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.

When A Hosting Company Gives You Lemons, Use Them As Projectiles (Unless You’re Thirsty) vps request

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.

When A Hosting Company Gives You Lemons, Use Them As Projectiles (Unless You’re Thirsty) vps response1 e1315596501925

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.

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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. 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.

When A Hosting Company Gives You Lemons, Use Them As Projectiles (Unless You’re Thirsty) png

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.

  • Trine Haugesund

    Great article. Thanks

  • John Lee Saddington

    the question that I have is if they refunded any credit that rightfully belongs to you? I posted on yoast that we have hundreds of dollars that they are refusing to refund... with screenshots. unbelievable...

    • John Lee Saddington

      oh, and i posted some thoughts here:

  • VideoLeadsOnline

    So this is the Lemonade article. Sorry you had so many issues. Was that about the time I send you an email asking what was up with the Comments areas?

  • Tgrrr

    How did you use your lemons as projectiles in the end?

    • Mark R Robertson

      Well, we're still a bit thirsty but the lemons will be thrown soon enough ;-)

  • Panah Rad

    We did get a response from the Managing Directory after I aired my concerns on Twitter (@panah). We had so many issues with that I really did not care if they burned our server. All our files are backed up and ready to be used in 3 offsite locations. After 14 days or so, we are still getting downtimes. They even moved our sites to a new server and nothing seems to have changed.

    Finally, they said it was not just the hardware issue but our own fault for going over our memory limit (which is not the case as I am very good in LAMP environments). To cut the story short, we too are looking for a new host. I have been with these guys for 2 months, and they are already behind DreamHost in my book. One great month and one disastrous month. Pretty simple decision.

    • Mark Robertson

      I totally agree. Have you decided who you're going to move to?

  • MaAnna

    I set up sites for lients, but I insist they purchase their own hosting. Even though I provide them with all the info they need to contact the host and/or see if the host is having any issues, they ALWAYS call me first. Therefore, I have to deal with a lot of different hosting companies. I'm sorry to say what you experienced is all too common. I had my sites with one host for 6+ years until they started having persistent downtime and gutter-level support about it. Shame, they had stellar support prior to that. Had to move all of my sites and request that all of my customers to whom I had recommended them move as well. Considering how much they risk loosing, from current clients, and then those who publicly trounce them over it, you'd think they would be more interested in damage control.

    I'm glad your site is becoming more stable and hope it stays that way.

  • Tim Schmoyer

    Dude, how can you go through this whole post and not mention who the hosting provider is? Tactful, but still...

    • Mark Robertson

      All you have to do is click on Yoast's article link or the "we found" link and it will be quite obvious - Rhymes with "GPS dot vet" :-) TRUST me - I would love to tear them a new one here but there are better times and places to do that, especially when for the moment, we're still on that server ;-)

  • Richard Norton

    Mark sorry to hear about it...having worked for some hosting providers I know what can happen when disaster strikes...most of them turn turtle hoping the problem will go won't...

    the best thing to do is get pro-active with your customers and work with them...I had to fire another provider this week when a similar thing happened to a video sharing site I'm looking to launch happened...they tried to make it seem that it was my wasn't...if it was I'd admit it...

    Bottom line folks, customer service is a "profit center" in other words what does a company need to be successful? Customers! thanks for the great content you provide...

    • Mark Robertson

      Thanks Norton. Yeah, I think it's time we secure a new provider.