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Avoid HostingMatters.com: Recommendation for 1L-to-be-bloggers

There's a few entries I intend to write before shutting down TYoH, and one will be advice for 1L bloggers. This evening, however, I'd like to get ahead of myself by making one recommendation for any 1L-to-be out there that might be considering keeping a website diary of his or her law school experience: don't use HostingMatters.com as the web host.

Some of you may have noticed that De Novo is non-functional right now, despite the fact that they're hosting their annual "Survivor" competition to pick new authors. My regular readers might (a) recall that for various reasons I do a lot of support work for De Novo and (b) consider a major system failure in the middle of an annual competition to be a less than stellar sign of my competence.

Well, they'd be right on both counts, but only because I should have moved De Novo from Hosting Matters months ago. Yesterday at 1:55 PM, Hosting Matters sent an email to the site owner telling them that they'd be moving the site (from "Minerva" to "Niobe," for those that might have similar problems) in order to balance the servers. It's the single least competent site move I've ever seen. (And for reference, I used to work at a company that hosted commercial sites professionally.)

For over three hours today, you couldn't see De Novo at all. For the remainder of the time, the back end has been shafted beyond comprehension. Given Hosting Matters' limited set of site tools, I can't tell if the problem is that they've moved the site but not pointed it at the new database, or if they've somehow lost data during the site move. What I do know is that, as the site is now, I'm not sure I could move it to a new host in a functioning manner.

The response from Hosting Matters (which closed the ticket):

Your .htaccess had a typo in it:

deny rfom .idrc.org.sg

You would need to be more careful of your syntax. Removed.

Now, let's consider this from a techie perspective. Site working fine before moving servers, and then broken after. Is it an .htaccess problem? Well, maybe. Perhaps the new server interprets .htaccess files differently from the old one, I don't know (and Hosting Matters sure isn't interested in telling me). But then, if one is going to close the ticket, one might check to see that the site works. And sure enough, if you try to post a comment, you get:
You must define a Comment Listing template in order to display dynamic comments.

Does that look like a "my site can't find its templates after you moved servers" error? Why, yes, it does. (The site can't seem to find anything on the back end, either.) Does that seem to have much to do with an .htaccess file involving the Republic of Singapore? Well, let's put it this way: I just deleted the entire .htaccess file, and you still can't post to De Novo.

I'll admit, I'm not a programming genius, but it doesn't look like their "solution" had anything to do with the problem. Now, it would have been nice if they'd given more than nine hours of notice before the site move, as I could have run a backup, but that seems not to have occurred to them.

I've been hosting with Gradwell.com for three years, and while they might have a few downtime issues here and there, I've never experienced this level of absolute contempt from customer service. Ambimb seems to host the Blawgcoop at Dreamhost and hasn't given any complaints despite hosting multiple blogs on multiple platforms. On the other hand, I've dealt with a number of Hosting Matters clients over my time at Columbia, and it's inevitably been because they've made some alteration without allowing their customers time to react.

So dear Wormwood, the lesson to this is twofold. First, always backup information stored online in the same way one would backup your harddrive. Second, avoid Hosting Matters with the same degree of effort one would give to avoid being the subject of gunner bingo.

UPDATE: The "customer service" technician that De Novo is working with
seems to have a history. I have to say, this is singular in my experience. When a CS representative gets a reputation this poor online, a firm doesn't necessarily have to fire her (although that's advisable), but one might at least change the logon name.

UPDATE II: Things are working again. It appears that, contrary to their initial "assessment" of the problem, they failed to copy over all of the database tables from the new server to the old one. ( There may also have been an .htaccess issue (I can't be sure), but if so it arose with the server move as well.)

I have to say, the level of customer service with regards to this problem has been singular. The emails back and forth on this matter are . . . well, suffice it to say that if I'd ever behaved that way while working on tech support, I'd've been canned faster than spam.


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I would like to apologize to De Novo readers for the service outage. De Novo's host, Hosting Matters, decided to move us to a new server because we were having a "negative impact" on the old one. When they did... [Read More]


Still waiting for the rest of the blogging-for-1Ls advice, BTW :)

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