with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
Categories: Head hitting brick wall
Hi. How are you today?
Me, I’m completely bald. I have pulled out every hair on my head. Because yesterday, my hosting service went kerflooey and my web sites—my largest source of business and income—were offline for the entire day. In fact, it’s been 20 hours as I write this, and everything is still down!
I sat at my desk, trading emails with the so-called customer service department, becoming progressively more and more frustrated and angry. And not just because I was offline, but because the customer service department was completely useless. If I hadn’t actually participated in this exchange, I would’ve sworn it was a joke. Because you can’t run a business that way and thrive, can you? I mean, really?
Following are the actual messages we exchanged. First I sent this:
All of my sites appear to be down as of 10:02 eastern time. Attempts to load them result in a long wait time and then a blank page (not even an error). Any ideas?
I didn’t hear back. So then I sent this:
Half an hour has passed, no response, and my sites are all still down during what is probably the most heavily-trafficked time of the week. Hello? Anybody out there?
Twenty minutes later, I got this:
We have had a reboot request out for this server for about 35 minutes. The machine should finish rebooting shortly.
Well, that seemed reasonable, right? Except that I waited another fifteen minutes and nothing had changed. So I sent this:
We are now at an hour, with no sign of the sites coming back online. The reply I received told me nothing (why are you rebooting a server in the middle of a weekday? why is it taking so long?) and didn’t apologize. Granted, an apology is not going to fix the fact that my business grinds to a halt when a screw-up like this occurs, but at least it would make me feel like you’re trying. As it is, the impression I get is “too bad, lady” when I’m already incredibly frustrated.
[hosting provider] used to pride itself on excellent customer service and 99.9% uptime. Today I’m getting neither. I guess it’s time to start shopping for a new hosting provider.
I suppose that email was a little pissy, but you know what? I’m running a business here. I am paying them for a service. I’m not getting that service, nor am I getting any indication that they intend to provide that service. Plus—as long as we’re discussing it—this isn’t the first time this has happened.
But my request for an apology was recognized, at least:
We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused. The server had stopped responding, so our administrators made the call to reboot it, as this typically will resolve these types of issues. They are currently working to bring the server back online as quickly as possible, but we can really give no accurate ETA for this to complete at this time. Again, we apologize for the inconvenience this has caused and we appreciate your patience.
I waited over an hour before responding with this:
Thanks, Tim… that was slightly more informative, at least.
We are now at 3 hours of downtime. Are there no backup servers at [hosting provider]?
It is not merely inconvenient for me for my sites to vanish off the web, it is financially devastating. This is how I conduct my business. I cannot afford to have my customers reach out and just not find me for the better part of a day — I lose revenue in the short term and (if this keeps up) patronage in the long term.
I understand that “things happens” but your company exists to provide hosting. How is it even possible that your customers find themselves without hosting for hours on end? And that there is absolutely NO information as to when the problem will be resolved? Seriously, if I did business that way I’d have no customers. My mind boggles.
This brought my original support tech, Andrew, back on the case. Half an hour later, that is:
There are many technical restrictions that do not allow us to support hot-spare servers for unexpected downtime. An OS restore and backup recovery is being initiated for srv4.whsrv.com by the datacenter techs.
I waited half an hour, and my sites were still unavailable, at which point I pretty much lost it and sent this:
And that will take how long?
This one incident has at this moment brought your monthly uptime down to 99.5%, and that’s assuming you get things back online in the next ten minutes. This is a service crisis, and the “supportive” information I’ve received in the last three and a half hours has basically boiled down to “oops.” No estimated uptime. No assurance that this won’t happen again. And — most importantly — no restoration of the service for which I am paying.
Is it annoying to keep receiving these messages from me? And from (I assume) from all the other [service provider] customers who have nothing better to do at the moment because their businesses have been yanked offline and the alternative to trying to squeeze some actual customer SERVICE out of your company is to sit around and consider how much money we’re losing due to your company’s failure to deliver promised service? I’m guessing that it is, although I don’t know what else to do at this point. The optimist in me is still hoping for something resembling customer service.
I want my service restored. Barring that, in the meantime I want an estimated uptime. And I would also like to know why this happened and if you can assure me that it won’t happen again.
I didn’t know how to be any more clear. To me, it’s quite simple: I am paying for a service. I expect to receive that service. What is so complicated about that?
If I didn’t deliver as promised to my customers, a few things happen. One, I apologize. Strike that; I grovel. I can count on one hand (with four fingers left over) the number of times I have failed to deliver as promised since going into business for myself, and even though that time involved extenuating circumstances which I’m sure my clients understood, I was mortified. Two, I fix it. Immediately. As soon as possible, anyway. And I make it clear how and when that is happening.
My performance is my reputation. I want people to know that when I say I’ll deliver, it will happen. I thought this was how everyone does business, apparently because I fell off the turnip truck just yesterday.
After five hours of downtime, I left this for my good pals at [service provider]:
We are now at a staggering five hours of downtime, with no end in site. Do you people have a supervisor or someone who might actually be able to tell me what is happening here?
An hour later—now six hours after this debacle began—Andrew came back to tell me that the disk housing my files was corrupted, and needed to be replaced. He reiterated that they couldn’t offer me any idea of actual uptime.
At seven hours things began to get ugly. (I’ll spare you, but yet another customer service rep entered the fray to let me know that my sarcasm was unnecessary as they’d been perfectly professional with me. I resisted the urge to go all Inigo Montoya on them—that word, I do not think it means what you think it means, [service provider]!—but I did explain that professional would’ve been fixing the problem in a timely manner or at least offering some semblance of information as to why that wasn’t happening and when we could expect some action.)
All of my data and websites have now been down for almost a full day, and I’ve received no status update and no refund. Yes, very professional.
If you need me, I’ll be over here, setting up my new hosting provider for migration. Once I’m settled in at the new place I want to tell you all about my current provider, including who they are.
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