The Opposing Sides of Hosting Companies

Okay so I was at the Internet World expo last week with a few friends (LogicalJack & 167media) when I got a text from my brother about his site being down. I host a few low priority sites on a spare server I pay for, mainly used for WordPress testing and new site developments and stuff like that. Obviously when I got the message I took a look at the site and it was showing a Bandwidth Usage error, someone had exceeded the monthly allowance.

Here is where it gets a little tricky, I have been involved in website development and hosting for around 5 years now so Im not a newbie. Because of the hosting package I was on, all the domains were seen as ‘Add-on Domain’, and all were showing less than 1gb total usage (bear in mind the allowance is 30gb per month). It seemed that 29gb of bandwidth was being used by a single site (my brothers no less). When I mentioned this to him he thought it was impossible, as his site only received around 2-3 hits per day…barely enough for 1mb, let alone 29gb.

Because the bandwidth on the server had been maxed out the sites had been turned off, but they also locked out access to the control panel, which made it very hard to diagnose the problem. In the end I managed to get a few basic bandwidth stats which reinforced a 29gb usage from my brothers domain, how it was happening though I didn’t know.

In the end I thought it would be best to open a ticket with the hosting company, see if they could diagnose the problem as they still had access to the server. Initially I raised a ticket giving details of the problem and why it didn’t add up. Obviously I was expecting someone to have a look at why a site that was getting 2 visitors a day (according to Google Analytics) was managing to do near 2gb of bandwidth a day. The response I received was very short of helpful…and they basically stated that I would need to upgrade the server (get more bandwidth) before I could diagnose the problem. To be fair I had some resentment over paying more money just so I could diagnose the problem. I sent this back to them trying to explain that it would be unnecessary to upgrade, if I am just going to fix the problem which then makes the upgrade redundant. The reply to that…you will need to upgrade.

Frustrated with them, I phoned them up and tried to discuss the problem with someone on Technical Support. This is where things took a 180 degree turn…suddenly I was in the wrong for not diagnosing the problem close enough.
I explained the problem to tech support, saying that the bandwidth used (~2gb a day) couldn’t have come from 2 visitors (legitimate), but more likely from spam or a bot attack. At this point tech support turned back on the site and then gave me a 15 minute lecture on diagnosing spam and tracking the cause, which was pretty demeaning.

In the end the site was using around 2gb a day because the comments section was getting spammed with thousands of entries. If I had access to the site I would have been able to diagnose this, fix it and resume service as normal. Instead I am now potentially going to have to upgrade my service so I get more bandwidth, then I can fix the problem.

Customer service is definitely a problem with hosting companies now a days, having always worked with Rackspace (managed & cloud hosting) I can’t recommend them enough. Their support is amazing (this would have been resolved within 1 ticket) and their servers are super fast. If you are looking for a quality hosting package and you don’t mind paying a little bit extra then definitely go for Rackspace.
I have not named my problematic hosting company here because I am still with them (hooray for 12 month contract!), but if you want to know who to stay away from then leave a comment and I can email you the details.