The pitfalls of moving hosting services. The bad then the good

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You don’t always have to go with the big guys when it comes to a webhosting company for your blog.

A recent experience with moving this blog to a new webhost (and the reasons behind the change) has been the motivation for this post.

First – some background

I’ve had a website for a long time.

andrewgrill-registered

Back in Adelaide in 1994, the course I was studying (Master’s Degree in Information Technology & Telecommunications) was a brand new course designed to push the boundaries of standard education.

Way back then, we were taking lessons via tele-learning (video equipped classrooms linked by 384MB/s ISDN), and we had our own office space and full access to the internet (Google had not been born yet).

Each University in the program provided a room big enough for 20 people with desks, office chairs, laser printers and PCs.

Also critically, all 20 students were provided with space on the university’s web server.

So, in 1994 I created my first website.

The cache of http://garlic.aitec.edu.au/~grill is now very hard to find, but I remember taking my first tentative steps with raw HTML code 18 years ago.

Yes, I’ve had a website for 18 years!

When I left University and moved to Sydney and worked for Telstra, I revamped it and moved it to Telstra shared hosting, registering www.andrewgrill.com in 1999.

See an archive.org snapshot of the site on 18th October 2000.

In 2001 I moved it to Webcentral.

Ahead my move from Sydney to London, in 2006 I moved the whole site and email to Fasthosts.

The reason for each of these moves was that I was just not satisfied with the webhost I was with. They were either too slow, or had appalling customer service, or uncompetitive pricing.

It was a couple of years before I contemplated another move as I was becoming frustrated with the slow server speeds and poor customer service from Fasthosts.

Tip for them – if you are going to offshore your customer service, use proper PSTN lines rather than VoIP so we can actually hear them!!

I remember sitting in my local Starbucks in June 2010 researching my options.  Confused with the myriad of choices – I simply asked twitter.

Within 15 minutes I had 5 recommendations – 2 of them were for Hostgator.

So for the last 2 years I have been with Hostgator and have been quite happy. I chose one of their standard shared hosting plans, and while this has been fine for the blog until now, I really wanted to take the hosting up a notch without going for a dedicated server.

I just cannot justify the cost of a dedicated server when blogging is a hobby and I receive no revenue from the site.

I decided that a Virtual Private Server (VPS) was a good halfway house between shared hosting and a dedicated server.

Hostgator do offer a VPS option, however the cheaper options require you to manage the sever manually (ie no cPanel option).

As I am not a full server geek, I need the comfort of a cPanel as I have enjoyed with Hostgator.

I researched the internet and came across VPS.net as an alternative.  They had a quite reasonable £13/month option so I signed up (month-by-month so nothing to lose).

I expected the process to be straightforward, so I signed up on a Saturday just before taking Madeleine to a 6th birthday party.

I took the iPad with me to relieve boredom, and expected that I would receive signup details and be able to use what I had paid for almost immediately..

I was wrong.

I entered my credit card details etc – then waited for the next step.  Here in order is what happened.

  1. Email validation. No big deal – passed this one

  2. Told the account was set up and tried to log in.

  3. Could not log in.

  4. Emailed their support team (who were very responsive) – and received this reply:

Sorry for the problem. There appears to have been an error when you signed up. I will need to create your account manually for you. Please provide me with the information attached to the screenshot.

You will need to use a different Email address to signup this time.

  1. Supplied all the details – and waited.

  2. Received this message “I am going to move this to our Level 2 support team for further checking.”

  3. then, this..

We have got a lot emails about this error today but we can not fix this error now.
We’ll notify our Developers about your request but they will be on monday.
Could you update this ticket on monday at 08:00 AM?
We are sorry for inconvenience.

You’ve got to be joking – is it 3pm on a Saturday and I have to wait until Monday to use your service?

I had apparently (checking with others on twitter) hit their fraud trigger (signing up on a weekend?) and was told

Your account is invalidation queue and you can only login once they have been validated by the sales / billing team.
Thanks.

At this point I thought I’d been had, and I remembered on the welcome email I received the GM’s email address – so I emailed him direct.

He fixed the problem – yay (but why did it take the GM’s intervention to properly on-board a new client?)

When signing up for my virtual server, I then got the domain wrong (my fault as I mis-typed londoncalling) and blew another £13 – something Russ kindly decided to refund.

So you can imagine I was pretty annoyed to have had to jump through all of these hoops just to have a VPS server configured.

I set the server up and from then onwards all was ok.

And with one tweet – I moved to @6sync

I did share my frustrations on twitter (where else) and caught the eye of Mario at 6Sync who tweeted:

@mdjanic @AndrewGrill why not take a look at us? I’m sure you will be impressed =)

So I did, and I was impressed.  More on their excellent on-boarding service and speed in my next post.

PS I picked the Kilo package with cPanel and backups.

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About 

Futurist Keynote Speaker and former IBM Global Managing Partner, Andrew is a popular and sought-after presenter and commentator on issues around digital disruption and emerging technologies. He is a multiple TEDx & International Keynote Speaker. Watch his speaking showreel here, enquire about availability & fees here.