Hosting Horrors

Hosting Horrors

Around Halloween, I asked the web development community about the worst problems they ever had with web hosting. I made my list and sent it out for comparison. Here are my notes in relation to my network’s insights.

In short, I’ve hosted websites for over a decade and I’ve settled down to a few good hosts. I’ve also worked on many, many client’s hosts into the wee hours of the night and I’d like to spare you that pain. Here are the top issues I face when dealing with web hosts.

1. Unresponsive or Inattentive Staff.

Unable to Contact Host Provider

Nothing drives me more crazy than when I am trying to work on a client’s account and the host team is unavailable either by phone or by email. We all know how many things can go wrong with hosting – from DNS pointers to email to latency – getting hosting set up can be a nightmare. Having an unresponsive host can make a bad situation worse.

In a market as fiercely competitive as Web Hosting, often the first pawn to go is the customer service department.
Sean Nicholls, Lead Software Developer at Logicswarm

Endless Phone Trees

Sometimes you can’t self-provision and you need help. Maybe you’ve encountered an issue you have never seen before. Maybe you have a question on the service level you purchased. Either way, you want to have a real-live person on the phone.

Redirected to Voicemail

By the time you call a Web Host, you are likely already pretty irate. You have some issue that you can’t solve for yourselfe and you need help. After navigating the phone tree you think you may actually reach a human that can help you the height of Web Hosting Horrors is being redirected to voicemail! It’s even worse when you discover that voicemail is full!!!

Incident Tickets Stay Open Forever.

Again, in an effort to reduce the costs of interacting with humans, some Web Hosts will implement an incident ticket service. This is where you go online and dutifully enter your issue, select a couple of categorizations and submit the problem to a queue for the host to address. On the surface, this seems like an efficient and elegant solution. That view dims considerably when those tickets have been opened and unworked for days, weeks, or longer.

Confusing literature.

In an effort to bring customer interaction down, companies have put a ton of support content on the web. A FAQ page should help with basic questions, not replace customer service all together.

2. Poor or Unresponsive Technology

You can tell that your host is really a cheap reseller account knock off when you see a slapped-together, old version of cpanel and a cut-rate mail program on there. Squirrel Mail, anyone? This drives me nuts.A word to the wise, try to preview any host setups that you can.

The Web Hosting Cycle of Suckage

Randall Goya had a good way to describe this phenomenon:

I think that budget shared hosts go through a cycle:

  1. They upgrade their equipment and pipes and get a good reputation.
  2. Success brings many new customers, things get crowded.
  3. Service begins to flag – discerning and demanding customers leave.
  4. They reach some kind of attrition rate and upgrade.
  5. Rinse and repeat.

Slows or Erratic Web Page Speeds

This is largely a function of bargain basement webhosts. You can’t really expect to get consistently good website speed when you are paying $8 / month. Still, there are certain service levels you should be able to expect.

Unsupported Technology

It drives me nuts when a web host advertises a certain bell or whistle that I want (Ex. 1 click WordPress installation or Free transfer) but they don’t support the technology they have. You have just signed up and paid for a certain kind of service or web hosting ability but it doesn’t work. Especially iritating when

4. Business Shenanigans.

That’s right. I said shenanigans. And Web Hosts have been known to do more than their fair share.

Unethical Practices

I’ve had hosts that have violated contracts, stolen my website address or otherwise prohibited me from transfer to other service .

Remember, your $6 a month host may not be bound by the same laws and customs you yourself are in your country. You get what you pay for.

Bait and Switch

This is usually accompanied with the technology note listed above. You think you are getting one kind of experience and then you get another. Insanity.

Another one that scores high on my list, is not actually performing backups. I make all my backups myself nowadays, but I’ve had clients that had web hosting providers that claimed they would backup daily. Then they would get attacked and all files+databases would get deleted. Of course, the host didn’t actually make the backups they promised and you’d completely have to start anew if you didn’t make your own backups.
Leroy Gerrits, Owner at Tuvai webdevelopment

Other Shenanigans

I haven’t personally encountered these issues with web hosts but others have. Worth keeping in mind!

How about “going out of business” — that’s the worse experience to date, though I have experienced your top 10.
James Null, Owner of LongviewNET

It’s All Our Fault

The fault dear Brutus is not within our stars but within ourselves.

Rajan Urs reminded me that “The worst problems of web hosting is actually customers who do not want to pay for quality hosting.”

Why We Make these Mistakes

Mike Sisk, and Jason Detar, web hosters themselves for years and years brought some sanity to it all:

When the decision makers see prices of $5 a month it’s hard to explain why your offerings cost 10X as much. Sure, you can tell them you have backups, up-to-date real server hardware (that you actually own), personalized service, etc., but at the end of the day all they see is a savings of $45 a month.
Mike Sisk, Owner at TCPIP Ranch

When web hosts have these low cost services they are sacrificing something, and usually more than one thing which is why your top ten list exists. Is it the Data Center? Staff? Network? Equipment? Software? Security? Preventative measures? etc? They can’t have the best of everything, and charge $5/mo for the most features, the most resources, and still make a profit. In 12 years, I’ve never seen it. I’ve seen some get pretty good, but even then it doesn’t last.
Jason Detar, President, Elite Internet Communications

The Bottom Line

So with this all, what’s the bottom line?

I think the bottom line is, you get what you pay for. And if you pay $5 dollars a month, you have to expect that entire list.
Dan Antonson, Founder, the Revived Group


If you’d like to see which web hosts actually do what they say they will do and won’t turn your experience into a horror show, check out my list of web development resources.


Have you experienced these hosting horrors? Have you found any places that are better than the others? Let the worldknow in the comments section below.

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