Hosting hassles

14th April 2008 – 7.21 am

Here's the dilly yo. The renewal date for my domain was due recently. Normally that isn't a problem, as I pay someone some money and retain control of the domain for another year or two. However, as the first automated e-mail I received about this was from Nominet UK a week after the renewal date, and not from the registrar, UKFSN. Quite why the registrar wasn't able to send an automated message informing me that I owe them some money is a mystery, but not entirely unexpected as I'm sure this happened the last time the domain was due for renewal. As such, I wasn't terribly worried about losing the domain because after a simple e-mail to support the previous time I quickly had a new invoice to pay and I paid it.

I composed a short e-mail asking for a renewal invoice to be created for my domain and busied myself playing World of Warcraft. After a few days, not spent entirely in World of Warcraft, I hadn't received a reply to my e-mail, apart from the automated response, and I wondered what the trouble was. I wrote another e-mail asking for an update on the renewal request. The next e-mail I got about my domain was another from Nominet, reminding me that my domain was up for renewal and that if I didn't renew it within 30 days of the renewal date the domain would be taken from my control. I sent two more e-mails to 'support', making four over a period of a fortnight, and all remained unanswered. This got me quite frustrated, particularly as I was dealing with a time-sensitive matter that could mean losing a domain I had owned for six years.

It could, and arguably should, have been possible to update everything myself. The problem was the UKFSN had apparently shifted some of its services around a bit, making partnerships to deal with various services. This meant that UKPOST had shut off access, which was a problem because that is the arm used as registrar for my domain. Without access to my details there was nothing I could do apart from e-mail support and ask for assistance.

With a week to go until my domain was lost I decided that UKFSN just wasn't being supportive enough, and I started the process of transferring my domain name to a different registrar. I doubt that the company will miss my business, and I'm not making any sort of statement, I simply got frustrated. It's possible that it was no longer profitable to manage certain domains and wanted to phase them out of their control. But it's not like I would have freaked out if I had been told that, there are plenty of registrars available and I would have just used a different one. Not being told what's going on and having four e-mails ignored entirely is rude.

The problem with getting my domain transferred to another registrar is that the IPS tags needed to be updated, and without access to my details I couldn't do that myself, which meant e-mailing support. After the lack of attention my e-mails had received I had low hopes about achieving even this simple request, but luckily, and I do think it was luck, I actually got a response and the tags were updated. The timing wasn't great, as it was after half-past four on a Friday afternoon that the e-mail arrived informing me of the tags having been updated. I just hoped that my new registrar either had a working automated process or people working late on a Friday, because my domain wasn't going to survive past Sunday. Within an hour I got status updates letting me know that the domain was now both registered and renewed. Phew. That was a lot of drama for a simple operation, and I was far from happy with UKFSN's involvement.

And that's not all. At the same time my hosting period was due for renewal, and my hosting was with UKFSN. They have a good package with a reasonable rate, as far as I can tell, and until recently have been helpful and responsive when dealing with requests. I only realised that my hosting package was due for renewal because I noticed the dates when checking my account for an invoice for my domain. Again, I wasn't particularly perturbed by this turn of events because this had happened before and a single e-mail to support the previous time got my account renewed for another year, and I didn't have my account suspended or terminated for late payment at any point. It seemed to be nothing to worry about. But just as my e-mails about my domain renewal were being ignored so too were my e-mails, for I ended up sending two, about my hosting account.

If it had just been a matter of getting free hosting I might have felt a bit guilty but not worried too much about getting quick resolution. But some months back I asked for a couple of subdomains to be set-up, which I was told would be easy enough to do if I let them know what I wanted. I replied with the details and then heard nothing back. As the subdomains were just going to be a way to tidy up my site a bit and were far from urgent or necessary I didn't worry about it too much. After at least a month, but it seems like more, I finally received a confirmation e-mail that the subdomains had been set-up, long enough that I had lost the impetus to make use of them immediately. Again, as it wasn't terribly important I more-or-less ignored this glitch in support.

When I came to use this subdomain I found that I was having trouble connecting to it at times. I was getting DNS errors, and it seemed like a crap shoot whether I could connect to part of my own site or not. Again, I e-mailed support about it but, again, received absolutely nothing back, either to explain or resolve the issue. So with support apparently determining what was important with little regard to my considerations, an inexplicably shaky configuration, and a complete lack of automation on trivial account matters, I decided to take my account elsewhere.

I have to admit to not knowing about too many hosting companies, and I was quite happy with UKFSN for a long time and so didn't need to look, but there was one company I knew about that I thought was worth investigating. I headed over to Memset's website and took a look at the hosting packages that they offered. I wasn't sure if there would be anything suitable, as I understood them to offer serious configurations and I just wanted somewhere to plonk a personal site or two for not much money. However, looking at their simple web hosting option showed it to be quite reasonable and certainly as much, if not more, than I was currently getting. I was also confident that I could probably get some level of support when needed, what with being a friend of Memset's MD.

I created an account and got the move started. The reason I only sent a couple of e-mails to UKFSN to renew my hosting account was because once I had decided to move to another hosting provider I didn't really want to pay for another year's hosting with them, and I didn't want my account to be terminated before I had everything set up and running on the new servers either. Being a little paranoid, this was also why I haven't mentioned any of this directly until now. I had a few teething problems getting my domains hosted on the new servers, but nothing that I either couldn't work out for myself or Katie couldn't educate me about quickly. It turned out that I was missing a configuration step previously that once resolved got everything working properly.

I got my sites and all my content moved on to the new server over the weekend, all configured and running okay. I even set up the subdomain that this blog sits on and I no longer have to cross my fingers when trying to connect to it. It's taken a month of increasing stress and occasional mild panic, mostly because of the domain name itself, but my hosting needs remain met and are most likely improved.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.