Why You Should Always Have A Web Hosting Exit Strategy
Back in 2005 when I started this site I had it hosted at Godaddy along with the domain. That was a comfortable thing to do as I only had to deal with one company for all my domain and web hosting needs and support requests.
That back then did not turn out as well as well. Ghacks was suspended by Goddady back then after it made the Digg homepage, and Godaddy decided it was the most customer friendly way to simply suspend the website, without informing me prior to this. I did not receive an email, nor telephone call at that time and only found at because I visited my site several times a day.
I had to call the US for 30 minutes to resolve the situation, which basically meant that I ordered my first dedicated server at the German web hosting company Hetzner as Godaddy was not able to resolve the issue for me besides asking for a premium upgrade to a very expensive dedicated server.
Took some time to move domains and web files, I probably lost a couple hundred bucks and lots of potential readers in the process. That was a huge blow back then for the young site.
Fast forward to 2010. Imagine my surprise when I received an email sent by the web hosting company Just Host telling me that my account has been suspended. It apparently used more server resources than it should. I test a few hosters here and there with smaller sites, first to diversify the hosting a bit but also to see if I can find a real gem amongst the web hosting companies.
Deja Vu one might think. I did receive an email this time but that's it. No prior consultation, no phone call, nothing. When I open the site in the browser I get a suspended page. Not good for visitors, trust and everything else.
The email reads:
As you probably aware, here at Just Host we proactively monitor all our servers to ensure that our clients websites are loading as fast as possible at all times. During this routine monitoring we
have found that your account is utilizing an excessive amount of system resources, and we have been forced to suspend your site as per our terms and conditions '10% CPU/MEM/MySQL Policy'.
Just Host offer unlimited hosting space and unlimited bandwidth, but as per our terms we will suspend any website which exceeds our 10% CPU/MEM/MySQL policy. We hope that you understand our position in
ensuring that we provide the best possible service. In order to continue to provide this high quality service, you will need to upgrade to a dedicated server, which will give you an abundance of
additional resources and speed up your website.
Sounded much like they wanted me to order a dedicated server instead, something that Godaddy requested back then as well. I probably would have thought about this if the domain was still up and running and if they would have contacted me to resolve the situation.
Even more puzzling was the fact that they disabled Cpanel and ftp accounts as well, so no option to create a backup or to move the domain to a new registrar.
The good news is that I was prepared this time. I had a dedicated server up and running and could use it to move the domain and hosting account to that server. I still had to convince Just Host to create a backup for me, let me access the DNS settings, and hand me the EPP code so that I could make the transfers.
It took them about 40 minutes to reply to my first ticket. That's a long time if you are sitting on a suspended domain name. They did however do what I asked them to. The backup was linked in their response, as were the login information to change the nameserver information and the administrative email which is important for the domain transfers.
It is now two hours after their initial email. The nameservers are unfortunately still resolving the old suspended site. I was however able to restore the backup and verify that the site is 100% working on the new dedicated server.
The transfer is pending, still have to figure out how to accept the transfer without any login possibilities at Just Host at the moment. Have contacted their support again and am waiting for a response.
How to be prepared if your web hosting account gets suspended:
- Make sure you have access to recent backups or that you download the latest backup regularly to be able to restore them at another web hosting company or server if the account gets suspended. This can be problematic if the backup is very large (hundreds of Megabytes or even Gigabytes). Backups come in many forms, make sure that the backup created on the current site can be restored at the new hoster. Nothing's worse than having to restore files and databases manually, takes a lot of time.
- Make sure the administrative emails are set correctly. They are needed for the domain transfers. It takes a while before they are updated.
- Have at least an account at a second respected web hosting company. You do not really need to have a hosting package there or anything, just make sure that they setup the hosting packages in less than an hour when needed. Having the account ready ensures that you do not have to create it first.
- Make sure you have the ftp / sftp / cpanel account information at hand. Nothing's worse than having to request new login codes if time is pressing.
- You can test that the website is working correctly by changing the hosts file in the operating system so that it links the new IP to the domain name. Very helpful to test a site before DNS propagation. And since you are waiting for the DNS to propagate you can at least do something useful in the meantime. You can check if the nameservers have been set correctly at web services such as DNS stuff. A traceroute to the domain can also provide the information if the DNS has propagated already.
- Live chat or calling is often the faster option to resolve a situation. It is a good idea to have the links and phone numbers ready in case of emergency. Put them in a text file, notes or support folder so that they are directly accessible when needed.
Websites who exceed the allowed server resources require a change, I agree to that. What I do not understand at all on the other hand is the lack of willingness to find a solution with the customer. I have experienced the same suspension without initial warning or contact to resolve the issue twice in past years. Both times websites who have seen a sudden increase in visitor numbers were affected.
A web hoster who would contact the customer first, or at least try to, before suspending the account would get all my money, I only have to find one first. I suspect that most web hosters have the necessary resources to cope with the traffic increase before it affects the whole network which means they should try to resolve the issue without suspending the site in the beginning.
They should also at the very least keep the hosting login account activated. The email that informs the customer of the suspension should contain a link to the latest backup to speed up the process of moving the site to a new hoster. They need to understand that time is essential in this process, and that they can part with a disgruntled customer or a customer who is happy that the transfer did not take down the site for a long period of time.
Have you experienced something similar in the past? Let us know in the comments.
I am pretty surprised you were able to use the Just Host site at all for hosting Ghacks. I use Just Host for a site that gets something like 1500 hits a month. I am sure Ghacks gets 1000 times that, so it is pretty amazing Just Host was happy to host the site for so long. Indecently, I also use Just Host, so if I ever become super-popular like Ghacks, I’ll know to go dedicated!
