This is the story of how ReelSEO went from happy with its web hosting company's service to completely dissatisfied in the span of a few hours. First and foremost, to our readers who don't feel like reading this Homer-like odyssey of web hosting adventures, let me say this: We're sorry. Our website has been down for nearly two days, with minimal uptime and no new content. We're are working to switch to a new hosting company, recommended by our Twitter friends, and are actively working to ensure this kind of outage doesn't occur again.
And let's be clear about something from the outset: outages can happen. We're not upset with our hosting company for the simple fact that they had an outage, but rather for how long the outage lasted and how little communication there has been from the host about our situation.
To be honest, we thought it was us at first, in part because their support didn't admit there were any issues, even after asking. Actually, we spent more than 30 hours troubleshooting and lots of $$ to IT consultants to help troubleshoot and debug our database, thinking that it was somehow our own corrupted code that was the problem.
What we didn't know was that the hosting company was already aware they had a problem. They'd already taken some of their SANs offline on purpose to try and fix the problem. Thing is… they never told us that, even after asking.
How did we learn that the downtime was the host's fault? Twitter search. After several hours of banging our heads against the wall trying to find in our database the downtime culprit… on a whim, we searched Twitter and were stunned with what we found. Tons of website owners were complaining about downtime and pleading with the company's support team to help them. All the while, though, the company's official Twitter kept ignoring these people, instead posting their usual cute little Tweets a company publishes when they aren't experiencing a catastrophic problem… statements like, "Things are rising in the east!” To their credit, the company's Twitter has finally switched from marketing messages to actual content and responses related to the outage.
Once we finally realized the problem was on the host's end, and not ours, we promptly contacted their support by email—they're one of those customer-friendly companies that doesn't have an actual phone number for support. Two hours later, we heard back that they had taken some of their SANs offline, and our site was estimated to be back up within four hours.
In reality, it took way more than four hours for the site to come back up. And when it did come back up, we couldn't see it—our IP address was blocked and our control panel login quit working as a result of some kind of reset. For several hours, the site was live again, without our being able to touch it. Oh, it also published three posts from three years ago as though they were brand new posts. Sigh.
During the downtime, we saw this interview from Yoast—whom we love--and who, after seeing the chatter on Twitter, decided to get the straight scoop from the boss. Problem is… even 12 hours after this interview, our support emails and tickets were still being ignored. Saying the right thing only matters when you mean it and follow through on it, otherwise it's just blowing hot air to buy time and placate the masses.
The lessons here are obvious:
Any company can have downtime, but where a hosting service will make or break itself is in how they respond to that downtime, and how they respond to customers during the outage. Downtime alone wouldn't have causes customers to start looking for a new host, had there been prompt attention to the problem as well as some actual communication from the host.
As of right now, the site is still not 100% stable. We've asked for support as recently as an hour ago and so far - no response again.
Whether with this company or another, ReelSEO should resume it's normal routine very soon, and we couldn't be happier about once again being able to bring you the very latest news and opinions in the world of online video. Sorry about disappearing on you, we'll try to make sure that never happens again.
Here's a viral "fail" video from this week that adequately sums up how our hosting outage has been handled: