Thursday, April 10, 2008

Do Not Use Webhosting.uk.com

Disclaimer: I'm very reluctant to rubbish a company in public like this, but I think in this case the service has been so awful I feel a duty to warn others about them.

For the last few months I've been hosting a personal web site at webhosting.uk.com. I chose them after a friend recommended them for being relatively cheap and flexible. It sounded like a good deal, you could have as many sites as you liked within certain limits of disk space and bandwidth.

One morning I noticed the web site was down, but since it's not business related I didn't follow it up until later in the day. They provide an online technical support chat, so I fired it up and was soon told that there was a problem with some files being corrupted on the server but service would be resumed in six hours, i.e. later than night. The next morning the site was still unavailable. Once again I was given a figure of six hours and told not to worry because my data was safe. That evening the site was still unavailable. They continually failed to provide honest information about the state of the server. It took a further two days before they finally admitted that they had lost the drive and had no backups:

"1.The Windows OS got corrupt. That was the reason we decided to reinstall it. 2.This was a RAID server. To ensure that there is no data loss, we had multiple drives on the server wherein the web-date, MySQL & MS-SQL were backed up separately. This was done on the same server but on different drives. 3.While we were checking the server during OS re-installation, we also found that the primary hard-drive had faults on it and was not responding. Further evaluations and investigations revealed that the drive itself was faulty. Since this was a part of the RAID array, we had to deal with it very carefully. One single error would have resulted in the data getting wiped out. Inspite of all efforts, the data on the drive was not getting retrieved. That was the reason for the delays."

It's really hard to understand what happened from this garbled explanation. On the one hand they say they were using a RAID array, but then they contradict this by implying that different things were stored on different disks: "we had multiple drives on the server wherein the web-data, MySQL & MS-SQL were backed up separately. This was done on the same server but on different drives". That doesn't sound like my understanding of RAID.

But in any case, simply backing stuff up on a separate disk in the same box is a pretty crap strategy. Also simply doing database backups isn't sufficient. My site allowed my users to upload photos and these have all been lost. I've also lost the (somewhat ancient) code for the site since it was developed a long time ago on a long dead machine. Maybe I was naive to expect a host to back things up.

Since then the only compensation they've offered has been three month's of free hosting, even though I've probably lost at least £1000 in development time (to rewrite the software) plus the hours I wasted chasing them up plus the irretrievable loss of my user's photos. Free hosting is completely worthless from a company I've lost all trust with.

So, I'm now looking for a good hosting company. I'm quite interested in getting a dedicated server that I can look after myself. Any recommendations?

26 comments:

Fuzzyman said...

Hi Mike,

I use Webfaction.com. Their managed hosting is *fantastic* - you get a shell login but *not* root access and they handle security, system updates etc. Not Windows though so that may be a deal breaker for you.

Personally I don't want to have to administer my own system and I couldn't be happier with them - their tech support is great.

Ed said...

UK based http://www.servelocity.net/ have been recommended to me by friends and colleagues, who've been able to install and implement JBoss systems.

Personally I'm looking to move my cheap http://www.dreamhost.com/ LAMP service to an IIS box. Unless I get adventurous with mono :0

There seems to be a lot of rubbish out there and UK hosting seems comparatively expensive versus US options (weak dollar?)

It'll be interesting to see where you end up - Django on Google Apps Engine(!)

Realistically I guess everyone's requirements are different.

BenL said...

I've been hosting a dedicated box with www.sar-hosting.com and have nothing but praise for them.

Mike Hadlow said...

Hi Michael, no I need IIS on Windows. I haven't quite got around to embracing Mono yet :(

Hi Ed, I'll keep you posted.... (see below)

Hi BenL, Thanks for the recommendation I'm going to check them out.

VSX Insider said...

I use seekdotnet.com. Their dedicated server plans.

Bil Simser said...

I have the same issues with both webhost4life and 1&1. They were horrible.

OrcsWeb is one of the best ones out there, but pricey. You get what you pay for though, world class support and reliabiity.

Stephen said...

I've recently been looking at www.theplanet.com for dedicated hosting. I haven't yet made the jump but the prices look good and they 'seem' to be very professional (including blogs).

Iain said...

