This one may be a bit long, because I’m going to use it to vent. =) I won’t make it all “front page news”, tho.

On Monday I signed up with a new provider, WiredTree. I still have a few accounts with my old provider, WebHostingBuzz, but they are being slowly migrated. You may already have noticed how much faster the entire site is. Since Monday night, it’s been at WiredTree.

Now, I need to explain a few things. With WHB, I had a shared reseller account which, when I got it, was wonderful. The server was peppy, things worked extremely well, and for almost a year I was very happy with not having to deal with hardware, colocation, or any of that other nonsense. I could edit DNS, host as many sites as I wanted, had lots of bandwidth, etc. Downtime was minimal. Support tickets were responded to quickly.

It’s basically gone to shit since then. About 10mos after I got the account, they took away DNS editing functionality. Citing a bug in cPanel that was causing named to restart too often on every DNS change, they took it away indicating that it would be back when the bug was fixed upstream. It’s been almost a year. It’s still not back. Then they took away automatic stats generation (webalizer, awstats, etc.) citing too much load on the machine. In other words, you would have to log into cPanel and do an awstats update every bloody night if you wanted good statistics. Completely bogus, and utterly unrealistic.

Last week I watched with horror as the server I was on was consistently hitting load averages of over 50. This week I watched with great fascination as at one point it went over 100. In my decade of working with Linux, UNIX, and OS X, I have never seen a *NIX system with a load average that high. Can you say over-sold many times over?

After seeing the horrid load averages last week, and being accused of being a contributor to the high load and being threatened with account suspension on this very site, I had had enough. So I went looking and found WiredTree. These guys are awesome. Yes, I’m now paying about 8x what I was paying WHB, but I have a Virtuozzo-based VPS with a dedicated 2.4GHz xeon core and a dedicated 1GB RAM. Ticket response time is in minutes. I had an issue with FTP that was due to the firewall and 10 minutes later it was fixed, and this was with some back-and-forth, via email. That fast. So far, these guys impress me… a lot. Unlike with WHB, I have full DNS editing capabilities. WHM has so many options available to me compared to the WHM supplied with WHB, I got lost. I have the latest apache, php, and mysql. It’s running on a more recent CentOS (blech, but whatever). My awstats run nightly like they’re supposed to and, more importantly, without my having to do anything.

WHB, on the other hand, is going so far down the crapper that if you try to post, as a registered customer, on their forum, your post is now moderated by default. You’ll notice that this is an unmentioned but added “bonus” to the recent changes and enhancements to their ‘community’. (Yeah, I posted a reply to that posting… still waiting for it to be moderated).

But the thing that really gets me, and makes me glad most of my sites are moved over and the rest will be moved shortly (despite 6mos of pre-paid time still left on my reseller account) is the blatant lies WHB responds to their customers with. So this is a bit of a retelling of my own story with these guys, and a bit of warning to others who may decide to give WebHostingBuzz their business.

Note that I’m partly to blame here. I’m a firm believer of “you get what you pay for”, and with WHB I basically paid next to nothing for my hosting. I’ve gotten a similar return in the service, availability, speed, and support from these jokers. And, realistically, how hard can you complain when you’re only paying about $1/domain/mo? This is also another reason when I went looking for a new provider I picked WiredTree. I hadn’t found a single negative review, and multiple glowing reviews. Yes, they are expensive, but I don’t want to have to worry about my sites, about my server being over-sold, about ridiculously high loads that slow down my sites, and I certainly don’t want to wait hours to get a response to a support ticket I flag urgent.

In particular, I want to bring attention to Matt R’s blatant lies about WebHostingBuzz service. He claims the first three, individual, complainers are “entirely out of proportion”, and claims they have tens of thousands of clients, with only a few unhappy ones posting there. That might be true… what also might be true is that a fair portion of those clients are stuffed like pigs in a basket on the server I’m on. If you look at the number of servers they seem to have, and the number of clients they claim, they must be over-selling their servers something fierce.

Further, he goes on to say that the average ticket response time is in “minutes”. That’s the blatant lie. More on that in a moment. He also claims they have a bigger customer service/tech support team per server ratio than anyone else “he knows” in the business. I’m not sure how to take that. He could be telling the truth if he doesn’t really know anyone, I suppose. Or he could be, indeed, telling you the truth but then again, he says nothing about the competence of his staff either (which is often sorely lacking), or the fact that if you ask them five questions in an email, they’ll zero in on the easiest one and ignore the rest.

