5 Things to Remember When Your Blog Host Fails

As I mentioned previously (and as many of already know) my blog was down and out in a serious way for nearly 48 hours; 2 complete days. In fact, we had “strike #3″ this morning as we were down for another 8 hour (or so) period between 1:00am and 10:00am today.

In short this is completely unacceptable, especially when it’s not the first time that it’s happened. Heck, we might not even be fully out of the woods even as I post this unbelievable blog post (I’m a little surprised that I even can…).

My current hosting provider, VPS.net, has failed miserably and not only has handled the situation poorly but provided little concrete and believable resolutions nor customer support and care – they have showed a complete lack of empathy for their customers and more than once I wanted to reach through my computer screen and punch someone in the face.

Sure, that’s a bit graphic and certainly a bit violent but those were honestly some of the feelings that I was having during that very disturbing and unsettling experience. And to be sure, I’m not ignorant – there is no perfect hosting solution out there, as I’ve mentioned many times previously, but treating your customers like crap is about where I draw the line, even if your service is half-way decent.

Needless to say they have failed me (and my team and businesses) for the last time and I shall be migrating this blog (and a few other sites) to a completely new service (*Update* – we made good on our promise and moved here), one that will provide a much better end-user experience as well as be able to back up their claims with action instead of using them as marketing material for the ignorant:

Thankfully I’m even a bit excited about this transition as it may allow me to experiment even further with some server tweaks and optimization tests for WordPress (especially comparing NGINX, Litespeed, and MySQL alternatives like MongoDB and PostgreSQL).

Did I learn anything from this experience? Certainly, and it took a few days to cool down (but not before they could disappoint me one more time) to begin to jot them down. Unfortunately most of us (if not all of us) will experience downtime and server and hosting misfortune at some point in our lives and it’s not a matter of “if” but rather “when.”

I add it among some of the eternal constants and truths: Death, taxes, and downtime (as a I like to call it).

In any case, here are three things that I took away from the experience that might prove to be valuable things for you to remember when the poop hits the fan:

1. Don’t Panic: Do Your Due Diligence

Our first instinct is to panic and begin doing things that one might regret later like jumping too fast to conclusions or publicly saying (or tweeting) something obnoxious.

I made my first public statement about my disappointment with my provider nearly 8 hours after the blog went down. It wasn’t that I didn’t publicly acknowledge that the site was struggling – it was that I held my public (and disappointing) remarks about my provider until I had tested everything thoroughly.

This includes reviewing any significant changes in my environment from a hosting perspective in the past week, any changes in my WordPress plugins or WordPress Themes (I have a local copy of all of my environment so I know exactly what it looks like even when the site is down), and reviewing any news articles or breaking information about exploits or hacks that have cropped up globally.

After testing everything and beginning to have conversations with my provider, thus ruling out any fault on my end, I was able to securely and safely put the blame (yes, blame) on my hosting provider.

2. Engage Calmly, Remove Emotion (If Possible)

Now this is pretty much impossible for many of us (and I certainly struggle with it as well) but I’ll mention it anyway: Remain calm and try to remove any and all emotion in the equation, especially as you deal with your hosting provider’s technicians and support team.

You just have to remember that 99 out of 100 times it’s not that particular person’s fault (although in one case I had a junior level tech trip over a wire and pull my rack out) and they are simply trying to perform triage and damage control on something that may be completely out of their hands.

Try to treat them as human beings, business acquaintances if you can and they’ll appreciate it greatly. In fact, it might prove to get you the help you need faster as you politely tell your tech:

Seriously? WTF! tweet

It will help you and help them move towards a conclusion.

3. Stay Productive (Because You’re Essentially Helpless)

Many bloggers and entrepreneurs have this one character trait in common: We like to be in control; we are control freaks.

Unless you colocate and manage your own hardware for your own hosting you are pretty much powerless to do anything or move anything any quicker. Threats won’t work and neither do your tirades via Twitter.

What you can do is take a moment to assess the situation correctly, perhaps pray (if that’s your thing), and seek out opportunities to stay productive.

