Being blunt seems to have worked

I’ve been having problems keeping my blogs online, or at the very least active and available for the past few weeks.  The web hosting service that I use is called Servage One (though when I started using them it was just called ‘Servage’) and its located in Germany.  For the past 13 years, I’ve owned several domains, and have kept them hosted here because the price was right, it was convenient, they had a good reputation for being friendly with ‘adult’ leaning websites and they offered a good deal more than their competitors.  Too, if you brought them business, they would give you a free month of hosting for every customer that used a link you were given, so you could, in theory pay for your entire hosting based on how many customers you brought to them.  (Basically pay for a year and get a year free if you had 12 friends using their service) [Yes, I was mansplaining.  Get over it.]

In those years, my yearly bill has not gone up or down and I’ve been satisfied with the service I’ve received.  On occasion there would be a blip, but for the most part service was exemplary.  In 2006 when I first signed up, they offered unlimited bandwidth, unlimited hosted domains, unlimited emails, and 750 GBs of storage.  A few years down the road, they upped the storage to unlimited, along with all of the other amenities and then tacked on a free domain, which you would register through them and host there.  Without much warning a couple of years ago (actually zero warning) they dropped the unlimited storage option, scaling it back to the original 750 gigs.  I’m guessing this was because none of their customers were actually using that much space, and it made sense to cut it back, thereby freeing up more space on their servers for more customers.  A couple of months ago, right around the upgrade, they downgraded the available space to 200 gigs.  That was a pretty big downgrade, imo.  But, at least they didn’t up the price at the same time.  That would have been a deal-breaker, I think.

As I’ve mentioned in another post this service decided last year that they were going to upgrade their systems and do a large and laborious migration to a new storage facility as well as create a whole new hosting and support platform.  Not something cookie cutter like cPanel, something made in-house.  Have to give props when someone wants to design their own system from the ground up.  As many headaches that arise, even unexpected ones like they started to experience about 2 months ago where nearly the entire site went down for a period of 14 hours.  And stayed down.  To their credit, they kept everyone in the loop about what was going on, since email too was unavailable.   So long as you knew to check the hosting platform for updates.   Nevertheless, the outage was fixed for the most part, my domains were loading ok, but the blogs strangely enough weren’t.

At first, I was patient.  I figured there were going to be hiccups and I wanted to be a good customer, not making waves and allowing them to get the problems fixed.  However, that didn’t seem to be working very well, since the problems continued.  It would be up for a few hours, then down for the better part of the next day.  Posts wouldn’t save, pictures could not be loaded or plug-ins couldn’t be updated.  I have a service called ‘Jetpack’ that does a lot of the things that WordPress.com does for its customers, and since I use WordPress.ORG, I need that plug-in.  Which I have to pay for, but that’s another issue.  Inexplicably, that would disappear from my Journey blog, but the underlying files would still be on the website, so re-installing it wouldn’t work.

Finally, three weeks in, I wrote.  Squeaky wheel and all that.  Someone responded and said they’d look into the problem.  Fair enough, they apparently did and the sites started working again.  For a few hours, and then they disappeared.  Server errors galore, and the sites were unavailable for hours, if not days at a time.  Up and down, wash, rinse and repeat.  Every time I went to the hosting website, I could watch my bandwidth dwindle from 9 gigs/month to less than 1.  Traffic lost doesn’t necessarily come back.  Anyone that clicks on a link doesn’t want to wait 3-4 minutes for it to load, if at all.  They go somewhere else that’s more reliable.  That’s business 101 in a nutshell.

Yesterday, enough was enough.  I upped the volume a LOT.  I sent Servage an email and gave them a thinly veiled ultimatum, without actually saying that I was thinking of moving my circus elsewhere.  I did state quite unequivocally that I was a long-term customer, that I have been satisfied with the service I’ve received over the years, but the last two months have been incredibly difficult and I was as tired of writing them about my problem as I expect their admins were tired of hearing about it.  I received a message from one of the tech support people who said basically the admins were aware of the problem, they were working on it, and to check back in a few hours to see if things were better.  I had errands to run, but when I returned last evening, voila!  The sites loaded immediately.  At most, 10-15 seconds of wait time, not 3-4 minutes like it had been.  That’s an amazing change, and I was very grateful.  Though I wasn’t completely convinced.  I emailed them back, telling them it was working on my end, though I was leaving the support ticket open, just in case this was a momentary ‘hooray!’ moment, like all the other ones have been.

It’s been working fine for the better part of the last day.  They emailed me again to check on my experience and notify me that they were closing the support ticket on their end as they believed it was solved.  Leaving an open support ticket causes the admins to check periodically to be sure things are, or are not still ok.  It’s one less step they need to be doing.  Fair enough.  I’m hoping that things continue to work as they have been rather than what it has been.

