fooey number one

WestportNow’s website has been having problems: pages not loading on the first try, veeery slow load times, etc. ValueWeb, where westportnow.com is hosted, told us the only way to stop the pages from throwing off “too busy” notices was to move it to a new server because the server it was on has too many domain hosted and since it’s so crowded, things are not working as quickly as they should, and the move would be seamless, I won’t notice a thing except the site will suddenly start working again ... I thought this was a load of horseshit, but what am I gonna do?

Well, the move was not transparent, and the problem became ten times worse. So I get on the phone to Florida. Big talk-talk about how the tech is referring it to The Administrators so they can troubleshoot and find out why it’s so messed up. After hours of allegedly examinatin’ the problem (sorry, Three Stooges is what’s running through my mind right now ... ), they tell us “The script is making too many calls and slowing down the whole server, so we had to restrict some of the calls. The only solution is to fix the script, move to one of our dedicated servers, or switch to our [illegible] platform which would require the nameserver to be change.

Fix the script? ExpressionEngine runs just fine on thousands and thousands of websites. “What,” I foolishly ask “do I need to fix in the script?” Well, they don’t advise on how to fix a script. So, I asked, can I get a copy of the log or something to find out what is going on with the script? “Sure,” the ass lied, “I’ll put in a ticket right now and you’ll have it in 24 hours.” Yeah, right.

I asked if moving it to one of their dedicated servers or moving it to the new platform, whatever the hell that is, would solve the problem. Since the answer was “We don’t know,” I knew it was time to leave this bulk hosting farm where customer service is bunkum.

I did find out what the problem is ...

On the ExpressionEngine forum, where I had posted my problem to see if there were solutions, one of the forum members said it sounded to him like ValueWeb was running the PHP scripts as a CGI process, that sometimes bulk web hosts do this for some bogus security reasons. CGI!?! Shit! So I checked, and sure enough, it’s emulating CGI instead of running PHP.

The reason we dumped Movable Type for ExpressionEngine was because the database had gotten way to big for CGI processes to handle, and we wanted a dynamic page site rather than the incredibly clunky system where MT would render static pages for each and every entry. Maybe MT’s latest version would be ok, but MT’s new pricing scheme is stupidly expensive for a newspaper with multiple contributors. As usual, I digress ... why the hell didn’t they just TELL US that they were running PHP as CGI? There were some things I could’ve done to make it run more smoothly, but still not enough to unclunk things and it would have save me a LOT of hair and time and sleep. So, The Administrators are bullshit, too. I wonder who sat around making up all this crap at Affinity (which owns ValueWeb. I think. They say they do, so ... )

So Gordon Joseloff, founder and owner of WestportNow, decided it is time for a dedicated webserver. But not with ValueWeb. I looked at a couple of solutions, and decided to go with Netsonic yet again, since we’ve been using them happily for more than two years now for our webserver and one we set up and manage for Cortina Learning. No company can guarantee 100% uptime, but Netsonic has been pretty good and their tech support is very good. (If you check out Netsonic and order something, mention you were referred by customer #11717!)

Ok, spent holy hell hours and hours getting it all set up, carefully transferring the database a chunk at a time (myPHPAdmin can’t handle 20MB databases with their automatic import function, and I don’t speak apache/linux or know how to change this so it can!) Got it all set up. Gordon set up the mailboxes. All is copacetic, just change the nameserver info and we’re good to go, right?

Only ... ValueWeb has a lock on the domain, so we can’t change the nameserver without ValueWeb. Only their domain name people only work 8-5 Monday through Friday. I have never heard of a domain name owner not being able to control their domain information—that alone would’ve made me run far, far away from ValueWeb (the host was chosen before I arrived on the scene).

So, we’ll see what happens on Monday. If you’re on a ValueWeb server, get out now before your site blows up. If you’re thinking about signing up with ValueWeb, run like hell. (They go down during hurricanes, by the way, so the way things have been going, hurricanewise, it’s safer to avoid hosting companies located in Florida, as ValueWeb is.)

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/03/05 at 11:40 PM
  1. Sorry to hear about the ValueWeb debacle.  I can’t stand it when hosting services pull a bait-and-switch.  I use WordPress because it’s in PHP (Perl just isn’t built for on-the-fly mods to a site - one of my quibbles about Moveable Type), and I looked around for quite a while before arriving at the server solutions I use for randomduck, OffTheEatenPath.net, and DCforDemocracy.org (though that last one has a lot of back-end campaign tools served by Democracy In Action - a really great solution for such things).

    And I also understand about crap customer service.  Randomduck used to be hosted by Bravidio, which had a great price on a shared hosting plan that was nothing but great for the first year.  After that, things went south: lots of downtime, the inability to add new domains (my account had up to 10 domains in its plan, yet I could only ever add three), and a lot of other annoying problems.  Trying to reach customer service was ineffective, and I eventually sent them a “thanks-but-no-thanks” letter (both electronic and snail).  Yet they attempted to bill me for a renewal.  It eventually took 14 emails and a call to the BBB of Greater Seattle to get them to finally cease and desist.

    Since then, I’ve been using HostForWeb and PowWeb - both shared hosting, but not bad.  They have much higher bandwidth ceilings, and the upgrade to dedicated isn’t bad.  Also, their customer service - both email and phone - has been very, very good.

    Netsonic has been good for me, too (via Adam), though my total needs do not justify their rates.  Glad to hear you’re moving WestportNow to them, and I hope that the domain switch goes well.

    Posted by Rudi  on  12/04  at  07:30 AM
  2. I’ve heard rumors that Dreamhost is pretty good. But that’s in California. I’m pretty happy with Netsonic, in nice, safe Green Bay, where they do get blizzards, but they have generators and redundant connections and, so far, so good. Not saying it’s been problem free—nobody can guarantee that because equipment does fail. But they’ve been pretty good to us.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  04:10 AM
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