January 28, 2013, 3:00 am

Our Nightmare Experience With Hostgator And A Lesson Learned

by: Silent Partner    Category: Blogging
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As I had mentioned, I wrote the 2 posts about moving our websites and the actual wordpress transfers a couple of months ago but had been a bit slow to publish them. Today though, I am writing this post with what is still a very sour taste. Let me start off by saying, we had been dealing with Hostgator for some time now with a shared hosting account and had great service, reliable hosting and were happy to recommend it. Mike and I know of many very happy HostGator customers. I’m pretty sure that every hosting company has had some bad experiences, it’s the nature of the business right?

A Long (Very Long) Story Summary

I could write for a few days about our experience with Hostgator but I’ll try to give you a brief summary as well as an important lesson that we learned. As I had written, we had decided to move our sites to 3 different VPS hosting accounts (Hostgator, Servint and Liquidweb), which would give us a lot of diversification when things went wrong, and manage the load. On Hostgator, we moved both TheFinancialBlogger and our highest traffic site (which gets over 10K uniques per day) as well as several smaller sites.

For the first few weeks, everything went very well, support was good, sites were coming up fast, etc.

Then One Day…

At some point, I woke up to an email from my partner Mike, saying that TheFinancialBlogger was down. Ah, I checked, and all sites on our Hostgator account were down. No big deal, it happens. I emailed Hostgator (or went into the chat) and they simply rebooted the server. In a matter of 15-20 minutes, everything was back to normal. I wasn’t happy to see sites down but the reaction had been great.

It Was Only The Start

From that day on, 3 or 4 times a week, I would wake up to sites being down. I had no idea what was going on. I started exchanging emails with Hostgator support and both Mike and I were getting rather impatient. The worst is not having the sites go down. It’s having to check every hour to make sure everything is ok. For some reason, sites would tend to go down in the middle of the night (great in a way because traffic is lower but I do usually sleep at night so monitoring isn’t ideal.

After 2-3 weeks of this, Hostgator finally came up with the problem.. or so we thought. They told we were being targeted by DNS attacks. Great… So they suggested buying a firewall (not so expensive, it was under $100) which we did. It got a bit better after that but the problem persisted. Mike and I would be stuck always monitoring the website then asking Hostgator to reboot the server (or doing it myself when I was home). It was truly a nightmare.

Had To Try Something

We tried to understand why our other high traffic website was the target of these attacks. Seriously? Because it had great rankings in Google? WTF! It’s a very under the radar website too so we didn’t have enemies or anything like that.

LiquidWeb

We had been getting great support and excellent service on our Liquidweb accounts, it was truly the best hosting we’ve had so I asked them about it. They told me to just give it a try. So I did, I once again went through the transfer process and moved that website. The downtime stopped!!:) But they continued happening on TheFinancialBlogger!! Had we gotten it wrong? Was one of our visitors trying to create chaos? 🙂 Surely that wouldn’t be you right? So anyway, we decided to also move TFB to Liquidweb and to our surprise, all downtime stopped…!!! Do you know what’s even more shocking though? Even after all of our domains had been moved (even the tiny ones), I continued getting over 100 emails/day about DNS attacks that were happening. So yes, clearly, the problem was on Hostgator’s end, not on my own.

Hostgator Failed Big Time

I understand that downtime happens and I had a good conversation after closing my account. What I can’t accept though is:

Unwillingness to try something else (they could have tried moving us to different servers on their end after weeks of this going on)
Not being proactive about it (if a customer is seeing major downtime for days or weeks, I’d think they could have reached out
No Monitoring: This is a CRITICAL one. They do offer this for shared hosting but not for higher paying VPS accounts. I have no idea why. At Liquidweb, we get an email once in a while (very infrequent) saying the website was down and what they did to get it back. It’s critical for any hosting company to do this. At this point, we have been using Liquidweb for most of our bigger sites and have been incredibly happy so I’d be happy to recommend it and answer any questions about our experience with them.

