I've just moved web hosts - which, for 20 domains and 13 websites, is a complicated and expensive process. Let me explain what made me want to move...
I'd been with my old host, 1&1 Internet for over three years and had become more and more frustrated with them. They couldn't solve, or even explain, regular outages in service and serious problems with their managed server configuration. It all came to a head in June, after two months of wasted time chasing their support team. I wanted to speak to a manager but was denied by their outsourced phone crew. I was told I should complain to complaints@1&1.co.uk, so I wrote the following email on 21/06/06. It was only acknowledged (see below) after I emailed again on 27/08/06, two months later.
I'd like to raise a complaint about 1&1 support, who have made no positive progress correcting issues with the configuration of a managed server for the last two months. I have sent thirteen emails this month alone, supplying information about the issues and helping where possible.. and chasing where necessary. On occasion, my requests have been unanswered by 1&1 for a week or more.
My "professional" package hosts thirteen websites, two of which are commercially important to me. One of them (brittenhouse.com) is the front-end for an information and messaging system running live on LCD screens throughout a block of flats in Chelsea. Outages on this site (now a regular occurrence) are extremely visible and problematic. Another of my sites is a nightlife community website which I am currently expanding to include a payment system. However, outages are affecting the functionality, and, most importantly, the credibility of this system.
I have been a customer of 1&1 for the last three years, and begun suffering serious problems this year. The database has been regularly refusing connections from the application server; the database server has been repeatedly and inexplicably shutting down (sometimes at peak traffic time, and sometimes in the early hours of the morning, under negligible load); simple queries on small tables (in the order of hundreds of rows) were taking more than a second to execute, slowing page loads to a crawl.
These issues were visibly disrupting my sites so I contacted 1&1, who unfortunately made no progress with the case until the end of May when they took "steps to speed up the queries and lessen the load on the server."
This had no positive effect whatsoever, so I emailed again, and received a reply on Friday 2nd June to say my database would be moved. Such a move would require configuration changes on my side in order to keep the sites operational. I emailed back to say that I would be free to make the configuration change that day but did not receive a reply by the end of the day. Therefore I called up oneandone phone support in the evening, who hadn't a clue about what was going on, but said they would attach a note on my account and that the move would occur over the weekend. I stayed in that weekend, in readiness to make the configuration change. I heard nothing back, and the database was not moved. I emailed again on Monday, and there was no reply until Tuesday afternoon, when I was finally told the new configuration details.
Had the move fixed the issues? No. Not even slightly (the shutdowns, connection issues and appalling query performance remained). Worst of all, a new intermittent problem had been introduced. The sites now frequently suffered errors: "Host '18.104.22.168' is not allowed to connect to this MySQL server." Clearly, there was a MySQL, IP or DNS configuration issue on 1&1's side. In all this time no one has explained why the database servers are being shut down.
After repeated email exchanges which have continued since the database move, 1&1 technicians have made absolutely no progress solving ANY of these issues (I have also had to explain to the latest support technician that he is looking at the wrong database, and I've still not heard back from him after a week). Instead of explaining the technical issues or resolving them, 1&1 support have recommended that I upgrade to a dedicated server to host my sites.
The reason given is that my sites have "outgrown" my current package. I'm not convinced. My database is just a few megabytes in size, and there is no reason why queries should be taking up to a second to run. More tellingly, errors such as the one described above is clearly caused by configuration and NOT by load.
Despite my doubts about 1&1's technical support, I am tempted to move to a dedicated server because it will give me more control over my configuration and hopefully the move to a fresh server will negate the issues, or allow me to solve them myself. The leap in cost is from £18.79/month to £69/month, which is a lot of money for me to have to pay, but my domain/subdomain/email configuration is comprehensive and it would be time-consuming to transfer them to another hosting company. I have already wasted enough of my time trying to help 1&1 resolve these issues and now I'm fed up and I want results.
I'm emailing to express my despair at the FUTILITY in contacting 1&1 about the configuration of their managed servers. I hope that you will take my concerns on board and that the situation will improve in the future. I would like this email to be acknowledged, at the very least.
My experience with 1&1 has been incredibly frustrating, and I can see from a brief Google search that I'm not the only unsatisfied customer (see , , , , , , , , , ).
During my two-month wait for a reply from 1&1, I decided to move over to a new hosting company. I chose Interhost's Linux VPS (virtual private server) 50 package, which offered a very comprehensive set of features and root access to a Linux host. I called the support number before I signed up, and got straight through to a knowledgeable guy who was clearly in direct contact with the system. No more clueless outsourcers, thank god. My subsequent email queries to Interhost were answered within a few hours. It was great to finally have a robust application server and database. Note (updated 04/01/2008) that Interhost has sadly declined somewhat.
Updated 01/08/2006: this just in from 1&1:
Thank you for contacting us. First let me offer my apologies for you not receiving a response to your complaint, unfortunately this was a result of a break down in communication on our part. The service you received was below any acceptable level and the time taken for a resolution for your database issues was well over our desired time frame. Unfortunately the cause of the issue was hard to locate due to its intermittent nature and the time needed to find a solution exceeded our usual resolution time
We apologise for any inconvenience that this may have caused you and that as a result of this issue you moved you're hosting to a new provider. You first reported an the issue you were experiencing on 20th Feb 2006, so as a gesture of goodwill we will be refunding your card with all fees paid after the first time you reported this issue (20th Feb 2006). This means you will receive the following refund...Invoice no. Refund
Total = £289.19
Updated 04/08/2006: 1&1 has just DEBITED my account £70.46. Unbelievable! This is over a month after I cancelled my contract with them. Needless to say I called up to tell them what I thought about this in no uncertain terms. They claim that their system "always does this" and there is "nothing they can do about it" except subsequently refund the money. They claim a refund had been made that day but this has not yet appeared on my bank statement. I'll wait and see. No sign of the compensation yet.
Updated 08/08/2006: After phoning them twice, and sending my bank statement to them, 1&1 has refunded £69.71. It's just short of the £70.46 they took, but I'm too weary to bother chasing small fry when I'm still owed almost £300 in compensation from them
Updated 10/08/2006 In an email from their billing department, 1&1 reveals that the compensation offer partly comprised a refund for the [illegal] invoice of £70.26, so now I am only due to receive £219.48. I respond with the following:
Thanks for getting back to me.
I was unaware that the compensation partly comprised a refund for an invoice that was to be illegally debited from me after the compensation offer itself! The invoice in question, 71749795 was debited after my cancellation, and after the £289 compensation was offered. Since the actual invoice document never reached me by email I was unaware that this actually formed part of the amount offered in compensation.
Losing an anticipated £70.46 is regrettable but to be honest I will be happy for this long, drawn-out saga to be over when I finally receive the remaining compensation.
Back in July when I cancelled my contract, I phoned to confirm I wouldn't be charged any further amounts by 1&1. Whilst I was told that I wouldn't be charged, in August my account was debited. This is disconcerting.
This time, can you please put it to me in writing that 1&1 will never debit my account again.
Thanks in advance
Updated 15/08/2006 The reduced amount of compensation (£219.48) finally hits my account. All in all, the experience with 1&1 has been fraught with broken promises and wasted effort. When you're choosing your host, think very carefully before choosing 1&1.
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