Thinking of Hostgator? Read this First!

By | July 11, 2013

I have been a very happy customer, and an enthusiastic exponent of Hostgator for some time. I think that is about to change.

I host maybe 20ish websites with them over 2 VPS’s. One VPS has one big forum on, the other one has a mixed bag of sites on – two are forums, an eshop or two and a few blogs and such.

In recent months, our server started going down for maybe 10 minutes at a time – now and again. I know this because I get the “nameserver failed” emails. Followed by the “automagically restarted” emails.

Then it became a couple of times a week.

More recently it is two times a day. Today four times. Well, that isn’t good enough. Nor is that the 99.9% uptime they advertise.

At Hostgator, “live help” is to be avoided for all but the most simple things (they even say that on their site somewhere) support tickets are always the way to go; and they used to be answered within about an hour. Always very efficient too.

However, over a few months, support tickets (and I don’t make many) seemed to be taking a day or more to get a reply. And that reply often didn’t solve the problem.

Maybe they are a victim of their own success. Maybe they were unusually busy that day. Um, and the next time too…… OK.

One always has the option of emailing the CEO Brent directly. Over the years we have had to do this once or twice, he always replied and the issue was fixed in a heartbeat. A few months ago he didn’t reply. Maybe he was busy……. the issue got fixed anyway so no harm done. Later it turns out he is no longer connected to Hostgator. *sigh*

You see where this is going?

The legendary Hostgator service seems to be slipping over time. Probably over the last year or more I have noticed it. No one issue has caused me great concern, but the trend is now for Brent to ignore emails, and for tickets to take a day or two to get a reply, and the dreaded “live help” is usually 30-40 mins plus to get anyone. Phone? Today I gave up after 20 mins on hold to a US number.

Hostgator are now hard to reach. Patience is a must. They will get there, but it might take a few days of tickets to solve an issue. The first two replies are usually nonsense. I gather each reply moves it up the food chain a bit, and by reply three or four you get someone who knows his eggs. But that ain’t fast any more.

Last week, out of the blue, we got this.

Please read this email in its entirety, as it contains very important information regarding your HostGator VPS server, IP address: [deleted], and the impending mandatory maintenance and migration that will be occurring within 48 – 52 hours.

Your VPS server is being migrated onto brand new, upgraded hardware and will be running the latest version of Virtuozzo and CentOS.

We plan to facilitate this migration both as quickly and easily as possible, but also want to assure you that your total satisfaction with this migration is our primary objective. We will keep you updated via email throughout this entire migration. The migration process itself will result in an exact copy of your VPS container being moved to new hardware and will ensure that the most up to date information is put in place. We will then begin routing any traffic going to the old server to the new server so that you do not lose traffic or experience connectivity problems. Please be aware that there may be small amounts of downtime, however we will do everything within our power to ensure a smooth migration.Please note that this process does require a change of IP addresses assigned to your nameservers, as such it is vital that you take action in regard to the DNS settings once the actual data migration has been completed.

At this time, there are no changes needing to be made on your part.

We will contact you within 48 hours, once the migration process has started. When the migration has completed we will forward the traffic from the old server to the new server allowing traffic to be served from the new VPS.

Odd [because IP numbers can be transferred says our tech that works at a bank IT department], but fair enough. Changing IP’s is a pain but not the end of the world.

So then it happened.

We updated IP’s – our domains are with 1&1 and GoDaddy [1&1 are terrible by the way – please don’t use 1&1 people] because Googling tells me that Hostgator sometimes don’t renew domains and some people lost their websites. So having it all under one roof is not sensible. I cant risk that.

Several days later, we started getting these:

This is a follow-up notice in regards to your recent VPS server migration. Our administrators have discovered that your domains on your server still need to be updated at your domain registrar. Without this change, your sites will no longer operate correctly once the previous server is disconnected.
We ask that you make the following changes in order to ensure continued operation of your websites:

Please change ns1.[deleted].com from [deleted] to [deleted]
Please change ns2.[deleted].com from [deleted] to [deleted]

We did this two days ago.

So we check our registrar – and they were done they said.

We told Hostgator. They replied with:

We do show the records on the VPS as updated, however, your registrar is still reporting the old IPs:[deleted].com&type=nameserver
I check the link and in different entries, both IP’s are showing. Propagation perhaps?

I open a ticket at 1&1, they check and say all is well and it is still propagating in the US probably.

And that has been rinsed and repeated for several days.

Hostgator blame DNS glue. But their site says DNS glue is done there:…rvers/dns-glue

I know nothing about DNS glue I will admit. But now advice is starting to contradict. HG Techs say it is the registrar, HG site says it is done in WHM. Who is right? I dunno…….

Next Day:

Today the server crashed four times. Maybe ten minutes each time. I opened a ticket and got this back.

