Sep 012011

The following post is not about travel, and is boring. Unless you’re a techie or care to hear me rant about a frustrating experience with an incompetent webhost, you may skip it without worry 🙂

Now that I finally had a bit of time to spare I decided to get in touch with HostGator (my webhost) and complain about some recent issues with performance. I’d just migrated to a brand new server before starting this trip, and although things were initially running smoothly, over the last few months speeds have again plummeted to “abysmally slow.” My own testing showed the biggest problem to be timed out MySQL queries, yet whenever I submitted a ticket they’d try to dodge the issue and place blame on me – citing something irrelevant like “too many offsite javascript includes” or “a low YSlow score.” Neither of these have anything to do with queries timing out on the server, but such replies seem pretty typical of their support.

So after pushing them for days and days, I finally managed to get someone to locate and fix the actual problem: another account was hogging all the MySQL resources. As soon as they blocked it, speeds skyrocketed and things returned to normal. I went to sleep happy.

Then when I awoke the next morning I found a very troubling email:

We adjusted the w3totalcache to use the minification which combines the CSS files as the fix we conveyed earlier, the page is no longer hitting the firewall rules. Please let us know if you are still having issues.
Cruz Cranford

Um…what? First of all, you took it upon yourself to edit my source code without permission – even after the issue had been resolved and closed? I logged in to have a look at what was changed, diffing it with my local backup, and discovered something even more mindboggling…


OK, so it may not be immediately obvious to non-techies why this is so unfathomable. Essentially what they did was, without any kind of permission, went ahead and overwrote hundreds of files on my server. They had no knowledge of whether or not I’d modified those files (I had), or if it would break anything else I may’ve been developing (it did), or if I had a reason for not having upgraded already (I did). Worse yet, they did this without even bothering to run a backup (as specifically instructed by WordPress) and seemingly without reason (what on earth were they trying to accomplish anyway?) This action brought my local development copy completely out-of-sync with the live version, meaning that – had I not accidentally discovered what they’d done – I could’ve easily performed local edits on my dev copy and mirrored them to the server (thus creating a partially-upgraded, broken website). Notice that their email made no mention whatsoever of this change.

I was furious. But because they hadn’t bothered to take a backup first, they had no solution. And to make matters worse, the WiFi had gone out the previous night and Tony was out of town – so I got to spend the next few days downloading my *entire* webroot and database over a cellular connection while trying to manually diff everything and figure out what they screwed up. Just to get it back to how it was when I went to sleep on the 4th.

Never in my life have I experienced such incompetence or unprofessionalism. If you use HostGator, make sure the first thing you tell them is “Don’t ever modify my personal files without explicit permission!”

The fact that this isn’t implicitly obvious simply baffles me.

Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place on Saturday, February 5th.

  12 Responses to “HostGator Incompetence”

  1. That is REALLY terrible. I would have been FURIOUS!!! Sounds like it is time to change hosts 😉

  2. I did think about it…but most shared hosts are pretty terrible in general, and of the ones I’ve used HG has definitely been the best…so I figured I’d rather not risk ending up with someone even worse :/

  3. Yeah, that is totally unacceptable! They have no right to edit your files. I would have been furious.

  4. Trust me, I was…you don’t even wanna see some of the email I sent them over the next few days 😛

  5. Although I doubt you would, did you happen to use fantastico (or whatever bot installer Hostgator has/uses) to install WordPress originally?

    I learned to not use this feature at all – even selecting “custom” in fantastico will not shield the user from future host meddling (although this is extremely convenient to get new WP projects going in one click).

    Dreamhost upgraded one of my sites and caused problems exactly as you described and 1and1 will not let you edit .htaccess after using their installer, leaving you with no mod_rewrite whatsoever rendering WordPress unable to generate “pretty URLs”!

  6. Nope, definitely didn’t use Fantastico – that’s horrible that you suffered a similar issue. I just don’t get how a webhost can do something like this; I mean if they need something changed to solve a problem, sure, that makes sense, but they should at least ask BEFORE making the change!

  7. Woah, unfathomable. If you ever develop a steady stream of income, I’d upgrade to a faster host anyway.

  8. Haha “If you ever develop a steady stream of income”? Is that not what I have now? 😛

  9. well it’s ramping up for you, but it’s not enough where you’d feel comfortable paying $20/month for hosting, as opposed to $80/year.

  10. Sure I could, that’s like 2/3rds of one single-site plugin sale 😛 I just don’t see any justifiable reason to triple the cost and end up with less space/bandwidth. Plus it’d probably be more like $40-$50 than $20 :/

  11. Faster load times is the primary reason. More control over server configuration is another. Which service would make you pay more but give you less space / bandwidth?

  12. Most shared hosting plans give you unlimited space/bandwidth, but VPS is limited. Example: check out HostGator’s VPS pricing.

    Configuration I don’t particularly care about at the moment, but yes, more speed would *definitely* be nice…

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