So, you’re in a pitched battle with HostGator or Bluehost. They’ve either temporarily suspended your website for some specious reason or they’re claiming an outage is preventing them from displaying your webpages. Their tech support people promise you repeatedly that they’ll be able to fix the problem, but they don’t. Hours and days drag on as you wait for the promised fixes. Soon you begin to realize that you are getting absolutely nowhere with these two web hosting behemoths. We can relate. We just went through 11 days of hosting hell with HostGator and it cost us close to $1000 to finally get service restored. And we’ve had similar experiences with BlueHost just two years hence. The kicker: the problem was largely attributable to one of their techs failing to fully remove a restriction placed on the account! (see below). No website owner should have to go what we went through. But rather than rag on HostGator, we’ll help you avoid what we went through.
Some Background on HostGator
HostGator is described as one of the largest web hosting services in the world. The Houston-based provider of website hosting is part of a large web service conglomerate called Endurance Internation Group (EIG). It owns Bluehost, Site5, HostMonster,Sitebuilder and some 60 other companies that provide types of webhosting services. It is not a well-regarded company within the webhosting industry — in fact, it’s sort of a Darth Vader Death Star among people in the know. It’s known for giving huge payouts to their affiliates, overselling server space, automating customer service and generally degrading service quality of the many companies it has gobbled up.
Our website suddenly became non-operational. We received a notice after about an hour that it’d been disabled because it was causing instability on their cloud server. They claimed that it the database needed to be optimized. We did what they described and service was restored. The next day, our site was disabled once again. A few hours (and a few “chat” inquiries later) we were informed that it needed to be further optimized AND that because of heavy traffic, we had to add a CDN service, add limit bots and caching plug-ins and “reduce the size of your content”. Argh! Even after we did all of these things, the site was restored and then went down again.
Over the course of 11 days, we documented 7 individual instances of my site being disabled because of ghosts in the HostGator machine.We sent no less than 8 emails (to which only 3 were ever responded) and had 12 “chats” in our efforts to resolve this matter. HostGator’s incompetence and unresponsiveness cost SDCAN close to a $1000.The problem was finally resolved when one of HostGator’s second level Web Advisors realized that the restriction placed upon the account had not been fully removed. But my confidence level is currently zero.
Most notably, HostGator has created a customer service labyrinth in which not only were we forbidden to talk to their Web Support techs by phone, but even their own support staff couldn’t effectively communicate with one another. They frequently contradicted one another and expressed frustration that my problem was not being properly handled.
What You Can Do (and not do) If You Experience HostGator Hell
We ultimately learned that the web advisors available through the Chat function were gatekeepers who could create support tickets and little else. Repeatedly, they gave us bad information or made promises that weren’t kept. And, we learned, most of what they tell you is kept from the Tier 2 support techs who are more knowledgeable and have more tools available to them. So, don’t waste your time with the Chat Techs.
We found the most effective way of getting a response from the Tier 2 techs is to go over their heads and directly to the Chief Executive Office of HostGator — a man named Adam Farrar. We found his email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and sent him a letter detailing our experience. Within hours, we were contacted via phone by a man from HostGator’s customer responsiveness. If you find yourself in locked in HostGator Hell, you might want to think about contacting Mr Farrar early-on in the process and get his attention.
You might also consider migrating your website to another company that isn’t owned by EIG. There are a number of competitive webhosts who are willing to migrate your domain and web content for free and most of them are less expensive than HostGator’s undiscounted price. (remember, HostGator will offer low promotional prices for an initial term but the prices largely double thereafter).
Other Non-EIG Webhosting Companies to Consider
- A2 Hosting – Fast and reliable server, reasonable price.
- InMotion Hosting – Well-regarded in the industry
- Namecheap – The former domain registrar branched out into webservices
- Interserver – Cheap and flexible VPS hosting provider.
- Web Host Face – A relatively new provider– cheap and very reliable.
- GreenGeeks – Reasonably priced, good customer service and claims to buy carbon offsets to help the environment
- SiteGround – Fast, reliable, and lots of custom features but a bit pricier.
Our recommendation: A2, SiteGround, InMotion, GreenGeeks or Namecheap all have good reputations. Those are good hosts, those are safe from the tentacles of the EIG monster that has destroyed customer service at HostGator and its other affiliated companies. We switched to A2 Hosting in February and have had nothing but stable and responsive service with absolutely no problems during the first six months. Oh, and A2 was substantially less expensive than HostGator.
Beware the SiteLock Scam
Websites For Good’s Margaret Rode has documented a scam in which SiteLock will lead unsuspecting website owners that their site is infected by malware. As it turns out, there’s no malware at all — it’s a marketing scheme facilitated by EIG-owned webhosts like HostGator and BlueHost. Customers report receiving an email or phone call claiming “one or more of the domains you own has malware on it”. It turns out that HostGator has been caught pushing the services of their partner SiteLock by hijacking and blackmailing their customers into paying the $200 clean-up fee and by signing up with SiteLock for the monthly payments. We experienced this as well — shortly after we complained about the site deactivation, we received a call from SiteLock offering to fix the problem. Of course, the problem had nothing to do with malware — it was HostGator incompetence. If you’ve received such info from SiteLock, then you’ve got to read this blog and this cautionary tale before you take any action.