Thanks for contacting HostGator! Looking at the node logs for your container it appears that it is currently running out resources periodically, we can see the instances of killed processes last night from the container running low on RAM. I have made some minor adjustments to the MySQL service in an effort to reduce the RAM utilized by it.

But hang on……..

We moved from shared to VPS to avoid crap like this.

Two quiet forums and an eshop drain a Hostgator VPS of RAM? What are we running there an 80’s Atari gamebox?

These sites are not Amazon and two DigitalPoints. These are just modest sites with maybe 50 users on at any one time on each.

Too much for an HG VPS?

Well, 30 minutes after the “minor adjustments” the [new and upgraded remember] server crashed again for ten minutes. So that didn’t work. I’ll expect crash and restart emails through the night then? Swell.

I emailed support with updated info several hours ago and no reply yet……….

Still we have the IP issue where fifteen or so sites may go off tomorrow because I cant get a coherent reply from them about DNS glue and changes relating to the unexpected IP address change they forced on us.

Today or tomorrow we may have 15 sites off the air – and nobody knows exactly why this or that pingy/DNS/NS thing doesn’t report the IP that HG changed it to.

Today I started researching new hosts. Next week we may have to migrate a bunch of sites away from HG simply because we cannot get decent support there. Because of them springing an IP change on us.

Our sites could potentially be down for many days next week!

Why don’t HG have a premium support service? Maybe $100 and you get a proper guy on the case – on the phone for an hour or something.

I am truly at a loss as both host and domain registrar are blaming each other here. But host [Hostgator] forced us to change IP addresses, and support is inadequate and very slow thereafter. So ultimately, Hostgator are to blame.

Part Two: 

My last reply to the ongoing support ticket was 7.30 last night. It is now noon the next day and I am still waiting on an answer.

Sites went down 3 times more overnight.

Another one in this server swap saga was all our domain related emails stopped working after migration. The reply to the ticket to that (after two days) was:

The issue here was that there was no PTR record set for the new IP, which I have corrected now. Please allow 4-6 hours for propagation, and let me know if you experience any further issues,

Well, I dunno what a PTR record is, but clearly something they didn’t do the first time.

Part Three:

It has been suggested to me that the RAM might be inadequate, so I asked that question. Eventually, I got this back:

Currently your account is on a L3 VPS package and does have 768M of RAM, this may be adequate to run a few sites off, or even many sites should they not require much in the means of processing or memory resources, however if a few sites are running and simultaneously receive a large bout of traffic it is possible that they could very quickly spawn many processes and exhaust the available system resources, if the sites can be optimized with caching or additional resources can be added through means of upgrade it could help to alleviate the resource exhaustion.

Well I know all that…….

Clearly LOOKING what is causing the outages is out of the question. That looks like wordy guesswork to me.

When actually asked to look, TWO DAYS later came back this:

Looking at the node logs for your
> container it appears that it is currently running out resources
> periodically, we can see the instances of killed processes last night
> from the container running low on RAM. I have made some minor
> adjustments to the MySQL service in an effort to reduce the RAM
> utilized by it.
> Jun 28 14:59:30 vps931 kernel: [10681.423958] OOM killed process php
> (pid=54629, ve=12876) exited, free=217100.
> Jun 29 00:25:39 vps931 kernel: [44650.682927] OOM killed process
> mysqld (pid=13710, ve=12876) exited, free=224235.
> Jun 29 00:25:40 vps931 kernel: [44651.925007] OOM killed process spamd
> child (pid=18136, ve=12876) exited, free=193245.
> Jun 29 00:25:40 vps931 kernel: [44652.384740] OOM killed process
> /usr/local/cpan (pid=14525, ve=12876) exited, free=193752.
> Jun 29 00:25:40 vps931 kernel: [44652.410871] OOM killed process
> /usr/local/cpan (pid=15072, ve=12876) exited, free=203360.
> Jun 29 00:25:41 vps931 kernel: [44653.323808] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12359, ve=12876) exited, free=199196.
> Jun 29 00:25:42 vps931 kernel: [44653.768923] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12361, ve=12876) exited, free=229636.
> Jun 29 00:25:42 vps931 kernel: [44654.206774] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12362, ve=12876) exited, free=252138.
> Jun 29 00:25:43 vps931 kernel: [44654.950665] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12364, ve=12876) exited, free=267756.
> Jun 29 00:25:43 vps931 kernel: [44655.368025] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12370, ve=12876) exited, free=260605.
> Jun 29 00:25:44 vps931 kernel: [44656.139057] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12374, ve=12876) exited, free=257765.
> Jun 29 00:25:45 vps931 kernel: [44656.573821] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12365, ve=12876) exited, free=283792.
> Jun 29 00:25:46 vps931 kernel: [44657.453746] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12363, ve=12876) exited, free=291716.

If this means inadequate RAM, why don’t they just say “You need more RAM mate. $15 a month extra, click here to add it, problem solved”. Better to speak in plain language than pasting me loads of crap I don’t understand.

