Hostmonster hosting problems; downtime fun!

Posted by james on April 8, 2007

A while back I was up for renewal at my much loved older host (<a href="http://www.e-rice.net/">e-rice</a>, cheap and can't beat the service). I really loved their service; on average a few hours turnaround for email support, most issues fixed right away. They had some downtime, and a pretty firm no-upgrade rule (which is why I left... needed newer versions of PHP), but overall I still really like them. If you're just starting out, really look at those guys.

So I decided to upgrade to a bigger host. I ended up deciding on one of those too-good-to-be-true overseller hosts, <a href="http://www.hostmonster.com/">Hostmonster</a>. They offer ridiculous amounts of space (200gigs??) and lots of features (Ruby on Rails, in case I want to play with it... not many others had it). I knew it was a risk, but I decided to try anyway. They seemed really quick on service, offering phone, IM, and email support. It's been going good until the last month. I've had about a week of downtime, and I've had to contact tech support 4 times. The first time I was told that there was regular maintenance going on and that I should check back. "Can I get an email back when it's done?" "No." "Is there a way to get emailed when this is supposed to happen?" "You should have already gotten an email." Hmm .... So a few days later when my site is still down, I IM them again. I spend 20 minutes waiting for the guy to figure out the problem, and then give up. Next day, I contact them and they say it must be my site, my code. Yeah, right. I convince them to take another look, and they then escalate my problem to "level 2" support. Finally, I find out what was going on. They tried to upgrade the server, botched it up, then tried to downgrade back to what it was out. And botched that too. So now the site is back up, although they did say that they're still working on the server. I don't know if that is true.

What gets me is that they have a 99.9% uptime guarantee. That works out to 8.5 hours a year of downtime. 4 days (at a minimum!) of downtime is 11 times the "guaranteed" downtime. So now I wonder, how do I invoke that guarantee? How will I be compensated? And more to the point, how can I ensure that this wont be a regular occurrence?

If this does happen again, I'll most likely switch to my number 2 choice; <a href="http://www.godaddy.com/">GoDaddy</a>. They offer less space and features, but still a lot for the same price as Hostmonster, and I have more belief that they can actually support the numbers they claim (instead ofHostmonster's obvious overselling). I have my domain with GoDaddy which has worked out well (I used to register through <a href="http://www.registerfly.com/">RegisterFly</a> , which if you've ready anything lately would be a bad place to still do business with...). And now they have a few more features that seem to make it more worthwhile. The only bad thing would be that Hostmonster has near unlimited email size, while almost all other hosts have a 10mb limit. I really don't understand why they can't offer a bit more, especially in this age of big attachments. But with most things flowing through GMail (yes, I'm slowly becoming more of a fan), I suppose it doesn't matter.

We'll see where things go. But score: E-Rice 1, Hostmonster 0, GoDaddy TBD.