hosting services web

On servers, hosting and other things

Last weekend I was quite busy. Busy waiting. The main server went down some time around 10pm Thursday. At least that’s when we noticed. I went to our web hoster’s help desk to file the ticket, but the helpdesk was down too. So, it would seem, was the e-mail of the web hoster. Then I went to WebHostingTalk (WHT) – the popular forums, where most hosters and their direct clients hang out while datacenter reboots their servers.

The thread on the provider being down has already reached 4 pages when I joined in. Looked like all the servers managed by the same company went down. People were upset, angry and aggravated.

The guy who was answering my e-mails sounded very apologetic – little recourse knowing that our main site is down. Thankfully most of our clients were on another server, so they were only affected in a way that their communications with us was temporarily impeded.

Around 10:45 AM on Friday I found out that the issue seem to be at the data center, not the servers. Our web hoster informed me that they are changing providers. The reason was not, however, clearly communicated, although several people on forums had asked. I was assured that “we expect everything to be working today anytime soon”.

Knowing how annoying the e-mails could be when you really have nothing new to report, the next time I contacted the hoster was around 3:45 PM. Again, I was assured that “Some of our IPs are already up, your server should be up soon”. Future just looked a little brighter.

At 5:35 PM our hoster announced on WHT that most of the servers are up. However, none of the WHT members save one confirmed that. Their servers, as well as our, remained down. By 11:00 PM I inquired (on WHT) what servers have been brought up, so myself and other WHT members could see that the progress have been made. No response to that, though. Just regular “go back to your tickets, we’ll update you there”.

Saturday, 1:01 PM – another inquiry. The hoster replies that “we only have few machines down left, yours is one of them”. Great news! Not only I got in the game last, I’m about to leave the game last. However, by 3:45 PM hoster posts on WHT that there is another problem with some of the servers that refuse to boot. What happened to “you will be updated in your tickets”?

At 4:00 PM I am promised that “By midnight CST we should have your HDD in new hardware and sites online”. Great, it’s only 1:00 AM by EST, so I can cut on sleep again, tomorrow’s Sunday anyway. However, the server was up at around 4:00 AM with cPanel licenses and other minor things yet to be resolved. The whole thing seem operational as of Sunday, the e-mails started to come in and the rest of the dust eventually settled down.

Now, a bit of reflection. The team seems nice and the tickets are responded to properly. However, the constant lack of communication suggests that in critical cases like this one we will not be able to rely on the responses of the hoster’s team. A lot of questions went unanswered, for example – we still have no idea why hard drive from our server failed to boot in others. Why the system failed to boot at all in the first place. What was the reason the servers were down for more then 48 hours? And, ultimately, why have all these questions went unasnwered while they were asked? For example – I explicitly asked for the reason the system didn’t boot three times – and all three times my question was ignored.

By this time the quality of service doesn’t matter much, as well as price and server features. You can get roughly same deal from various hosters, give or take. What matters – is the quality of communication, the quality of customer service, the responsiveness of the whole team – server admins, customer service reps, techicians and even billing. So I don’t even count the past events, I am not saying I am upset because I had to ask for root password 4 times because they kept changing it right after I asked. I am not saying I am upset because I have found several high-traffic web sites left on my server, although it was supposed to be clean install. What I am upset about is that people I trusted with my client’s data and services failed to deliver up to the promise – several times. This – not the downtime – is the reason for leaving.

music sales services technology yahoo

Yahoo holds its ground

Last week I subscribed to Yahoo music. Yeah, I know. But I was going to give it a try anyway.

Surely, the service sucked from the very beginning – you have to download a special player (called Yahoo Jukebox), that downloads tons of crap while playing my purchased music. This itself is a very fishy concept – why would company force me to view ads while I enjoy a content I paid for. If the music was free – I would have understood the ads. But I already paid for this – why do you have to feed me all those stupid ads full-screen at 1600×1200 pixels resolution, if I only want to hear music – is totally beyond me. Of course, finding something useful (unless it’s a today’s MTV hit) is next to impossible.

But the real excitement begins when you are trying to cancel the account. Do you think you can cancel from JukeBox? Wrong, you can only upgrade. Do you think you can cancel from Yahoo Music Home page? Wrong again. In fact, the only way you can cancel the service is to go to My Account page, select Manage Premium Services, then Manage Service link next to Yahoo! Music Subscription, then Cancel Service. But you didn’t think it would be THAT easy, didn’t you? While following this narrow path to freedom you are asked for your password twice. Upon the clicking on Cancel Service link another screen appears that (legitimately) asks you for the reason of your cancellation – I selected “The service was difficult to use”. Then another screen apologetically offers to get online help or contact support. However, if you insist on cancelling – hey, we warned ya! – you need to enter your Yahoo password again (third time). Guess what happen then? Wrong, you need to enter your password again. And again. And again. And – it’s the infinite loop. You also cannot change the payment method, should this idea cross your mind.

I do realize that this might be some sort of glitch in software. I do realize Yahoo doesn’t really benefit from my 70 bucks that it is trying not to give me back so hard. But I do realize one important thing – if I trap the customer in a loop like that, I’ll probably loose more then just one customer. Guess what just happened to Yahoo?