Why My Company is Leaving HostGator (and why you should too)


I’ve been CTO of a small start up called Prmot.it for a few years now, offering an online coupon solution to local restaurants.  We started our operation on a shared server from HostGator, and grew from there to serve thousands of customers.

We are approaching another scaling jump, and will need to expand our infrastructure significantly.  We will be moving to a new host to meet these needs.  Don’t misunderstand me.  HostGator offers many tiers of service that would serve the level of usage our company requires well into the future, but we will instead be spending a few hundred dollars more a month, and will move to a competitor.  HostGator’s service is simply unacceptable for a small business.

The problems all began a few months ago, when HostGator was acquired by EIG and their servers were moved to a new Utah data center.  Almost immediately we began seeing system-wide outages, in some cases lasting days.  We were told that these outages were unavoidable, and always another company’s fault, but they still left our customers out in the cold.  Furthermore these outages never seemed to be recorded on their up time stats, or lead to refunds, as per their supposed 99.9% up time guarantee.

All of this was bad, but it wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back.  That came today, with their roll out of PHP 5.4 on all their servers.

Right off the bat, this upgrade was badly mismanaged, as is obvious by its scheduling.  HostGator performed this major, potentially breaking upgrade at NOON (EST) on a Friday.  This is an American Host, with server times set in Central Time, and they performed a major upgrade in the middle of the workday, just before the weekend.

Next, they screwed up transferring PEAR package installs, thereby breaking my site, right in the middle of my lunch rush.

I spent 2 hours on chat with an obviously underqualified support technician, trying to get them to identify and fix the problem.  I narrowed it down to the call to a PEAR package, and showed them how commenting out the line would bring my site back online, but would break the coupon creation function necessary for it to properly function.

The support technician said he’d make a ticket, from this information, and give me the number, then disconnected before finishing.  Not knowing what to expect, I decided to poke around more, and discovered that I could fix the problem myself, by reinitializing PEAR and reinstalling the package in question.  I did so.

I had to go hunting for the ticket system and number, since I wasn’t given it, but I eventually found the ticket in question.  It read:

This is a support ticket for an issue escalated from a chat or phone call.
Primary Domain: prmt.it
Affected URL: http://prmt.it/admin
Description of Issue: Since PHP update, customer’s PEAR module is not working and the admin poage shows a blank screen. He commented out a line in and the site loads but it can’t create coupons without the Image/Text PEAR module
Path: www/yourls/user/plugins/templated-pages/functions/makecoupon.php
line 2: require_once ‘Image/Text.php’;
Steps to Reproduce the Issue: N/A
Additional Information: 


Robert F.
Junior Administrator 
HostGator LLC

I added the following reply:

I’ve repaired the issue. It appears that the PHP update broke the install of the Image/Text PEAR package. Re-installing the package solved the issue.

and went on with my day, assuming all was right.  I went out after work, and shut off my phone.  At 10:30pm, I turned it back on to find messages from customers and co-workers, wondering why the site was giving errors to every user.

What I discovered was truly shocking.

Without reading the issue listed in the original ticket, or reading my update to the ticket, and without updating the ticket to show that any work was done, a HostGator technician had gone into my live, customer-facing site, and commented out the include for my PEAR module.  This was not done to fix the issue in any way, but rather the line was just inexplicably commented (with a #, as well, which makes it certain that it wasn’t an accidental revert, as I only ever comment as “//”)

With this latest issue in mind, I can no longer trust that a bumbling HostGator technician will not meddle with my live code again.  I can’t trust that tickets will be documented or handled professionally, and I cannot trust that my site will be up, when it needs to be.

In short, I cannot trust HostGator, and I will not continue to subject my clients to their shoddy, unprofessional service.  If you run across anyone who is considering HostGator, I suggest you forward them this post, and let them know that HostGator is the wrong choice.

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