Avoid names.co.uk like you would a warty, over-familiar aunt at a wedding. They are my current host only because they absorbed the wonderful xsession.com. xsession were a word-of-mouth company with five nines uptime and excellent tech support. names.co.uk are shower of ${expletive}s. My site goes down all the time and they've deleted my MSSQL database and swear blind that I should be using MySQL. Even though my new invoice *and* their own sales team say otherwise. Shysters.

Anonymous said...

1and1.co.uk - big global company, great range of servers, very cheap, unlimited bandwidth, great connection, and fantastic backups.

Mike Hadlow said...

Hi Anonymous (AKA 1and1 marketing department),

You don't have to dig very deep with google to find comments like this about your services:

"Trying to terminate an account with them is a like a trial of fire, imho. Forget about phone calls and emails. What you need to do is locate the online version of the cancellation form (good luck), fill it in and send via snail-mail to their offices. You can also fax a copy. You might, if you are lucky, get the help and support section to email you a copy but don't hold your breath.

Here's my advice for cancelling: when it comes to sending the form in, send three copies posted to three different postboxes and stagger your posting over three days. That way, you can be 100% certain at least one of the copies arrive should you get the "we have no record of any form" excuse.

I detest oneandone's policy of having to cancel accounts via snail mail.

Another policy of theirs I loath(ed) was freezing your entire account for one domain name. What I mean by this is that should you run into the nightmare of trying to cancel one thing in your account such as a single domain renewal, and you refuse to pay for it, your entire account gets frozen, even for goods and services you have paid for and are entitled to have full access to, in my opinion.

Basically, oneand onesuck. Don't take any shit from their 'no help/customer services/whatever it's called now' department, especially once you have sent the cancellation forms in (from various locations). That's the place to begin: locate and download a copy of the cancellation form and take it from there."

Liam Westley said...

A bit of a late recommendation, but try discountasp.net (kbalertz.com have a 6 month free voucher as well).

They are pretty reliable (we have real sites on shared hosting with SQL Sever DBs) and they tend to be ahead of the game in supporting the latest toolkits and .NET updates.

MVC CTP2 can be made to work on it too.

davidarno said...

A very late recommendation (I only just found your site due to not making it to the geek dinner and so not meeting you), but I use dreamhost.com and would recommend them to everyone.

The price, service and features offered are excellent.

The downsides are:

1. They are based in California and so sometimes replies to technical queries don't appear until teh early hours of the morning

2. They are entirely linux based, so ASP.NET is out unless you want to go the mono route.

jonathan said...

I would be interested to know how you got on, as I live in Lewes.... I am using QAwebhosting.com at present for a number of sites, and have put up with alot from them, and felt now was the time to change.
My problem is different to yours as I want a linux box and am mainly mac based.
I was thinking of hosting a site myself as an experiment as I saw an article on how to convert a mac mini to be a web server...it seemed relatively easy...hmmm

Mike Hadlow said...

Hi jonathan,

I've recently started renting a virtual server from memset.com on the recommendation from a friend of mine who's main business is hosting other people's sites. So far it's been completely trouble free, but as with all hosting companies, you don't really get a good idea about the quality of their services until something goes wrong.

I ran my own Linux box at my Mum's offices for several years (a leased line came with the building). It worked fine, but being further from a backbone than a large service provider meant that the response was rather slow.

Vaud said...

Hi,

I have a reseller account with Webhosting.uk.com but am extremely exasperated with them. One e-commerce site in particular goes down once a month & I am never able to get a proper explanation from the support people. The support staff (I guess are based in India) don't seem to know what they are doing & you get conflicting versions of events depending on who you speak to. They are very shambolic & I wished I had not moved from another hosting company.

Yes the price / features are great but if you need reliable hosting then look elsewhere. And this is what I'm currently looking at.

Who did you go for in the end Mike?

Mike Hadlow said...

Hi Vaud,

I'm still renting a virtual server from memset.com, now for well over a year. So far it's been a very good experience, nothing's ever gone wrong, I get nice emails about any anticipated downtime and the support staff have been pretty helpful.

Su said...

