The Bluehost Update: Waving Goodbye.

I finished migrating my most important sites off Bluehost and decided the load would be light enough that the rest could run on Bluehost’s shared hosting. I was planning on staying around for Bluehost’s shared hosting and keeping side projects on this host. I was informed that there was no migration path from VPS to shared hosting. Maybe they told me this when I signed up – probably – but it was quite the shock.

I asked what I’d need to do to get down to a shared hosting plan. They said I’d need to cancel my account and then recreate it. Essentially, I’d have to offload absolutely everything onto my local computer, then reupload and reconfigure everything.

Not what I wanted to hear, but I gave it a try. I canceled the VPS expecting to be able to instantaneously reorder the shared hosting…but that didn’t happen.

Having experienced more than a few IT transitions that haven’t gone as smoothly or quickly as desired, I had done this during the night hours – so I’d have time to work out any kinks that might arise…

Unfortunately, apparently, I needed to remove my domain from my bluehost account and literally create an entirely new account. Now we were talking about not only moving hosting files and databases but also DNS records. Okay, I guess I can do that…nope.

I can’t disconnect a domain from my account after cancellation by myself – Bluehost has to do it for me – but the department that handles this is not open 24/7 – so I have no choice but to leave the site down and wait until normal business hours. Well, that kind of undermines the point of having 24/7 support, imho.

I did a search for “best shared hosting.” Lifehacker is a reliable source of information. They found their users recommended Dreamhost, Hostgator, Bluehost, Linode, and A Small Orange.

I didn’t want another VPS – I already have them with DigitalOcean – so Linode was out of the picture. My first choice was A Small Orange – but their hosting is expensive in comparison to the other providers (though I hear their customer service is great).

I also found Ryan Sullivan’s post on WP Site Care which reviewed seven top WordPress hosts (and I use WordPress extensively in my sites). The comparison included A Small Orange, Bluehost, GoDaddy, HostGator, Dreamhost, MediaTemple, and Site5.

A Small Orange was out of the picture due to price as mentioned above and I added MediaTemple to this grouping. I was on Bluehost, so that wasn’t an option and Sullivan’s research showed problems with HostGator’s response – so those two were out.

I’ve never been a big fan of GoDaddy – in part b/c of their juvenile marketing – which I know they have abandoned, but I decided to make them a last choice. I wasn’t really influenced by Sullivan’s observation that once he hit 25+ users performance degraded due to GoDaddy’s security software “Sentinel” which prevents traffic believed to be a DoS. While Sullivan thought this was too low, I didn’t think so. I can’t see many shared sites getting 25 simultaneous users coming across a single IP – unless one is being used as an example in a college classroom and an entire class loads the site at once…still this is unlikely, and even if it does happen, there may be enough variation in the identifying elements from the computers (e.g. OS, browser) for GoDaddy to determine it is not a DoS attack.

This left me with Dreamhost or Site5. I started with Dreamhost b/c Lifehacker had a “deal” where I could get Dreamhost for $20 for one year.

The home cooked control panel took some getting used to – I’ve been using cPanel for so long and webMin on most Linux boxes I’ve managed that this interface was foreign and somewhat confusing…but I got the hang of it.

Ooohh…They have a cPanel importer. Could I really import my cPanel backup from bluehost and save tons of time?!? Unfortunately, no. I tried several times and while the emails said the import had succeeded – it failed. Ohh well, I’ll try doing it manually – but then I see that in at least some cases I have to transfer my domains to use their DNS. What?! I ask if I can get around this – but the answer is no. I use CloudFlare for DNS and other acceleration features and don’t want to use Dreamhost’s DNS.

I decided to sign up for Site5. Maybe they would make me happy – and they did. There were still a few minor inconveniences – once again, their control panel doesn’t look like a regular cPanel. but, But they excelled on support – their techs. responded within seconds to each of my live chat requests, were knowledgeable, and seemed to have the power to accomplish the necessary tasks (as opposed to Bluehost, where segmentation of responsibilities so firmly meant technicians were unable to help me when I needed it, since the other departments weren’t open).

I now have my sites transferred over to Site5. I’ve canceled Dreamhost. My Bluehost is already canceled (though I’m still using them as my domain registrar – from habit and convenience, not b/c they offer such low prices [they don’t on domains]). We’ll see how things go from here.

 

P.S. I don’t think Bluehost is the devil. I’m not sure what is going on over there – I think they need to be a little more transparent about what is happening and why. It is obvious that they launched the VPS product before it was fully baked. This resulted in huge problems at the beginning – the most significant being that sometimes my support tickets would not be answered for days!

I think of myself as a pretty patient guy. If Bluehost had sought to proactively work with me, I probably would have stayed with them…but their product failed and they didn’t bend over backwards to make it work, so I left.

What do I mean by proactively work with me? Simply that they would have done whatever it took to get the site up and running and figuring out the issues. As long as I know someone is working on things, I can be pretty flexible (these aren’t sites that have to have 99.9% uptime, though I prefer that they do). I also enjoy helping companies work through issues like this – and as long as you “compensate” me (by giving my high quality tech support and perhaps some free credit for hosting) – I’ll work with you…but I got the feeling that Bluehost had taken off such a big bite that they couldn’t do this and weren’t interested in doing this.

All this to say, Bluehost may be a reasonable choice in a few months – if they are able to put out all the fires that have been haunting them. Keep an eye open for others reviewing and saying better things about Bluehost in upcoming days. Unfortunately, Bluehost has lost me as a hosting customer…and I don’t see myself returning, even if the situation improves, for the foreseeable future (there is no incentive to do so).

 

Dave Enjoys Gets An Upgrade.