My wife says I should be celebrating the constant server crashes because it means we have more traffic so I am doing something right. I applaud her twisted logic and optimism………

Part Four: 

My main gripe now with HG is support emails taking a day each reply. That is *really* slow. That has really dropped off the boil because these guys used to be on the case.

To be fair, the advice is good if it is a fast exchange. But it isn’t any more. Their tech guys [on tickets – not live help] do know their eggs. But a half a dozen exchanges now takes a week. So it seems really slow. That is what they need to address.

A couple of years ago, ticket replies were almost instantaneous. Issues were fixed within the hour. It was all really easy. We all knew it was too good to last I guess. It was amazing for the money really……

I think we are now between a rock and a hard place. We want top notch service? It costs. We want $60 a month? Then wait on support. There isn’t a free lunch. I am in business. I get that.

If we want instant service, there are likely $300+ a month providers out there that do that.

But everyone wants cheap; and that means India or waiting.

HG *have* dropped the ball. But they may come good. I hope they do. Migrating 20 sites is a PIA.

After this, we will learn what we can really expect from HG. But I expect HG are not alone. There isn’t a holy grail of providers who are so much better than anyone else. Well there are for a while, but then they become a victim of their own success as HG has and topics like this are born.

Hostgator has been recently sold to a group called EIG – this explains the customer service falling off the cliff. No more Brent Oxley.

Part Five:

Now they have decided it isn’t RAM.

I apologize for the inconveniences and delay in responding to the ticket due to high volume of tickets in our desk.

Our monitoring department is aware of the issues with the server container. Though I do not have information regarding what caused your container issues prior to the IP change, I can confirm the issues you had been experiencing in the last one week is related to some new kernel updates pushed out by Parallels, the virtuozzo vendor. Our System Architects are working towards a permanent fix.

Note that past issues with your container could have been from the container itself running out of resources. I was referring to the recent issues with the container rebooting without it running out of resources.

I once again apologize for the inconveniences this has caused. But please be assured such server wide issues are addressed with utmost importance internally, even if we do not get to see your ticket updates immediately, due to all of our shared hosting servers and VPS being actively monitored 24×7.

Still no fix on the cards though……..

I have finally given up with Hostgator on this.

Because each time the ticket is revisited [which is only once a day] someone new looks at it, and cant be bothered to read back, we end up having circular conversations and today’s reply is rehashing stuff hammered out last week.

Because of their dire service, if I want to move container, I must open a new VPS, open a ticket to have one moved to the other, open a ticket for a pro rata refund, etc……..

I don’t think so. Enough is enough. My sites have been down most of the morning again. and a few times this afternoon. Now it is impacting sales, its time to go.

Part Six: 

There are 28 sites on this particular VPS, and I really wanted to have them with a UK provider with proper support if at all possible.

I approached Nimbus Hosting yesterday after recommendations, but after an exchange of emails that started out promising, some bloke was asking me to ‘justify’ extra IP addresses and questioning the ‘need’ for private nameservers on several sites.

Not to mention Plesk control panels?

These things are all standard on any half decent reseller account – without being nickel and dimed. So that didn’t last long……

Following many recommendations on the UK business Forums, and looking at the impressive client list, I called VidaHost this morning.

An hour later, I had bagged myself a VDS:

Our most popular server, the VDS 20 provides higher capacity for larger databases, more concurrency and better caching. Typical uses are growing ecommerce sites or as an upgrade from a reseller account.
CPU: 2 Virtual Xeon CPUs
RAM: 1.5GB
Disk Space: 40GB
Data Transfer: 800GB
SLA: 99.9%

And they are migrating all 28 sites over for free, fixing a nameserver issue I couldn’t get my head around how to fix with one site.

The site claims average ticket replies in 12 minutes. I used it this evening and my replies were coming through almost instantly!

Early days, but I am well impressed up to now.

Certainly not the cheapest option out there @ just over £70 ($108) a month with taxes, but if you want proper service for a bunch of sites, it needs paying for.

We were paying Hostgator $54 plus a few add ons with zero service and sites that don’t work. So not much more money for fewer headaches.

Bye bye Hostgator……..

Part Seven:

Here is a funny and ironic ending to this. I asked Hostgator to close the tickets as I no longer had any need of “support” as we had already gone. I got this back over 24 hours later:

Unfortunately the Migrations team is currently experiencing an extremely high ticket volume and responses are much slower than we would like to see. For fastest response, you may wish to contact our live support via chat or phone as they are available 24/7 every day of the year and can answer basic questions as well as check on ticket status and escalate it, if needed, for prompt attention.
Questions regarding your VPS Migration would be best addressed directly to our Support team which typically has a much faster response time than the content migrations team which you have reached.

They have really lost it.

All my sites are now running beautifully on Vidahost.

I guess I’ll just cancel the payment. They will soon get the message that way that we have gone.

Bye bye Hostgator……..


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