Domain Name Problems | April 21, 2004

As a few of you may have noticed, my site has been unavailable for the last 3-4 days. Here’s why.

A couple of weeks ago my hosting company sent me an email saying that they were changing domain name servers, and as my domain name was managed by a third party, I’d need to update my DNS records. This was nice as a few months earlier, they changed some IP addresses without telling me, and my site became unavailable for around 72hrs.

The email sat in my inbox for a while gathering dust, but as the switch off day loomed, I decided It was time I made the change. After work on Friday evening, I went to the control panel for my domain name and entered the new DNS details. Half an hour later, my website dropped off the face of the planet.

I sent a number of frantic emails to my hosting companies tech support, but the response was very slow, and when it did come, it was less than helpful. The first response (around 18hrs later) was simply a copy of a whois, showing the old DNS details. No explanation. No helpful suggestions. I did a quick whois and could see the new DNS details were set, so emailed them this information back. 48hrs later I got another email which essentially passed the buck, saying that it was the fault of the company that managed my domain. Again, I sent more emails asking for a bit more info/help. Another 24hrs later a get a final email saying that the site looks like it’s back up now.

Unfortunately the change has taken a while to propagate. Most ISP’s seem fine, but I still can’t access my site from home using NTL. I’m not sure if the problem was down to the hosting company or the people managing the domain name. However, as this is the second time something like this has happened in the space of a couple of months, I’m more inclined to believe fault lies with the hosting company. Whoever was to blame, I know that, had my hosting company been a little more responsive, a little more helpful, and possibly even a little proactive, the length of time my site was unavailable for could have been greatly minimised.

I am the first to admit that I know very little about hosting matters. This is why I pay a company to look after these things for me. However in my experience, I’ve come across very few good hosting companies in my time. Most seem to treat you like an idiot if you don’t know your A records from your MX records. Rather than being helped, contacting a hosting company usually leaves me more confused, frustrated and antagonised than when I started. The people manning these help desks treat you like idiots because you don’t understand the mechanisms of their business. However, if you did, you wouldn’t be calling them in the first place, and they would probably be out of business.

Many of these help lines work on a system whereby the operators have to answer a certain number of calls an hour. Whenever I’m on the phone to any hosting company for more than a couple of seconds, I can hear in the operators voice that all they want to do is get me off the phone and answer the next call to keep their stats high. So rather than spend 20 min actually trying to help, I end up having to phone them back 6 times and spend 5 min each time getting the run around and leaving knowing no more than when I started. Surely it would be much better just to answer the question first off, than add to your already heavy workload by forcing the caller to ring multiple times until they finally get a satisfactory answer.

Anyway, I digress. For most of you, my site appears to be back online. Until my hosting company decide to change some other setting (probably sometime next month I’d imagine) my site should be fine.

Posted at April 21, 2004 9:29 AM


Tim said on April 21, 2004 10:29 AM

You may or may not have read this:

“We’re not here to help fix your computer. We just want to get you off the phone. A tech-support slave tells his hellish tale.”

Jon Hicks said on April 21, 2004 10:46 AM

Good to see you back on! I feel for you - its so frustrating waiting for ISPs to update their DNS records. NTL seem to be one of the slowest unfortunately.

Ah well, time to move to Seg Pub! ;o)

Pete F. said on April 21, 2004 10:51 AM

Welcome back to the fold.

It’s a shame that, as web professionals, we encounter such hostile/unhelpful attitudes within the same sector. I’m lucky; my personal hosting company has been ace, responding to emails within a couple of hours with as much technical detail (written in plain English) as you could wish for. My business hosting company on the other hand, have — until the end of last year — been very much as you seem to have encountered here. That said, rather than dodging calls and/or emails, my business host would claim ignorance of any errors happening, and insist that their systems were working correctly. Interestingly, shese errors would mysteriously disappear shortly after the phone call. Thankfully, this sort of mischief has all but ceased.

