On August 2nd, the network switches to the Ace Datacenter in Utah went down, taking out millions of websites managed by HostGator, BlueHost and many others. The majority of my customers were on a dedicated server at that Utah facility. The outage was massive and an entire day of business was lost. Along the way I, along with many other surprised customers, learned that HostGator (who manages my dedicated server) and many many other hosting companies had been absorbed by Endurance International Group. EIG apparently is a private equity company who is backed by, among others, Goldman Sachs. In the first few hours that followed the outage, the brave people at front lines at HostGator actually tried to respond to every tweet. At least until they reached some kind of Twitter “tweet limit” that nobody knew Twitter imposed on accounts. Many many hours after the outage started EIG finally assembled a website and directed customers and media to it for updates. Eventually, some 12 hours later, the problems were fixed and the network went back online.
However, in the following days there was nothing. No aftercare from HostGator. Nothing really at all relating to accountability. Yes, we got a bland statement from the CEO of EIG apologizing for the downtime. We were offline for an entire business day yet there was no offer of compensation nor a plan put forward how they’re going to prevent this from happening again in the future.
Furthermore, while we were offline that day, I had a lot of time on my hands to investigate the dealings of Endurance International Group. In a very quiet way, they’ve been cornering the market for cheap web hosting. They’ve gathered up dozens of brands under their umbrella and continue to operate them as “separate” entities while moving all their operations to Ace Datacenter, a huge hosting facility in Utah. While they can certainly gain lower costs through economies of scale, they did run the risk of putting all their eggs in one basket. And what irritates me the most is that HostGator sent me a notice in July that they wanted to move my websites from the dedicated server I had in Texas to a “new one.” Little did I know that it was in Utah. Now find out that BlueHost is also in that datacenter but the exact same server is $80 a month less. So I’m currently weighing my options.
Anyway, this morning I get a quick Customer Service survey from HostGator. I let them have it:
“I’m currently down on HostGator primarily due to the revelations exposed as part of the complete blackout of services in August. What I learned was that HostGator had been sold to a aggregator that placed all their eggs in a single basket. Then, when that “basket” failed, there were no contingency plans in place to route around the problem. In addition, there was no plan in place to communicate to the customers what had happened, what was going to happen next and any estimates as to how long that might take. Basically it was up to the customers themselves in the early hours of the outage to figure out what had gone wrong. Eventually EIG put a few things together to communicate to their customer base but it was long after the horse was already out of the barn. To top things off, after things were repaired, HostGator has been operating like nothing ever happened. So far I’ve seen no offers of compensation for downtime nor has there been a concrete plan put forward showing how this kind of outage isn’t going to reoccur to reassure customers. And the topper is this: I’ve learned that I can get exactly the same dedicated server from BlueHost for $80 a month less than I’m paying now. This makes me feel like a complete chump for paying more than I have to. I can certainly say that at this time I am keeping my options open. I’m an IT professional that has been in the business for a very long time so I understand that things happen. However, at this point I would recommend changing your mascot to an ostrich because management has their heads in the sand thinking that we, as customers, are just going to forget about what happened. Failures of this magnitude require accountability and so far I have seen none.”
Perhaps too bitter? Maybe. But I meant every word of it.