P.S: Yes those links are affiliate links but Hostgator ones are not.. I’d only recommend it if I truly believe it’s a great service

Our Big Lesson

I don’t think we ever knew how important monitoring our websites was. Having our host do it is critical but it’s not enough. For the past few months (since the Hostgator problems), we’ve been using SiteUpTime, which I also highly recommend. For $10/month, it checks every 5-20 minutes (I set the time) to see if our sites are working well. If the site goes down for some reason, Mike and I get an email advising me (it can also send text messages). Also, at the end of each month, we get an email telling us how much % of the time our sites were up.. thankfully, after 2 months of 80% or so (yes it was that bad), we’re now well over 99.5%:)

I just checked and SiteUpTime even has a free option if you’re checking for one website, I’d really give it a try. If you’re like us, you’re not always able to see what’s happening on your website so getting some robot to do it for you is ideal.

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Comments

I had the same problem. Hostgator support sucks sometimes.
I made a wonderful decision of switching to Hostpaedia.com, relief now.

That is awful! I was just looking at host gator too for another site and I think i’m going another direction now. It’s sad to see a business like host gator, with the amount of traction and advertising they have, drop the ball when it really matters for their customers. I really appreciate the review and I’m glad you guys are back inside of the 9’s 🙂

I’m having the same problem with Hostgator. To me they’re saying it’s because I use Mozilla Thunderbird as my email client. Given that Thunderbird is one of the top 3 email clients, I find that troubling and your post came at a time when I’m also considering moving away from them.

I have another site running on GoDaddy and although I’m not a fan of their commercials I’ve become a big fan of their customer service. I get real people on the phone and they know their business, because each time I’ve gotten my issues resolved first time and with a smile.

Hostgator provides decent shared hosting, but their vps services are terrible. This is known in the industry, which I am a part of, and many people have had similar complaints.
I feel they are also too big to care enough for all their clients.

Glad to see you found a stable company!

I was an enthusiastic HostGator customer for a long time when I still used shared hosting. And until they were acquired last June (by the same company that owns BlueHost if that tells you anything), the customer service was excellent. Once the acquisition went through, I noticed a complete change in the attitude of support staff on the rare occasions I had to contact them.

The final straw for me came in a similar situation – I had already moved many of my sites to my own servers, but my blog was still there and I kept having downtime. They blamed my traffic and kept trying to upsell me on a VPS. I explained that my traffic (around 40k pageviews a month) was nowhere near enough to need a VPS, and that I owned my own server space if shared wasn’t working out. Once they found out I wasn’t going to pay $80 a month for a small personal blog, they didn’t even try to stop me from leaving.

I always tell people that HostGator is great as long as you have a small site that never gains any traction. Otherwise there are a ton of better hosts. I’m interested to hear about your experience with LiquidWeb long term – I’ve heard some negative experiences but it sounds like they took care of business in your case! I’m always looking for companies to recommend.

Hi guys, so what do you think the problem was exactly more specific than host gator?

What about changing your DNS nameserver? Is it not a matter of time when liquid web gets compromised?

I’ve had many issues with my host as well.

Sam

@Sam – Not exactly sure what the problem was but since they were unwilling to test more.. We did give them so much time, had so many discussions, etc. I’m guessing that could have worked but I’m confident that Liquidweb would actually try to fix it which Hostgator did not seem very motivated to do

@Andrea – Yes, all of this happened a while back and things have been going great with Liquidweb, I’ll continue to stay tuned but they are a lot more proactive and do take action when sites go down while I’m asleep which is already a major advatange.

@Max – Glad to hear that, I’ve never heard about them, do you use shared hosting?

@Nunzio – Thanks for the good feedback:)

@WilliamCowie – We also have some stuff running with GoDaddy but not much honestly, I think going with Liquidweb is worth a try

@Joel – Ah that makes sense, too bad we found out so late about this:(

I have the free WordPress blog and I am looking to move it.
This post came at the right time.

It seems like using SiteUpTime is a good investment for your company and offers a great amount of site monitoring to make sure everything is working correctly. Having sites go down in the middle of the night is obviously a huge problem and people reading this will realize that Hostgator isn’t ideal.

I am looking at moving hosts and based on this review I will definitely be rethinking my move to a VPS at hostgator!