Successful Hosting Not Successful at Keeping Their Websites Online

My web sites were down twice this week, and I had to contact tech support to get them back online. This is not a usual occurrence, but it was very annoying. This week I got an e-mail from my hosting company, Successful Hosting, entitled “Notification of Scheduled Maintenance.” Here is what the e-mail said:

Dear Valued Customer,

This is to inform you of a change window scheduled on Sunday October 28th, 2007, starting at approximately 3 A.M Eastern Time, and ending Sunday October 28th, 2007 at approximately 10 P.M Eastern Time. During this change window we will be moving all clients from Baltimore to our new Andover MA, Data Center. Please be aware that this is a client impacting event and there will be downtime during this move. We will make every attempt to get servers back online quicker than the window and will keep you fully informed during this move process.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this move. We are confident that this move will result in an increase to your overall client experience. Along with being hosted in world class data center in our Andover facility the new platform will offer greater stability, flexibility and extensibility to your hosted applications.

So yesterday, which was Saturday, I woke up to find all my sites were down. My guess was that they started the server move a day early, but I had no way of knowing because I never received any notification of this. I went to the company forums to find out, but I had to have an account to view the forum and to post. I registered for an account, and then received notification that a moderator would have to approve my registration. So I waited for for my registration to be approved.

Once my registration was approved five hours later, I was able to login to the forums where I found the posts stating that they decided to move the scheduled maintenance up one day to Saturday instead of Sunday. This notification was not posted until 1:30 PM on Friday, October 26th and no e-mails were sent out, so if you do not check the forums you would have no way of knowing this is the case.

So to recap, they notified us that our sites that were hosted with them would be down for 20 hours on Sunday, then they decided to change it to Saturday one day before without notifying anyone. So their plan for the move is to unplug all the servers, move them to a new data center, plug them back up and turn them on, while all the sites and e-mail on those boxes is down. WTF? Isn’t there a better way to do this? I don’t know much about hosting, but it seems that would be the case to me.

Well, once their clients started to complain in the forums, they decided to moderate that thread so that no one could post in it unless it was an update on the status of the move by one of the mods or it was a client saying something positive. Again, not a good decision in my opinion. I understand the need to keep the forum productive so that updates can be posted, but it is not a good move to piss your clients off and then censor the negative reactions.

So I resigned myself to the fact that my sites were down, and there was nothing I could do about it until 10PM. Throughout the night, the mod kept posting updates saying that everything was still on track to be back online by 10PM. I questioned that after this status update that was posted at 6:55 P.M EST.

1)the truck is currently located: 1-2 hours away

2)approximate time it will take to arrive and unload: 1 hours

3)approximate time it will take to re-assemble/re-rack the servers?
2 hours

As far as I can tell, we’re still on schedule to meed the 10:00 P.M deadline.

So if you add this up, they are saying it will take 5 hours to complete the process. With 3 hours left, how could they be on track for 10PM? Well, as it happened they weren’t. I checked up until 12AM, and things were not back online yet, so I went to bed. When I got up, things were back online, but not until 2:30 AM apparently, going by the posts in the forum.

So things being as they are, there is not much to be done at this point. I am extremely displeased with the way this went. I don’t think it could have gone worse. But they have said this is a one time move that will greatly improve performance, so what can you do? Well, we will see if things improve. If my sites continue to go down like they have this week, I will be looking to move.