It’s all about the communication

January 21, 2011

Here’s a story for you:

Once upon a time there was a man who bought some hosting. He bought it because he liked the flexibility, freedom and functionality that it offered. He bought it knowing that it was cheap, and that cheap sometimes means compromise: he did this because he isn’t terribly rich, and decided that the risk was acceptable.

The man was happy with his hosting until one day he happened to head over to one of his sites only to find it was down. He tried another of his sites, then another. Also down. He went online to the support site and tried to raise a ticket – nothing worked in the browsers he tried. He emailed Support. They got back and told him there were “some problems”.

Now, 48 hours later, despite repeated emails to Support the only additional information he got was a link to a page showing a [very slow] “bare metal” install (whatever that is) of the offending server.  His sites remain broken. Man becomes increasingly pissed off.

You’ll obviously recognise that the man in question is me. The host in question is http://www.wpwebhost.com/. You’d probably guess that I’m pissed off because my sites are all down.

As it happens, you’re totally wrong about that – I understand that bad shit happens to servers, and I understand that I get a good service from these guys, most of the time.

The thing that has really pissed me off is this: the abysmal communication I’ve had from them about the issue:

  • I had to find out about this on my own. I haven’t had a single communication from WPWebHost letting me know that my hosting is borked. Presumably this means that they have a number of clients who are still – 2 days later – unaware that their sites are down
  • When I did email Support, I also raised the issue that you can’t use the website support portal to raise a ticket – and even sent them a screengrab explaining the problem. Nothing back, just a stock “sorry for the inconvenience, please see this status link” email
  • I’ve repeatedly emailed asking them for ANY kind of ETA – in this instance I have a site with some time-critical stuff on it and making the “bugger, let’s switch DNS and hosting” decision could have been made had I known that 48 hours later things would still be broken.
  • As of time of writing, the @wpwebhost Twitter account also hasn’t been updated since 12th January – not a peep about the current issue

Actually, for the most part this isn’t abysmal communication – it’s NO communication.

So now I’m thinking – righto, I hate everything about switching hosts, but I’m really going to have to think quite hard about doing it.

The huge irony is this – if I’d had ONE proactive email from WPWebHost along these lines:

Hey, we’re really sorry but we’ve had a big fuckup on one of our machines. Your sites are affected. As of time of writing we estimate it’ll take 60 hours to get them back up and running. If you need help switching DNS during this time, please contact us and we’ll be pleased to help. Once again, accept our apologies.

…then I’d probably be much happier about sticking with them into the future.

This isn’t about the hosting. The hardcore geeks among you are already lining up to tell me how many backups, failovers and dynamic DNS switching tools I should have had at my disposal. I know all that, I took the risk. The point isn’t about the technology, it’s about the relationship they have with their customers.

This is 2011. In this world, the people who get this right are the ones who are honest with their customers, not those who try to ostrich problems. If WPWebHost turn around to me and say – “You know what, everything you had hosted with us here is lost” (here’s hoping not, but they’ve already failed with one install, and I’m a realistic kind of person..) – then I’d be in a much, much better mood to accept this if they’d been proactive in communicating the problems they’re having.

Get with the shit, guys.

4 thoughts on “It’s all about the communication

  1. Tweets that mention It’s all about the communication « electronic museum -- Topsy.com

  2. I started using WpWebHost in 2009 specifically because of their pricing for WPMU hosting. My “network” of blogs had grown big enough that it was time intensive to go into each one every time something had to be updated and WPMU solved that issue by allowing me to only have to do these upgrades once. Since I’ve signed up, this is the first major technical problem I’ve had (I’m guessing my sites were down for at least 20 hours). But like you, I hit a wall with their practically nonexistent support system. I used their live chat system to connect with a support agent. The agent directed me to a link at their “news” site (which I didn’t even know existed). This site explained the maintenance that they were doing and it also provided a completion status so far (52%). It didn’t provide an ETA for when the job would be finished.

    Like you, I’m perturbed that they didn’t proactively contact me and let me know about this. I’m also concerned about their lack of a support panel. WpWebHost is the fourth shared hosting company I’ve used. And I’ve experienced similar stints of downtime with most of them. But I’ve never had as much trouble with tech support with any of the others as I’ve had with WpWebHost.

    It’s times like these that make me wonder if the convenience of WpWebHost’s WPMU hosting is really worth it.

  3. Thanks for commenting, Shawn. It sounds like your experiences mirror mine almost entirely – including the reasons for selecting WPWebHost in the first place.

    I’d like to think that they monitor the web for posts like this and might get back with their perspective, but realistically I suspect they don’t.

    Maybe one day companies like this will realise that going an extra 5% is what makes the difference between an ok service and an excellent one…

  4. Funny, I thought I was reading about my own case, to a point. My server also goes down, much more often than it should, is obviously cheap, but the communication is something that keeps me there. Maybe that’s more important than IT skills.

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