I sometimes go AWOL from posting on Dave Enjoys, so I’m sure no one has been wondering why I haven’t posted in the last two days or so…but there is a real reason why – upgrades.

I got really tired of Bluehost having downtime, running slow, and so on. I hope they get their problems straightened out – but DigitalOcean is offering sweet deals on virtual private servers (VPS) at prices lower than Bluehost offers shared hosting. So, I’m in the slow process of moving sites over. I already moved FreeWargamer and have just now finished moving Dave Enjoys.

What does this mean for you? Well, nothing much on the front-end, but hopefully:

  • The site will load a lot faster, making browsing the site a more enjoyable experience.
  • The site will be more stable – rather than the frequent downtime I’ve been experiencing with Bluehost.

In addition, WordPress released the latest and greatest Jetpack plugin which means you can now used your WordPress.com authentication with Dave Enjoys. If that doesn’t make sense to you – that is okay – it won’t affect your utilization of the site.

Finally, this does mean that there will probably be some hiccups along the way…so if you see any technical glitches with this or any of my other sites please let me know!

Dear Bluehost – Where Has My Favorite Hosting Company Gone?

This sad man image is thanks to openclipart and yyycatch.
This sad man image is thanks to openclipart and yyycatch.

Dear Bluehost,

I moved over to Bluehost in July 2007 – that is around six years ago! Since then I’ve paid you nearly $2,500, I’ve promoted you to others, and I’ve been a faithful cheerleader for Bluehost. But, I don’t think I’m working with the same company any more.

It was May 2011 when I upgraded to your “Pro” hosting – which really didn’t seem so Pro, but which I stuck with. I was ecstatic when you more recently announced VPS offerings for around the same price as Pro and upgraded again on June 25th 2013. I was promised a single core process and whopping 2 GB of RAM. I’d run slices on Slicehost (before being acquired by Rackspace) back in the day with 256 MB and 512 MB slices and boy they ran like champs – so I figured I’d really be getting some horsepower with Bluehost…

I’m not sure if performance has improved or declined since moving to VPS. I’ve noticed significant downtimes…and yes, I did report it in ticket YUK-59176-105 which I submitted on July 1st and which as of July 12th has received no reply! I’d try using your chat based interface – but that’s right, when I do I’m informed that you don’t provide web-based VPS support.

My email highlighted that I experienced outages on the (June) 27th, 29th, 30th (2x), and 1st (July) – and, yes, according to Pingdom I’ve still experienced some outages – two on the sixth and one on the eighth. That is a little better – but this is a VPS for goodness sake!

So, I just wanted to let you know, I’m in the market for a new hosting provider. I’m not leaving just yet – so don’t cancel my accounts – but I am setting up an account with DigitalOcean and transferring a site over there and if things go smoothly – well, DigitalOcean is a lot cheaper and hopefully a lot faster and stabler. If not DigitalOcean, I’ll find another host that still seems to care about its customers.

I’m really sad that I will have to leave Bluehost. You guys offer some great features, used to have stable and decently fast hosting, and I love the one-click script installs – they make my life so much easier.

On a positive note, I did just notice that ping times to your servers have decreased. It was at 800 ms+/-, but is now down in the more acceptable 15-20 ms+/- range.

I hope you’ll take this public letter as a wakeup call. My life would be easiest if I didn’t need to transfer all my sites away from Bluehost.

Respectfully,
Dave Mackey

Updates

  • 7/12 – I wrote this public letter and sent a link to it via a support ticket to Bluehost. The same day I received a reply from a Bluehost Supervisor who informed me that the “admins have been doing everything they can to get everything going as smoothly as possible with our new VPS platform.” (My Read-Between-the-Lines: The VPS solution is still a little raw and not ready for prime-time, but we will quickly get it there.)
    • I was further told that he had located my ticket and escalated it to senior techs. That is good (though how did my ticket go untouched for so long?).
    • Finally, as “a show of good faith” the supervisor gave me one free month of VPS hosting at the end of my current contract (okay, that was nice).
  • 7/13 – I receive a reply from a Level III Tech Support Engineer with Bluehost who informs me that he has reviewed the server and everything appears to be good. He requested that I call during/shortly after downtime so they can check logs.
    • I was no longer experiencing downtime issues at that time.
    • However, since then I’ve had downtimes on 7/14, 7/15, and 7/22. The first two were for five minutes each, the most recent for fifteen minutes.
  • 7/23 – What continues to concern me the most at this juncture is the response time reports. For the last thirty days Pingdom reports overall average at 1,398 ms response time with a slowest of 2,015 ms.
    • The pages oftentimes seem to load sluggishly. I am using CloudFlare’s CDN in addition to the VPS hosting, so really unsure what is going on here.
  • 7/23 – Well, quite a bit of an update since that last post yesterday. The server went down at 11:55 AM and stayed down until 5:30 PM (5.5 hrs.).
    • It proceeded to go down again at 9:30 and came back up around 9:40 and again at 9:40 and came back up at 10:15. BOOO!
    • I called Bluehost and spent 54 minutes on hold beginning around 1 pm yesterday before finally giving up and hanging up.
    • I would spend another 50 minutes around 5:30 pm working with Bluehost tech. support, who got the server back up (sluggishly) but noted a  number of issues with cPanel and other Bluehost systems integration which they were going to continue to work on.
    • I called in yet again around 10:30 pm and spent another 1 hour on the phone with them working on resolving these issues. Finally the tech told me that the higher level engineers had replied that “this wasn’t going to be a quick fix” and that they’d get back to me. BOOO!
  • 7/24 – The site is back up and running okay, but I’m working on transitioning to another host. If Bluehost moves some mountains in the meantime, maybe I’ll stick around…but as of now, I’m trying to move off and can no longer recommend their services.