He also says the forums are to interact with clients so (we) can provide feedback. That may have been true at one point, but it’s really very difficult for clients to provide feedback if they’re being moderated on every post now. Perhaps not… perhaps they read the feedback and choose to ignore it. Perhaps they just don’t want others to see the feedback they’re getting… quite a bit has looked very negative on there lately.

Anyways, I tried to post something along these lines in response to that thread but the damn forum logged me out when I tried to post and then my post was discarded. Posting here is much safer. Then I made a (much smaller) response, and saw the moderation message. Gah!

I want to bring a few examples of real-world WHB tech support response time. Matt claims it is in minutes (and I think he’s some sort of head-honcho there… an owner or high level manager anyways). I assert it is not nearly as good, or as competent, as he claims. First off, since May 2007 I’ve had to submit 40 tickets. That’s quite a bit… 2.2 tickets per month, on average. Granted, some of this is for DNS modification requests since they took that capability away. Back then, response times seemed pretty fast.

Ticket VST-645840 opened 05/10/2007 @12:26a, responded to at 12:40a (nice and fast and as quick as Matt claims… too bad this is a year and a half ago and today’s times are nowhere as good)

Ticket GWU-456574 opened 11/08/2008 @7:18p by Oleg, threatening the site with suspension because mediawiki and wordpress were taking too much CPU. My response at 7:56p to ask for more data, how it was gathered, and what the sampling was like, was responded to 11/11/2008 @11:28a. Two and a half days later (remember, they wanted me to do something here, and all I did was ask for information that would aid me in solving the problem). I responded @3:52p (no rush because, after all, he never answered any of my questions and if he can take 2.5 days to reply, why can’t I?). I also told them they disabled my ssh access which made diagnosing things more difficult too (and, FWIW, top was showing php spikes of loading my pages hit 25% CPU usage, but these spikes lasted 1-2s which doesn’t seem to me to be abnormal considering they’re forcing us to run PHP5 as a CGI, not a DSO). Anyways, his response on 11/12/2008 @12:44p (another day later), was to tell me that ssh access was re-enabled. And again Oleg did not answer any of my questions other than to try to upsell me to a VPS or dedicated server plan. The rest of this ticket is just plain dumb…

Ticket TDV-745991 opened 11/17/2008 @11:01p for an urgent DNS modification (urgent because I needed this in order to start moving my sites to WiredTree). Andrey responded 20 minutes later to indicate it was done. This is good response time. It was also a relatively simple request (although I should note that I’ve asked for simple things in the past, like DNS changes, that they somehow managed to thoroughly screw up).

Ticket LVB-325373 was opened by Oleg 10/16/2008 @6:46a and this time they didn’t threaten account suspension, they actually did it. In all fairness, the site had a misbehaving Drupal so it needed to get fixed and I get that, but… @2:07p I responded and asked for the account to be unsuspended so I could fix it (these times must be UTC because I’m quite certain this was a first-thing-in-the-morning thing). I replied again @2:39p. At 3:35p I was phoning their office because I still didn’t have a response. Thankfully it got fixed via the fellow on the phone because I didn’t actually get a response (from Igor), until 12:48p the next day.

Ticket SQA-686130 was opened 10/12/2008 @2:13a to get some DNS modifications done. It was responded to at 1:45p the same day by Evgeniy. Not quite the “minutes” Matt is talking about.

I could go through all 40 tickets I filed with WHB over the last year and a half. I think, however, that my point stands. I could see if one of these was abnormal, but we’re talking about 12hr turn arounds, next day responses, and even a few days later in some cases. Certainly not the fast turn around time they’re professing to have.

At any rate, I highly do not recommend WHB if you want any kind of reliable service. And, food for thought… with similar ping times to both WHB’s server and WiredTree’s server (i.e. may 2-3ms differences), the frontpage loaded between 2-3s consistently where’s frontpage loaded in about 8-9s consistently, with one instance where it took a whopping 45s to load. Guaranteed these slow speeds are due to a) running PHP as a CGI instead of a DSO and b) the high load averages on the server. Oh, and to make things more interesting, they must have had to force a reboot because today they posted the RAID arrays were re-syncing, but after about 8hrs they had only synced from 20% to 26%… and the load averages still are hitting in the high 30’s.

Bottom line… these guys may be competitively priced (aka cheap) but their service is pretty “cheap” too.

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