The squeaky wheel got some grease

Over the past week or so, both of my blogs have been running really slowly.  And it’s been frustrating the piss out of me, to use the vernacular.  I’ve been holding off on contacting my web domain provider, since they’ve been pretty open on the hosting website that they’re ‘working to fix the problems’ and have had their collective hands full with misbehaving storage servers, as well as attempting to convert their clientele to a whole new storage facility and hosting platform.  Sometimes one doesn’t necessarily want to add fuel to a fire.  Add in the fact that this is part of a larger problem that has been going on for the better part of the past month.

But this past Friday evening, at least to me, enough was enough.  I’ve already paid my monies to them many moons ago, and I’ve not been getting the results that I’ve come to expect for what I pay this company for.  Even though it was the beginning of the weekend, they tout that their assistance/support is manned ‘24/7, 365 days a year‘ so (in theory anyway) someone is always going to be around to look into a matter from their customers.  Which is supposed to be comforting, if indeed true.  Most companies don’t have customer support heavily manned over the weekend, since weekends tend to be down times and people get paid more for working on Sundays.  Consequently, if you’re going to have a catastrophic disaster, try to have it happen during the week.  If you can.

I accessed the support portion, figured out what I was going to say as succinctly as I could and posted my problem.  Then tried to access one of my blogs and was rewarded with a server error, telling me that the website in question was completely unavailable.  Awesome.  I took a screenshot of the error, cleaned it up in Corel Paint Shop Pro (we all can’t afford Adobe Photoshop) and added that to another post so whoever was going to answer the call had something to look at, in order to help.

As I expected, it took longer than a day for someone to assist.  I worked yesterday, so every now and again (too often I’m sure) I would check to see if someone had answered my call for help.  Nada.  The web provider is located in Germany, so they’re 6 hours ahead of me at any given time.  When I checked in last night around dinner time, though there wasn’t an update at the web server support page, I did get an email from them saying that they were ‘looking into the problem’, but as yet didn’t have a solution, so to be patient.  So, I did my best to comply.  I didn’t go to bed at a decent hour last night, matter of fact I stayed up until about 4:30am messing around with a HTML editor I used to use, that I was delighted to discover still works quite well in spite of being outdated and no longer supported by its creator (Hint: Scroll down to the program that’s called HTML-Kit 292, it’s free!).   It connects to the web via its own internal FTP program, you can edit in code, look at your results in real-time and even do things like CSS for your own websites if you’re so inclined.  It’s not a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, but it can help you learn HTML so you’re not having to pay someone else to create a website.  Pretty nifty program, and the price can’t be beat if you ask me.

Right around 4 am, I checked my email and there was a message from support.  They were aware of the problem and asked me to check both blogs to see if they were loading faster.  They were!  Hooray!  But being the skeptical sort, I thought it better to fire off a reply while I had someone’s attention and ask what the problem turned out to be, just in case it returned.  In my initial message, I worded it in such a way as to ask in an aside whether or not the slowness was possibly due to something on my end, not theirs.  The reason for this is, I have other websites that don’t utilize databases, like the blogs do.  The blogs are the only sites that are loading slowly.  The others pop right up when you type in their addresses in the browser.  The blogs weren’t.  So it was entirely possible that it was something on my end that was causing the problem, perhaps the databases weren’t set up correctly and needed to be edited in some fashion.

James from Support replied within a couple of minutes and stated that it wasn’t my end, it was most definitely theirs.  In the process of upgrading and moving customers to a new dataserver (I’d gone through that migration headache about 2 months ago) they encountered a major problem (that I referenced at the beginning of this post) and have been working diligently to fix it, while still attempting to run said server as well as the old one as ‘flawlessly’ (his word) as possible.  Suffice it to say, over the last couple of months, it hasn’t been flawless.  Watching my bandwidth traffic fall like a lead balloon from 8 GB/month to less than 1 hasn’t been either pretty or satisfying.  Couple that with email outages that last several days at a time, and you can imagine it gets one to thinking perhaps it’s time to pack up and move.  Which I did, as a test balloon with one of my domains.  Not certain if I’m going to leave it there, since the service is more expensive than this one, but if they can’t consistently get their sh*t together, I might end up going where it’s more stable.  I’ve been a customer of theirs since 2006, and it’s been pretty steady for all of that time.  A few outages every now and again, but nothing even closely resembling what’s going on now.  The cachet at the time when I first started with them was that they were outside of the US, so if I wanted to post a little ‘questionable’ content, they were ok with it, to a certain extent.  Nothing illegal mind you, but one has to be mindful of the keyholders at times, and that’s pretty much all I’m going to say about that.

I’ve never been a huge fan of making waves, but sometimes, the squeaky wheel can get a bit of grease.  And that’s not a bad thing.