I’d go a-head hunting Andy; see if you can’t get hold of some account management brass and twist their balls. You’ve (quite rightly) named and shamed them in a public place — the least they could do is issue a formal apology and refund you a month’s hosting.

Robin said on April 21, 2004 11:43 AM

Seriously, I’d consider moving the domain to somebody half decent.

I’d avoid dreamhost personally, but that’s just me.

theresa said on April 21, 2004 12:09 PM

I second the recommendation for Their helpdesk has always been quick to answer (via email at least) in a professional and courteous manner, and they don’t treat me like I’m an idiot. (That being said, I recently had to look up who my hosting company was because I haven’t had to use their helpdesk in a loooong time!) They also send out periodic emails to keep us up to date on what hardware and software changes are taking place. There’s no reason you should have to put up with such poor service from any company.

DarkBlue said on April 21, 2004 1:00 PM

Firstserv is not too far away from you Andy (London). They offer co-location and managed servers and their tech-support is second to none (I have never waited more than an hour for a response to an email, and they are always helpful if I call).

. said on April 21, 2004 2:00 PM


Milan Negovan said on April 21, 2004 2:52 PM

Just yesterday I read 10 things never to say on a business call. Later in the day our CEO was calling a large company here in the US, and got an “It’s not our policy” response. We had a good laugh at it. Funny how undereducated most call center people are.

Patrick Griffiths said on April 21, 2004 5:36 PM

I won’t bang on about my hosting company experience again (like I did when last had problems), but it goes to show that when people say ‘Go with this company because they offer this, this, that and this for 50p a year’, it doesn’t mean anything if they turn out to be unreliable or unresponsive.

dot5sucks said on April 21, 2004 7:22 PM

Though I hate blatant self-promotion, here’s a site I created dedicated to the bad hosting services of Dot5Hosting. While it’s primarily a rant site, I tried to give space for people to recommend good hosts as well as show off their work.

Andy, go ahead and remove this if you feel it’s inappropriate.

Malarkey said on April 21, 2004 8:47 PM

Welcome back Comrade…

Cathy said on April 21, 2004 9:42 PM

I’ve been with my current hosting company, Bloghosts, for a year now, and I’d recommend them to anyone - one of their best qualities is the sheer speed and quality of customer service.

In the first few months I was with them I submitted about half a dozen support requests (mostly about minor things that weren’t even anything to do with them - like my Movable Type configuration) and they were all answered and sorted within a few hours of asking. Have a look at their forum for examples of quick, helpful responses and so on.

(No, I’m not affiliated with, etc etc. I’m just a really impressed customer.)

Mike said on April 22, 2004 2:14 AM

Hosting companies never cease to amaze me. My current host is constantly dicking around with their servers and causing all kinds of havoc. At least once a month, they change my IP address, forcing a 1 or 2 day delay while the IP propagates to my DNS server. Of course, they still claim 99.999% uptime, which is technically true, even if no-one can find the site itself.

And the tech support people invariably lack the requisite skills to provide meaningful feedback. They are really best at passing the buck.

One of my clients is experiencing similar difficulties with his site, so I recommended moving over to MediaTemple, who turned out to be extremely helpful and knowledgeable. I guess you get what you pay for. The irony is that the customer service team at the old host have dropped off the map, and no longer respond to phone calls or emails asking them to switch the DNS records to the new site!

Jason said on April 22, 2004 4:08 PM

While it doesn’t solve the problem for the entire world, on a Mac open up System Preferences > Network > Internal modem or ethernet (whatever you’re using). Put the IP address of the DNS server with the correct info in the DNS servers box. You’ll at least be able to connect to your site and e-mail.

Andy Budd said on April 23, 2004 12:38 AM

Anybody else had experience of either bloghosts or Media Temple?

Paul Bennett said on April 23, 2004 4:05 AM

For anyone in New Zealand, I have had nothing short of almost light-speed responses and VERY friendly help from Nucleus (Link).
Andy - maybe the exchange rate will even work in your favour (it does for everyone except the Kiwis ;) )

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