Saturday, July 13, 2013

It's Just Me, But I No Longer Trust HostGator For My Hosting

Of late, I've been having odd consumer experiences with HostGator that made me feel the way you feel when your girlfriend stops returning your calls as quickly.  Or when she stops calling as often.  Or even when she stops truly engaging you in conversation but only mumbles "yep," or "nope" to anything you say.

You know, all the warning signs that something has changed dramatically. That is, until you start investigating and find the dirt on your relationship with "your girlfriend."

If you're curious why I've started moving my work to WordPress.com and Blogger.com, read on and see why I'm being driven to these other services.

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Back in 2010 I had signed up with HostGator and for the first two years, I had the most incredible user experience with the company.

My account with HostGator (HG) is a shared hosting account, meaning, rather than having a dedicated server just for my little site, I am put on a machine with a few hundred other sites and we all use the resources of that server.

Cool.

From 2010 to late 2012, I had been having a flawless experience.  They were always incredibly prompt with any inquiries and helping with noted issues.  It truly WAS a five-star rating experience.

And then the changes started kicking in, during 2013.  Actually, since December of 2012, I've been running into small but annoying issues with HostGator {hostgator-great-hosting-site-when} that I initially felt were created by my own hand.

Since December of 2012, here's what's taken place:

12-18-12:  ... a crawler robot (or robots) was causing a high load on the server.***
  3-12-13:  HostGator was "forced to suspend the directory" (shut down my site)
 4-21-13:  My account was not getting backed up because I had too many inodes (files).
 5-22-13:  Website shutdown for high traffic load*

And since December, my inquiries to their service department were getting more "functionalist" and less personable.

In fact, since December my site "issues," have taken upwards of several hours to get any response or resolution.  (Email responses now take anywhere from 1.5 to 4+ hours.  My latest experience had my site offline for 13 hours.)  Where as the old HostGator would have replied to each email within the hour and had me back up and running within a few hours, at most.

My emotional reaction is that HostGator customer service was no longer the primary focus for shared hosting customers.  And I don't care if I am a shared server customer, that is unacceptable.

What tipped me off to this new, customer-hostile service is that when I got notifications on server issues, the options for me to take to resolve the situation now started including upgrading to a dedicated server.

Don't Laugh
When I asked what the issue was with my website and the hosting environment, their reply more or less indicated that my WordPress database had become inefficient.  Or to quote them,

{

"Wordpress starts becoming inefficient at handling the number of posts somewhere between 1500 and 2500 posts, at over about 5000-6000 comments, and over around 7000 tags, give or take a little depending on plugin configuration.

Once those numbers are doubled, it becomes exceedingly inefficient, performing very poorly and using a lot of cpu resources to process the results coming back from mysql.

This is further exacerbated by plugins, such as any popular or related posts plugin, that work with the tables that relate to these within the database. Looking through your wordpress site, you are exceeding those numbers, and this has resulted in the high resource usage of your site and increased CPU load.

I recommend reducing the amount of posts and removing any plugins that work heavily with the wp_posts database table such as 'Wordpress Popular Posts'."

}

They also went on to point out several plugins that might drag down the database performance due to using server resources.  Check out this list and tell me they didn't ping every major or most used WordPress plugin out there:

{

DB Cache plugins, WPTouch, WordPress Related posts, FeedBurner, FeedSmith, Related Content, YARPP, Popular posts, Contact Form 7, StatPress and other wordpress statistics software, Facebook / Twitter (Post to), SEO All-in-One/Ultimate Plugins, Sitemap generators....

In general, I would advise deactivating and removing any plugins that are not absolutely critical to the operation of your site as this will help in keeping it performing within acceptable parameters
.

}

Seriously, the above is a concatenated list from their response to my inquiry.

My Latest Suspicious Clue
The experience that got me motivated to look at things came in my May 2013 experience.

When things went awry and they took down my site and locked me out (They lock you out until you reply to their email, and give you a special tunnel to access the site to allow you to fix it. And since they took 1 to 3 hours to reply to my emails... well, you do the math, after four or five emails.)

But what got me suspicious were their replies to what was wrong with my site. 

1st reply said, my "database was using an inordinate amount of mysql connections, degrading overall system performance."
Their 2nd response indicated that I have "too many posts, comments and plugins."
Their FINAL reason why my site was tanking was that "search engine robots" were the cause for the issue.

And they took no issue with apprising me that moving to a dedicated server would resolve these issues.

I'm Working With the System, But...

Since May, I've

Reduced by posts by about a thousand (I'm killing one-offs, non-traffic entities, and eliminating whole subjects from the site in question.)

Reduced my tags by almost half (Again, deleting one-off instances, 0 posts associated, and whole subjects that are non-SEO compliant)

I've not touched my few comments.  Give me a break.

So WHEN I have another mystery incident (BTW, I've also reduced the amount of times Google and Bing visit my site, at HostGator's request), and they come back with their canned reply to my problem, I might have another thing to say about it.

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Full of Sh**!?
BTW, I asked a several peers of mine who run websites about this situation.  They have major, top ranking sites that each have thousands upon thousands of posts, comments and utility plugins intact.When I show them this, their replies were loaded with colorful expletive-like words of disbelief. Or that these limitations were utter BS and in two cases, it was noted it's just a sales pitch to force clients to more expensive plans. 

My own disbelief is that if this is such an issue of limitations, how the heck does WordPress.com survive?

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Were My Suspicions Correct?
So was my gut feeling that something had changed on HostGator's end good, or was I just being a miffed consumer?

Turns out that I've with some quick research, I've discovered that HostGator was sold to EIG [Endurance International Group], a business group that also owns other sites like Fatcow, iPage, Bluehost, VPSLInk and more.

IN ALL FAIRNESS, I had sent them an email, detailing what my peers said about these "WordPress" limits, and this was their reply:

{

Hello,

Thank you for contacting us. Those observations are gathered from the numerous similar issues we see on our servers every day. As WordPress is one of the largest Blog systems in use today, we do attempt to make our knowledge of this platform wider than others, however the issue with resource consumption will always lie in the back end code and database structure, especially with plugins are involved.

One thing we do suggest, is using a plugin profiler, such as P3, which will assist in pinpointing theses issues. By no means are the post, comment, and tag limits we state a hard limit, but we have noticed that having them reduced does help not only with resource usage. Also site load time is reduced as the database can then be searched through much more quickly.

Do note that if your site were to be hosted on its own server, these issues would become negligible as the full server resources would be at your disposal.


}

There it goes again, the pitch for a dedicated server.

So now that EIG has bought HostGator, there's a new sheriff in town and new rules.  One is to push new and more costly options onto their customers.

Now if I were a suspicious minded consumer, I'd be curious about the timing of my site issues and EIG purchasing HG.  But that's just a suspicion.

Well if anything, in my exploration for a new hosting company, I can at least take a look at the other companies that EIG owns (They snatch up web entities when and where they can and own 50 or 60+ sites) and avoid them like the plague.  I presume they'll have the same, restrictive practices in place at those locations too.
Other companies owned by EIG,  per {donnedwards.co.za} and { wikipedia.org }

And that's why you're reading this post on a Blogger-hosted domain site.  Because writing content will break my site at HostGator.

-Bruce

2 comments:

  1. hahahahahahahhaa, LMAO, seriously, every single message you got from hostgator - posted here, I got them all in the past 5 months. They put down my site 5 times because of server issue, 1 time because of late payment, 1 time because of loading issue and I needed to disable all the important plugins, how is my site going to work without the vital plugins, seriously. And why are the biggst websites using Wordpress if they were so-inefficient.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Even before you mentioned it I suspected that the changes might be related to a major change somewhere. Hopefully, they have settled down now and are providing customers with the same great service that you grew to love.

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Hi - sorry for the confirmation but I need to weed out the noise from the well intended comments. Thanks for leaving a note... - Bruce