Stoney has a relatively hands-off policy regarding what the team blogs about on (EMP). Occasionally he’ll give us some general direction or guidance (Titles, people! It’s all about titles!!!) and he tell us to always keep it relevant to business and marketing, but other than that we pretty much have free reign. And while he doesn’t like to write negative posts about other small businesses, he’s never specifically said we can’t, so I’m going to vent a little and, well, if a particular local web hosting company gets in the way, that’ll be their problem, not mine.
Some of you may have noticed that our CodeMonitor tool has not been working properly for several weeks (actually it’s been over a few months now!). A while back we started having some issues with our web host. At the time, it was on the same account (1and1 Hosting) as our client reporting suite, task management system and this blog. Our site’s started going down periodically and the customer support we received was less than stellar.
We decided to move to another web host company and took the recommendation of an office employee (I won’t mention hisname) and set up an account with a local provider called Loopshit Loopshot.
Now before I get to complaining about Loopshot we have to admit our mistakes. We didn’t do our due diligence and research the company. Stoney is notorious for finding every piece of crap web host provider there is and signing up with them. Not on purpose, mind you, it’s just a curse he has… which ties nicely into his extreme impatience and lack of researching skills. But Loopshot looked good once we read this:
Loopshot has an incredible amount of bandwidth available for various high-demand uses including streaming audio/video, high-volume mailing lists, and of course, your web presence.
We have multiple DS-3 connections from our servers to the global network. Each DS-3 is capable of a 45Mbit/s transfer rate, which is comparable to 28 T-1 lines, (or 672 phone lines). Furthermore, our servers are capable of bursting up to 100Mbit/s. If still more bandwidth is needed, we can build out a cluster of web servers using hardware load-balancing switch technology, and in addition, we know how to deal with the advanced issues of server clustering such as session-persistence and packet priority.
If yours or one of your client’s sites became the next Yahoo!, could your current provider scale up to several millions of hits per month? We can, and we want to be your web hosting partner.
We took them at their word. Now again, a little background. We track client page views by placing a tracking code on their pages. That code creates a hit on our server which, at times can be quite significant. This is what caused the problems at 1and1. But we moved over to Loopshot knowing full well we would never need as much bandwidth or server load as Yahoo! Even at a cheap rate we figured they’d be able to handle our needs as they arose.
Red flags immediately started going up as we were trying to get our client management and task system set up on the Loopshot servers. We needed some information to connect to the new databases and we were told that those who could help us were out of town for a week. Huh? Really? There is nobody else there qualified to manage a web hosting account?
We should have dropped them right then and went elsewhere, but despite our better judgment we continued on. More red flags popped up as we corresponded with tech support. We’d get a a reply a few hours (yeah!) asking for clarification but then a week (boo!) would go by before simple yet important matters were attended to.
And then came the first server crash. It was down for almost an entire day. We placed several calls to Loopshot and got put to voice mail. Stoney also sent several emails, all of which went unanswered. The site came back up the next day but we still had not heard a peep. No apology, no explanation, no response. Just silence.
And then over the Thanksgiving holiday, it went down again. Sometime just after noon on the following Sunday. No one thought much of it, assuming it would be back up in a couple of hours. Concern grew as evening came and the site was still down.
Sure enough, the next morning we all come to work and Stoney tells us that we have no access to our tasks. Heck, I’m a list kind of guy so when I don’t have access to my tasks I just don’t know what to do. Lucky for me, we have a pool table to occupy our time.
Stoney had called Loopshot at 6am and actually reached a real live human being. He informed then that not only was our site down but their site was down too! Loopshot said that they had received no notifications that there were any downage issues but that they would look into it and get back to us. Hmmm, their own site goes down and they didn’t get any kind of notification. Scary.
About 30 minutes later an email came in stating that our site was crashing their server.
As you have seen, we’ve been experiencing availability problems lately and unfortunately it is due to the amount of load that polepositionweb.com is putting on our servers. I have been running diagnostics on our servers this morning and your domain has been pushing our web server into loads of 33+ when it typically runs at 0.13. I’m not sure if it’s your clients’ increased load for the holiday season or what, but your traffic is bringing down the entire web server.