For example, I had a few posts queued for the days during which my blog was down but with all of the commotion I found a reason to blitz through three posts in my SEO series that I had been procrastinating on doing. I can say with all integrity that if it wasn’t for the downtime than these three posts would not have been published as soon as they would have been (they would have been published at some point mind you):

  1. The Importance of Using Social Media, Social Sharing for SEO
  2. The Power and Effect of Personalization for Search Results
  3. How the Age of Your Blog Effects Authority, Credibility, & SEO

Am I happy that I had downtime? Heck no! But did I choose to stay productive as best as I could? Heck yes.

You don’t have to be on your blog to draft posts – in fact, I’ve already suggested that you blog somewhere else other than within your online editor so you should be good to go.

4. Stay Positive: It’ll Be Over Shortly

Ultimately all server and hosting situations get resolved. Some of them take a few minutes or hours while some might last a few days.

In all but the super-extreme cases (like where a hosting company forfeits their business or something of that nature, which has happened before) your blog will return to normal and you shall be on your merry way.

During the downtime it’s a living nightmare and you friends, family, and coworkers might have felt the wrath of an uber-pissed-off-blogger but try to stay positive and approachable during this time.

Sure, feel free to sulk and throw a pity party for yourself but don’t drag other people down with you since it keeps everyone unproductive and focused on the wrong things.

It’ll all get fixed soon and you may even forget that it ever happened by the end of the week.

Or maybe not.

5. Spend Time Researching Alternatives

One of the most productive things you can be doing as you wait ever-so-patiently for your service to be restored is to do some competitive research for alternatives, especially if this is a common issue or if you’re just generally feeling that this company doesn’t deserve your hard earned green.

For myself and my team we began the quick process of vetting other competitors, making phone calls, and establishing a plan of migration all while we waited.

Ultimately I will leave my currently provider and seek greener pastures elsewhere but I’m in a much better spot for having done my research during the downtime (because I was obviously super-motivated to do it) and I have all the facts and figures ready to ship.

In fact, I’ve already have a quote in hand for another serious provider and will execute this weekend with a first run test of one site migration with the rest to follow.

I’m ready to rock and roll and I’m excited about the transition.

Naturally, I’ll be updating this post about my optimal WordPress Hosting solution as well as dropping VPS.net to a much lower score on my personal blog hosting comparison chart. Their service is decent (it did great for a good amount of time) but the way they handled the incident and my team was too bogus for me to want a relationship with them long-term.

Hopefully this helps and I pray that you won’t ever have to experience significant downtime like this, but if you do you at least have some actionable items and things to remember when it does.

And of course I’ll keep you posted on where we go from here and what I ultimately decide to do.

***Update***

We ultimately moved onto Firehost. Read more about this success story here!

  • http://katdish.net katdish

    Should I mention the fact that your blog post is all wonky looking on my computer screen? It looks like a google doc rather than how it normally looks, which is awesome.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      screenshot?

      • http://katdish.net katdish

        No, wait…

        It’s back now. May have been my computer. It’s looking awesome again.

        • http://john.do John Saddington

          i would have liked to see it like that. ;)

  • Melanie

    I have to admit, it was a pretty painful outage for me… I was getting tentblogger withdrawal. :/ So I can imagine how bad it was for you!

    Glad you’re back. Let us know who you decide to go with.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      ah. so good to be back.

  • http://sproutsenroute.com Kristin

    ditto… glad you are back, the last two times I had scheduled “tentblogger time” this week the site was down :( but now I’m all caught up! :)

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sorry about that!

  • http://www.marcomonteiro.net Marco Monteiro

    This has happened to me a lot of times, not with my personal projects but at work. I’m a webdeveloper, and the company that I work with don’t do Hosting. So when a client wants a website we can point him a hosting but normally they don’t care about that and go for something on the low cost site of the border lol.

    Then, when something goes wrong obviously the client don’t know how to talk to the their hosting, then they come to us to act has an intermediate. And normally we end up doing that for the sake of the relationship between us and the client.

    And yes, hosting providers can be a pain in the ass sometimes. Leaving you on the line expecting for someone to talk for an hour. Making you check everything, even though you know you already made all of that.

    Basically most of the hostings out there are a complete mess.

    cheers!

  • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    You did a remarkable job remaining calm, John—at least to the public. I thought you handled it like a pro.

    • http://jonmanna.com Jon Manna

      John, I agree with Michael. You’re a class act and this was a great insightful post!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      thanks michael. i got lucky on this.

  • Daniel

    Are you using HostGator now?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      is that a joke?

  • Steve | ROI detector

    Not sure which host you’re going to…but I’ve really liked Page.ly (used them twice). Sorry to hear about all your trouble, I hope your next provider does better (and offers better customer service).

  • http://fezj.net Fez

    .Hey John,

    I used to be on vps.net myself and I read your post regarding their service a long time ago where you were very positive about them.

    I had been hosted with them for 12+ months and recently I also faced the same type of down time (5 days in my case). They also amazingly lost my data and informed me that they don’t take any kind of snapshot backups (which isn’t the case with other hosts running onApp). I have lost a lot of valuable time as well as a lot of money thanks to vps.net.

    What host are you with now?

    • http://fezj.net Fez

      Just wanted to point out that the verification email sent to me was classed as Junk. Perhaps you should add your spf record again (if you have migrated already).

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        thanks fez. look into it.

  • http://stickhandle.ca werner | stickhandle

    Hey John,
    Surprised to see that you blog hosting comparison chart didn’t include self-hosted on Linode.com ?? A config geek (i mean that as a compliment ;-) like yourself, I won’t be surprised to see you touting linode in the coming days … and I’ll be *shocked* if you don’t give them serious consideration. I also expect NGINX to garner some love in your setup … especially since NGINX can turn even a small server into a beast with native NGINX cache-ing. See http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/djcp/2010/01/nginx-as-a-front-end-proxy-cache-for-wordpress/ (Dan Collis-Puro)
    I’ll be r-e-a-l-l-y interested to see what comes of your interest with Mongo, too.
    Cheers

  • http://Benrwoodard@gmail.com Ben

    Sure am interested in who you decide to go with. Do you think this was caused by VPSnet taking on more than it could handle or just a lack of concern and diligence on their part?

  • http://nwbingham.com Nathan W. Bingham

    Nice to see you can spin a bad situation and glean some lessons from it. I’m not sure I would have handled it as well as you did mate. :-)

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      thanks bro. i tried.

  • http://www.usedtiresblog.com Jean

    Honestly I would seriously considering going to a dedicated server. I have been happy ever since I made the move over 3 years ago. It is alot more money but it is well worth it for the reliability that I receive. The only downtime I’ve received is very minimal, and it is usually during off-peak hours for scheduled maintenance.

    Just so you know, I am using SoftLayer. Looking forward to seeing your final move and where you end up John.

    -Jean

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      at some point we might, but who knows…!

  • http://www.komododragonfacts.com Rick

    Wow, it’s really surprising how bad VPS treated its customers despiting failing like that in the first place. But that is some great advice you have provided to get through a downtime like that. Too many people start to panic and in some cases, make the situation worse even.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      they are a bunch of idiots. seriously.

  • http://www.tillhecomes.org Jeremy Myers

    This happened to me a while back with my host, but not for as long as you experienced. Customer service for my host told me that “100% uptime” means that the server is on “turned on” and transmitting, even if all the sites it hosts are “offline” due to some error, traffic spike, or DOS attack. What line did VPS feed you?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      anything but the truth, honestly.

  • Steven

    I’m a current customer of VPS.net also and I’ve TOTALLY had it with their bullsh*t hosting.. I’m still in doubt on where to go though..

    I’ve a nice setup with geo balancing with 2 servers in UK and US..

    Where are you gonna go?

  • http://vps-net-review.com/ vps net review

    Vps net wanted to make some extra money and when I started to ask questeions, Rus Foster, MD of VPS net simply deleted himself all my code. It’s was not just some mistake, he did it on purpose, he even doesn’t regret. I asked him to return my property, but he refused and wrote to me that going to delete all my data base, 1 day after he even sent me a message that all my data base destroyed. Vps net really shits on every one. If you want, you are wellcome to read it here: http://vps-net-review.com/ I collected all the print screens and mails from them.