Hi Mike
I cam accross your website because i am thinking of going with webhosting uk - i don't seem to be able to find the help i need anywhere - i want to change our web hosts for our websites as it is fully managed by the people who dsigned itand they are charging the earth - i think i could manage the website as it doesn't really change but i have very limited it knowledge and if there is a major problem wouldn't know what to do. i am guessing tht option you went for doesn't really provide tech support and you do it yourself. the website is mssql so my options are limited and really don't want to make a bad decision - any suggestions or advice would be greatly received

Mike Hadlow said...

Hi Su, a cheap LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL & PHP) shared server account can be very cheap. The problem, as you correctly point out, is having the technical knowledge to maintain it yourself. It probably wouldn't be much work, but you need to know what you are doing when things go wrong. Unfortunately your best bet is to find a technical person/firm you trust and ask them to look after it for you. It shouldn't cost a fortune.

Sorry not to be much help :(

loggi said...

I have been with
Webhostuk limited
for almost a year now and must say, the people behind the screen at webhost.uk.net are awesome. Be it any technical issue or any other difficulty for a non-techie person like me, the support is always there to help you a step ahead.

There servers are fast, non-overloaded and the most important thing, they are secure in terms of attacks and data redundancy. I am not here to generate any affiliate score for myself, but since I came across the bitter experience of Mike, thought, it would be nice if I share my experince with my host who in true terms deserves a pat on their back.

Mike Hadlow said...

Loggi (webhosting.uk.com's marketing department by any chance?), it sounds like you are talking about a different company, are you sure you really mean wehosting.uk.com? The people "behind the screen" that I had the misfortune to come into contact with could hardly speak English and seemed to have a very distant relationship with the truth. It's as if they'd been told to never ever admit anything could be wrong even when a customer's site had gone down a black hole for several days. They may have been able to pull the wool over the eyes of a non-technical person like yourself, but anyone with even a smattering of experience dealing with computer systems could tell that their responses were a load of complete rubbish.

Who knows, maybe they've improved over the couple of years since I wrote this post, but to be honest I really don't care. It would be a very very cold day in hell before I would even consider the insane idea of using them again.

For anyone who's reading this blog thinking about hosting with them, do yourself a favour: go elsewhere.

Sean J Connolly said...

Hi Mike

I too am currently having exactly the same issue with Webhosting.uk.com, I was working on my site last night, and it went down at about 2am. I opened live chat and was told that it would be up ad running in 20 mins. I have just gotten off the phone with them and now they tell me their is an issue with the RAID array.

What I dont understand is that why are they not running the servers in a cluster so even if one of the RAID arrays fails, the whole world doesn't stop. I do agree they dont seem to know the difference between RAID 1 or RAID 5.

So as we speak me website, email and a couple of client sites are all down and have been for over 12 hours.

Now as I used to work as a Cisco engineer I know for a fact that to swap out a RAID array controller, is not an all day event.

But in closing I have seem lots of bad reviews about Fasthosts, but I was previously with them and had a dedicated server and had no problems at all, I could always get support whem I needed it and my server was up most of the time. Now they have a new Chief Exec teh service is even better.

So my recommendation for a dedicated box is Fasthosts, as once this crap economy picks up I am moving my sites back to Fasthosts, I only moved them due to budget.

Sean J Connolly said...

Just notice my profile picture is not displaying, and I will give you one guess as to why that is?

Yes.. you got it, my profile picture is stored on my website. Which is down!!!

Chris said...

Hello,

WebhostUK LTD is a different company. I am also hosting my site with Webhost.uk.net for more than year now.They are really one of the best UK hosting company with top class support.

Robert said...

He Mike,
I would like to share my views towards Webhosting.uk.com,i have taken the services around a year back, i have no issues with my website,the teck team member always help me for my problem if happens.The support team member has huge amount of technical knowledge,and can solve your problem very soon so that you site is not in a mess.
Their twiiter profile is also very quick in response,over all i dont think,that we cant buy hosting services from Webhosting UK.
I thinks their is any miscommunication towards the services .

Mike Hadlow said...

Hi Robert, very interesting that your grammar is as bad as people like 'John' and 'Luke' that I had to deal with at WebhostingUK. Do you know them?

Jamie Jones said...

Hi

I have been using webhosting.uk for a few months now, every 48hrs my site is down, i have there biggest vps package and it can not handle one site, my sql server is constantly down with bugs and my server trips over also. yes the tech team and brillant but that does not make up for the amount of money this company are losing me..

currently in the process of moving to another host.