reputation there. Why, I don't know. She is renowned at WHT for her fast replies some of which I experienced myself. However, the quality of the responses was totally inadequate. I can't say it was ever helpful, meaning I was never given an answer with a solution for the specific problem that I had. Also, the problems were on their side, not mine. It wasn't something about a script with certain requirements. It was always about something that wasn't working right on their server.

My thoughts about the company

I believe that the main reason for not having a good experience with this company was my hurry to move and my over enthusiastic approach. The company is - in my opinion - understaffed. Everything seems to be run by Bonnie and she either has not enough time to deal will all the things, or she has some time management problems or she's just postponing things hoping that they will solve themselves in time (which they never do).

I can't really complain about downtime excepting the time when the account was deleted /unusable from that server. This is in fact the reason why this has been the worst experience with a host for me so far. The site was down from 30th december till 5th of January.

The time to get a reply was OK, excepting the times when no reply was received. That happened with a few emails, but I know they had some problems with their email or something so they could've missed them.

The real issue is the lack of useful information and action. Almost nothing I asked for was solved. For example the SSI thing went on for as long as I stayed with them. The archived raw logs were OK after about a month.

What I completely don't understand is how on Earth could Bonnie keep stalling while my website was down. Again, I could understand a disaster, I could understand that it was New Years Eve and I didn't really expected them to do much at that time, but on the 3rd of January, on the 4th of January, to ask me if I want them to recreate my account is a bit too much! Too much!

What I learned and you should know too

First of all I learned to trust my instincts. If something smells fishy it probably is that way. Also I learned that it's always good have a back-up. I'm not talking about a site back-up, I'm talking about a back-up host that you can switch to if things get messy. Fortunately I had one and I switched to it: {jumi [includes/jumies/hgafflink.php]}.

Another thing that I learned is to switch hosts sooner rather than later if I notice that problems don't get solved. As time goes by, chances are that the problems will be more frequent and more complicated - you don't want to be there when that happens! I can certainly attest to that!

Finally, do what I recommend to do, not what I did! I certainly knew that I could do more to assess the quality of Crediblehost, but I was in too much of a hurry. Too bad for me. I should've looked more carefully into the problems that people posted.

What am I glad I never did?

Well, I'm glad I never posted CredibleHost in my list of Honest Hosts. I would've felt so bad right now! However, as I said, I had my doubts about them. My direct experience made me almost totally disregard the good reviews that I had read about them and that's why they never made it to the list.

According to what I recently read at WHT it seems that CredibleHost is currently having some problems (as I write this article 2004 had just started). I think I was unfortunate enough to move to CredibleHost at the moment when they started to outgrew their capacity to run things efficiently and stupid enough not to leave before things went completely weird.

PS. In the time that has passed since I wrote this page, Crediblehost has been bought by HostPC. I've never been able to visit their website directly. I suspect they ban IPs from certain countries, mine included.