Do any of you reading this know what 33+ means? I certainly don’t. But, OK, I get the gist. We’re overloading their servers. It’s more than they can handle. Are we driving enough traffic to put Yahoo to shame? No, I don’t think so. But the email goes on…
According to our acceptable use policy, if you are in the top 5% usage of all clients on our shared hosting plan, we have the right to request you move to a dedicated or managed server. Otherwise we will be happy to refund you the remaining balance of your hosting plan and
assist you in finding another hosting company.
At this point our site was still down, but like magic, Loopshot.com was up and running again. Stoney replied to the above email within 20 minutes of receiving it:
Can we get the site up and running until we can find a suitable web host?
And then about five minutes after that:
If you have to move me to a dedicated server to get my site up and running then please do so immediately. Do we need to make any changes on our end?
And then again, 45 minutes later:
Please respond! I need to get my site up and working ASAP. Move me to a dedicated host if you have to, but I need immediate access. Again, please respond to this request.
Having made several calls, leaving several messages and still not hearing back, two hours later Stoney emailed again:
It has been over three hours since I informed you of the issues with my site and it’s still not working. My calls and emails are going unreturned. This is the absolute worst customer service I’ve experienced in a web host. I have given you permission to put me on a dedicated box yet we still cannot access the site. Please let me know what else I need to do to get my site up and running.
Another two hours and a 20 minutes passed (and several more calls and voicemails to Loopshot) and we finally got a response:
I’m sorry for your frustrations. We will be happy to put you on a
dedicated host after we receive an updated service agreement from you. Do you want to go ahead at $199/mo? I’ll e-mail over the agreement promptly if you want to move forward with this.
I’m sorry, did I miss something. Hadn’t we ALREADY requested that the move us to a dedicated server? Is he now again asking if that’s what we want to do? Of course it is. But OK, I get the need for confirmation and clarification, but why not send the contract with THIS email so we can get the process moving?
Within ten minutes Stoney had responded:
YES. Whatever I have to do to get my site up *immediately*.
Can you believe that we got the contract promptly? No? Where is your faith? Well, we didn’t. Six more hours pass and still we have heard nothing. No contract, no returned calls. Nothing at all. So Stoney sends yet another email:
Where is the contract? What happened to sending it promptly? Please, I need to get my site back up. Here we are 12 hours after I gave you permission to charge me $199 for a dedicated hosting plan and the site is still down. I need my site up and running no later than 6am tomorrow morning. You have my permission, I’ll be happy to sign a contract, just please get my site up.
The next morning we all come to work hoping that we’ll have tasks. No such luck. However, Stoney did receive another email from Loopshot:
I understand your urgency. We brought up a server for you this afternoon but we did not feel confident in the reliability of the hard drive so we will be installing a new hard drive tomorrow on your dedicated server and reinstalling the OS. Once it’s up we will e- mail you and [programmer] to get everything up and running.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this will happen before 6:00a, but we will do it as quickly as we can.
If this is unacceptable, I have made your entire site and database available for download and sent [programmer] the link to get it. We would certainly like to retain you as a customer but if you must move, you’ll have the flexibility to do so.
That email was timed at 1:30 am. By 8am, the site was still not up and Stoney sent out another email:
Can I get an ETA on when to expect the site to be up and running? It’s been over 24 hours since you were notified of this problem and given permission to charge us for a dedicated server.
It wasn’t until 3:50 PM that we received a response:
Your new dedicated server is up and available. Please sign and fax back the attached service agreement.
By this time we had already set up an account with a new host (Pair) which hosts our Pole Position Marketing site. We upgraded the account to handle the traffic load and uploaded the database. While Loopshot got us set up to go on a new server, amazingly they did NOT transfer our files over. So our site was STILL not working. Fortunately, within a few hours we were up and running on a new server with a brand new web host. And the best thing of all is that Pair actually answers their phones and returns emails. We had several issues and questions and they were quick to reply and get us the information we needed, all while waiting for the most basic of responses from Loopshot.
So what makes Loopshot the worst web host ever? Really, really crappy customer service. Honestly, we understand the downtime, especially if we were causing a drain on their servers. But then, they did kind of set themselves up for that with their sales material. But the worst part it, and this is the unforgivable part, is that they would not return calls or emails in a timely manner. I don’t know on what planet that the word “prompt” means “six hours later”. Not since the web was invented at least.
So Reno beware. While they guys at Loopshot are nice, and for that reason I don’t like calling them out, but nice is no substitute for quality customer service. I shouldn’t have to pay extra to get emails and phone calls returned, especially when our site has been down for 36 hours. That’s just nonsense.