Jul 262011

I’d had the same host for over 3 years, PowWeb. It hadn’t been a charmed relationship but for the most part it was a quiet, functional, utilitarian arangement. In 3 years I’d had sporadic down times, a few support calls for piddly things, nothing serious. I’d never had an enjoyable time with their support department but that’s not uncommon for any support experience.

On July 16th, 2011 I noticed some heavy slowdowns with the site, then occasional outages. I filed a support ticket with their seemingly user-friendly online support forum. Over the next week the problem was marked ‘resolved’ three times with the claim that I had not gotten back in touch with them to discuss the problem. During this period I filed another ticket about not receiving their emails and provided an alternate address.

On July 24th I found my site was completely down. Not only that, but my admin login with PowWeb was inaccessible and said ‘invalid user account’, webmail was the same. The site was the only notice, the frontpage of funkboxing was an ugly PowWeb page screaming that this site had been ‘suspended’ and the admin should contact Pow Web by phone. Nice, very subtle. How about ‘site temporarily down’ is that too diplomatic?

So I call support. After a 15 minute wait for a tech and 5 minutes waiting for the tech to find my file the tech declares that my problem is that my account has been suspended. No kidding.

After that the tech seemed quite satisfied that she was dealing with some kind of criminal worthy of all manner of condescension. Why not, what decent person would have their account suspended?

After hanging up on that tech and finding another, slightly less unhelpful one, I found my account had been suspended due to an overuse of disk space. My account was using some 200Gigs of space which was over the limit.  Interesting for two reasons. First, there was no 200Gigs. I downloaded my entire 2Gig site in a little over an hour to make sure. Second, the limit for my account was- unlimited.

Apparently unlimited in PowWebs terms and conditions means ‘about as much as everybody else’, or probably something more like ‘however much we feel like giving you’.

The mysterious 200Gig file was never found, and a 3rd tech finally approved my suspension to be rescinded, in 24-48 hours. A 4th tech was able to speed things up and get my suspension rescinded while I waited on the line.

Seems the trick with PowWeb tech support is that each tech will only tell you one new piece of information, or perform one task. After that you should just hang up, call back, and get a new one. Of course this takes time because you have to explain the preceding events to each new tech. Good times.

But I was back, admin login was good, webmail login was good- but, my site was gone. Up, but gone. Nothing in the folders. Deleted. No data.

Another call to tech support and I was told it would be back in 24-48 hours. Another call got the same answer.

So I said screw it, closed the support ticket with a strongly worded complaint saying I would restore the site myself and please do not delete it again.

July 26th, sites back up, with a few problems with the restore, but I’m getting there. Unwisely I perform a site backup with a wordpress plugin called Snapshot-backup. It’s a horrible plugin, it’s like an invasion of the blob. It can start multiple backups which keep backing each other up, resulting in a 2Gig site creating multiple files 20+ gigs in size or larger.

Once again my disk-space is growing geometrically, albeit this time with a reason. So like a good little client I file a support ticket explaining what’s going on, that I’ve identified the problem, and please either fix it by deleting the files and stopping the backup process or at least don’t suspend my account while I’m figuring out how to do it.

Then I figured out how to do it. I changed the permissions on the .zip files the backup program was creating to read-only, which caused the process to error out and terminate, then the files were deleted.

It worked. The files were gone, disk-space under control. I got on the wordpress dashboard and deactivated and deleted the plugin with extreme prejudice. I was getting ready to send a concise message to the plugin developer about their product. The the site shut down and the ‘suspended’ page was back. Wow.

Moments later I get a call. It’s the first time PowWeb has ever called me, but it proves they’ve had my number all along so they could have called me about the first suspension or any of the other problems I’ve had with them in the years I paid them to host this website.

The guy begins to explain that my account has been suspended. I explain that I knew that, the problem had been identified, reported, and fixed, and they could remove the suspension. And I told him for future reference they should read and become familiar with a customers support ticket history before taking such action, not to mention stop deleting my website.

The guy told me they wouldn’t be able to revoke my suspension, he was sorry that PowWeb would no longer host my account, but that they’d help me find another host.

PowWeb was breaking up with me… Awww. I like that they’d help me find another host too, like I can’t use google and find the 160 other 5 dollar a month web-hosting services with the exact same features.

I took the time to explain to the guy the events that had led up to him giving me this call, and that PowWeb seemed to have gone to great lengths to insult and offend me, then when I complained about my treatment, their response was to deny me service. I told him this was a total breakdown in support and customer service and that it could be used as a case study to improve their company.

That said, I told him I was perfectly happy to part ways with his company and although the manner was particularly insulting, it just seemed par for the course so I should move on anyway.

I was guaranteed that the customer service people would research this and see what had gone wrong. I’m sure I’ll be reading the tiger team audit on that soon.

That was it. I was too loud, too much trouble. It kind of makes sense; they only charge 5-6 bucks a month so it’s only worth it for customers that just pay and shut up about it, once someone becomes too much of a burden, get rid. Insurance companies have the same business model right?

I had to go through a little rigamarole to get my domains DNS changed because I’d lost my login long ago and the admin-email for the registrar was my old LSU account which is long gone. I had to sign and scan a thing and my drivers license, it was a pain but at least it’s done and I went ahead and got my domain registered with the same company that hosts it so that’s better.

As the final finger, while I was waiting for the DNS changes to go through I found the site still had their ugly ‘suspended’ notice on it despite the fact that I no longer had an account with them. So I thought if I could get PowWeb to redirect the site as one normally could with the admin panel, then I could at get back up and running. I called support and explained the situation, he simply told me that my account had been deleted from the servers and I could manage my domain if I signed up with PowWeb again.

Once again, funny for two reasons. First- they’ll kick me out, then have me back the same day. Second- I wonder if deleting me from the servers deletes my support tickets, meaning the whole thing about the customer service people looking into the incident, which the guy told me just a few hours before, was complete crap.

Thanks PowWeb. You’ve earned this rant and I hope it sways as much business away from your crappy business practices as possible. It probably won’t do much, but hell- you’re willingly getting rid of customers so who knows what you’re up to. Anyway.

It’s all done now, funkboxing.coms back to normal, even upgraded a little, but I left the processing.js banner off for now, still haven’t decided… anyway.

I heartily recommend that if you are looking for a domain host or registrar, there are many, many options. PowWeb is not one of them.

I went with godaddy just because it was pretty convenient and I’d used it before to get a site started for some guys business so I knew it’d be quick. Also their disk space plans were clearly defined. 10G for the economy plan. None of this quasi-unlimited bs.

Godaddy seems pretty good so far. Domain transfer went through quick, sites very fast and FTP seems faster than PowWeb. Godaddy even courtesy called me when I first signed up to make sure I knew how to set everything up, not bad.

I’ll let you know how things turn out with godaddy but in the mean time, stay away from PowWeb, and be careful of ‘unlimited’ anything.

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