It was not ghacks this time, thankfully ;) The site got about 6-8k visitors without problems in June, the figure jumped to 31351K on July 7, do not have the stats for the last two days yet, yesterday must have been crazy, today probably not so because of the suspension.
Jojo, I really like that site, especially the deals section. Found the current Ghacks hoster there, got an unbelievable deal for Wiredtree and can fully recommend their services. One of the best, if not the best, dedicated server provider.
Might I recommend http://www.nearlyfreespeech.net/. You pay only for what you use, they know how to deal with digg/reddit/slashdot bombings (and real DoS attacks as well), but there are no limits to go over.
You need to have your domains with a prime time registrar like Godaddy so you can always have control of your domain/nameservers/EPP/everything. When you make NS/DNS updates they will also update super fast. There is a reason they are the biggest. As for hosting, you should have spent the money before and had your site hosted on a dedicated server. The fact that you were suspended twice by two different companies says something. If you are affecting hundreds of other sites because of your traffic, you can afford a server.
may be keeping domain & webhosting to diff providers is helpful.
my site does not have much traffic but while shifting from last webhosting providers, all i needed was backup. since i have domain registered with godaddy i changed NS to new web hosting provider, saving time for domain migration.
That’s actually a good tip. Many web hosting companies on the other hand offer a free domain with every order, but generally speaking I do use Godaddy for domains and Wiredtree for hosting.
Yes, it is unpleasant to be disconnected for jump in traffic… On other hand when some site overloads server there are many sites that suffer from that.
I was on such end of situation. Few poorly configured or whatever sites where totally killing server performance every day and host had “informed” them and was “waiting for them to make changes”.
Yes, sometimes that it only host being evil (many of them are) and trying to upsell. But sometimes host has no choice but to nuke one site to save a dozen.
Rarst I do understand the implications but all I was asking for was a couple of hours to sort it out, without site downtime. I also know of some hosts who move the site to a new server temporarily to avoid performance drops for the other shared hosting sites.
Yep, I didn’t mean your specific case. But host pulling site down is not in the wrong if that site is killing rest of server.
It’s just difference of priorities and assessments for two sides. That’s why I think it is extremely important for shared hosting to have sane, precise and properly enforced usage limits.
> I probably would have thought about this if the domain was still up and running
Wait, so you hosted a site that’s previously been suspended for being a server resource pig… on another shared server – and your complaint is that the hosting provider didn’t leave your site online to kill performance on a bunch of other people’s websites?
Would you be happy with your site performing like a dog for a couple of hours because someone else on your server should have gone to a dedicated solution but was either too cheap or not proactive enough to have done so?
There are some providers who relocate overburdened sites to shelter the rest of their infrastructure – but that process chews time from their support staff and consumes internal resources – you either pay for that through more expensive hosting, a service fee for the time consumed by the task, or a hosting provider that eventually can’t keep up with user demand.
Shared hosting is a great way to handle vapourware/brochureware sites or solutions with limited and predictable traffic. The reality is that with a site like this – you should be on dedicated hosting – ideally on a virtualized platform that can reallocate resources to you during spikes and charge you some extra money for it.
An exit plan is important. And keeping a disconnect between services you own and the people you pay is important. Lots of people end up in the situation where their developer or webhost can extort them, or really damage their business because they control everything. Keep backups of your content, data and application code, ensure that your domain management information isn’t shared with anyone who you wouldn’t trust with your front door key, have an understanding of how much traffic your site generates and how much server load that traffic generates so you can validly assess your hosting requirements. And put a monitoring solution in place to track your site’s uptime and notify you if something goes wrong. Especially on shared hosting solutions, where some guy can get his site listed on Digg and kill the server – hosting providers never have time to call every single user on the affected server. You just have to hope they kill of the resource hogs website as quickly as possible – and move your hosting if it happens too often.
Scootah, thanks for your comments. What I meant with “I probably would have thought about this if the domain was still up and running” was that I would have considered their upgrade offer if my website was still up and running. Since it was not it was not an option.
I noticed a few days ago that there is a WordPress plugin for doing automatic backups to the cloud backup service called iDrive. That might be worthwhile, cheap insurance for any future problems, since iDrive has a $69.50 per year price for 50 GB of backup space.
Since my hard drive crashed and I had to make use of the one I had been using as an external backup, I have put copies of all my important files onto iDrive pending the replacement of this laptop in a few weeks when I am back in the States. Thus, when I ran across a mention of the WordPress plugin, I was already familiar with the service. I intend to use it for a new blog I’ll be launching in the Fall.
Those are some great tips based on your experiences with having a successful site that keeps getting shutdown due to it’s traffic. Kind of stupid for GoDaddy to not keep your business and direct you to a more suitable product, like dedicating hosting once you exceeded their limits…but what do you expect. All in all appreciate you sharing your experiences and hopefully I never encounter the nightmare you have.
We have exactly the same story from Goddady suspend to some other hosting comp suspend , than to dedicated server (netrackservers) and now to Hetzner dedicated.
Same story here, Godaddy shut me down because they said besides my site had too much traffic and pushing me to dedicated server, I was using too many database resources.
I was forced than to mirror it to 52 databases so the load was spread on Godaddys mysql hosts.
Suspended again, because I was using memory tables which they say consumes all the memory of the host. I was using it but it merely held thousand rows. The said I should convert them to inno db. I refused because they claim that they support mysql with all storage engines. They than forced me again to go dedicated or go elsewhere.
Of course I went somewhere else!!
All this happened via emails, responses varying form 1 hour to 12 hours with the site being down all the time.
This happened to me once, and it dealt a very hurtful blow, as the data was very critical and I doubt that there’s any way at all to get it back or rewrite it. The data was definitely something that’s once-in-a-lifetime. I really back up with much more care now :(