As I mentioned previously (and as many of already know) my blog was down and out in a serious way for nearly 48 hours; 2 complete days. In fact, we had “strike #3″ this morning as we were down for another 8 hour (or so) period between 1:00am and 10:00am today.
In short this is completely unacceptable, especially when it’s not the first time that it’s happened. Heck, we might not even be fully out of the woods even as I post this unbelievable blog post (I’m a little surprised that I even can…).
My current hosting provider, VPS.net, has failed miserably and not only has handled the situation poorly but provided little concrete and believable resolutions nor customer support and care – they have showed a complete lack of empathy for their customers and more than once I wanted to reach through my computer screen and punch someone in the face.
Sure, that’s a bit graphic and certainly a bit violent but those were honestly some of the feelings that I was having during that very disturbing and unsettling experience. And to be sure, I’m not ignorant – there is no perfect hosting solution out there, as I’ve mentioned many times previously, but treating your customers like crap is about where I draw the line, even if your service is half-way decent.
Needless to say they have failed me (and my team and businesses) for the last time and I shall be migrating this blog (and a few other sites) to a completely new service (*Update* – we made good on our promise and moved here), one that will provide a much better end-user experience as well as be able to back up their claims with action instead of using them as marketing material for the ignorant:
Thankfully I’m even a bit excited about this transition as it may allow me to experiment even further with some server tweaks and optimization tests for WordPress (especially comparing NGINX, Litespeed, and MySQL alternatives like MongoDB and PostgreSQL).
Did I learn anything from this experience? Certainly, and it took a few days to cool down (but not before they could disappoint me one more time) to begin to jot them down. Unfortunately most of us (if not all of us) will experience downtime and server and hosting misfortune at some point in our lives and it’s not a matter of “if” but rather “when.”
I add it among some of the eternal constants and truths: Death, taxes, and downtime (as a I like to call it).
In any case, here are three things that I took away from the experience that might prove to be valuable things for you to remember when the poop hits the fan:
1. Don’t Panic: Do Your Due Diligence
Our first instinct is to panic and begin doing things that one might regret later like jumping too fast to conclusions or publicly saying (or tweeting) something obnoxious.
I made my first public statement about my disappointment with my provider nearly 8 hours after the blog went down. It wasn’t that I didn’t publicly acknowledge that the site was struggling – it was that I held my public (and disappointing) remarks about my provider until I had tested everything thoroughly.
This includes reviewing any significant changes in my environment from a hosting perspective in the past week, any changes in my WordPress plugins or WordPress Themes (I have a local copy of all of my environment so I know exactly what it looks like even when the site is down), and reviewing any news articles or breaking information about exploits or hacks that have cropped up globally.
After testing everything and beginning to have conversations with my provider, thus ruling out any fault on my end, I was able to securely and safely put the blame (yes, blame) on my hosting provider.
2. Engage Calmly, Remove Emotion (If Possible)
Now this is pretty much impossible for many of us (and I certainly struggle with it as well) but I’ll mention it anyway: Remain calm and try to remove any and all emotion in the equation, especially as you deal with your hosting provider’s technicians and support team.
You just have to remember that 99 out of 100 times it’s not that particular person’s fault (although in one case I had a junior level tech trip over a wire and pull my rack out) and they are simply trying to perform triage and damage control on something that may be completely out of their hands.
Try to treat them as human beings, business acquaintances if you can and they’ll appreciate it greatly. In fact, it might prove to get you the help you need faster as you politely tell your tech:
It will help you and help them move towards a conclusion.
3. Stay Productive (Because You’re Essentially Helpless)
Many bloggers and entrepreneurs have this one character trait in common: We like to be in control; we are control freaks.
Unless you colocate and manage your own hardware for your own hosting you are pretty much powerless to do anything or move anything any quicker. Threats won’t work and neither do your tirades via Twitter.
What you can do is take a moment to assess the situation correctly, perhaps pray (if that’s your thing), and seek out opportunities to stay productive.
For example, I had a few posts queued for the days during which my blog was down but with all of the commotion I found a reason to blitz through three posts in my SEO series that I had been procrastinating on doing. I can say with all integrity that if it wasn’t for the downtime than these three posts would not have been published as soon as they would have been (they would have been published at some point mind you):
- The Importance of Using Social Media, Social Sharing for SEO
- The Power and Effect of Personalization for Search Results
- How the Age of Your Blog Effects Authority, Credibility, & SEO
Am I happy that I had downtime? Heck no! But did I choose to stay productive as best as I could? Heck yes.
You don’t have to be on your blog to draft posts – in fact, I’ve already suggested that you blog somewhere else other than within your online editor so you should be good to go.
4. Stay Positive: It’ll Be Over Shortly
Ultimately all server and hosting situations get resolved. Some of them take a few minutes or hours while some might last a few days.
In all but the super-extreme cases (like where a hosting company forfeits their business or something of that nature, which has happened before) your blog will return to normal and you shall be on your merry way.
During the downtime it’s a living nightmare and you friends, family, and coworkers might have felt the wrath of an uber-pissed-off-blogger but try to stay positive and approachable during this time.
Sure, feel free to sulk and throw a pity party for yourself but don’t drag other people down with you since it keeps everyone unproductive and focused on the wrong things.
It’ll all get fixed soon and you may even forget that it ever happened by the end of the week.
Or maybe not.
5. Spend Time Researching Alternatives
One of the most productive things you can be doing as you wait ever-so-patiently for your service to be restored is to do some competitive research for alternatives, especially if this is a common issue or if you’re just generally feeling that this company doesn’t deserve your hard earned green.
For myself and my team we began the quick process of vetting other competitors, making phone calls, and establishing a plan of migration all while we waited.
Ultimately I will leave my currently provider and seek greener pastures elsewhere but I’m in a much better spot for having done my research during the downtime (because I was obviously super-motivated to do it) and I have all the facts and figures ready to ship.
In fact, I’ve already have a quote in hand for another serious provider and will execute this weekend with a first run test of one site migration with the rest to follow.
I’m ready to rock and roll and I’m excited about the transition.
Naturally, I’ll be updating this post about my optimal WordPress Hosting solution as well as dropping VPS.net to a much lower score on my personal blog hosting comparison chart. Their service is decent (it did great for a good amount of time) but the way they handled the incident and my team was too bogus for me to want a relationship with them long-term.
Hopefully this helps and I pray that you won’t ever have to experience significant downtime like this, but if you do you at least have some actionable items and things to remember when it does.
And of course I’ll keep you posted on where we go from here and what I ultimately decide to do.