November 30th, 1999

webhosting.com

by Marvin Leach • in The Internet

webhosting.com

If there’s anything that’s sure to piss me off, it’s being disappointed. Nothing makes me throw a red-faced tantrum more than having the rug pulled out from under my feet. So imagine, if you will, the berzerk rampage that ensued when it turned out that all my smart and savvy shopping around for a web hosting solution went as sour as a wino’s morning breath! Oh, and to add insult to injury, I’d put myself on the line here; I’d gleefully recommended this very same web hosting company to two entrepreneurial friends of mine who were looking to settle their domains too! Well Webhosting.com it’s clobberin’ time!

Where did I enter the primrose path of webhosting.com promises, dear reader? Some search-engine wrangling brought me to the c-net top c-net top 25 web hosting list. C-net maintains an impressive line-up of web hosting solutions rated for Value, Quality, Support, Flexibility and Misc. It didn’t take long to go through the top five — start at the top, right — and soon after my decision was made. Webhosting.com ranks #2 on c-net’s list, rates in the mid-to-high nineties in all their criteria, has a smart looking site, and advertises 99.9% uptime (which translates to roughly 9 hours per year of downtime, poindexter). Why not go with #1, you ask? Well my maple-syrup pumping Canuck heart warmed when I found that webhosting.com was Canadian owned-and-operated. Sweet Bob & Doug with a six-pack, I’d found my web host! Deftly entering my credit card information, I prepaid for 12 months and got 3 additional months on the house.

webhosting.comSetting up the hosting was easier than giving candy to a baby! Everything’s done on-line through nifty forms, and before I knew it (okay, about 24 hours in real time), my little web site was live, and e-mail boxes were already crammed to bursting with get-rich-quick and porno-site-of-the-day spam (which, to be fair, doesn’t have anything to do with webhosting.com itself). Like many hosting companies, webhosting.com lets users get under the hood and configure many aspects of web and e-mail services through a handy-dandy web-based control panel. Even a grubby neanderthal like me can create e-mail accounts and aliases, password protect web directories, and even upload web pages, all through practically any web browser. The whole thing was all so shiny and new I was ready to forgive that any command issued through the control panel took longer to take hold than waiting for properly pulled Guinness.

Well, by the second week with webhosting.com, things were as off-kilter as a Rabbi with a bacon double cheeseburger. Something was broken! Our web hosting would go down. Our e-mail wouldn’t connect. The outages continued, nearly once a week. Each and every time, I’d call tech support and wait the industry standard 20-30 minutes to speak with a techie who’d helpfully confirm that yes, indeed, the e-mail server was down? Thanks for the reality-check, bub! Did I mention that my friends who’d signed up for webhosting.com were getting a similar webhosing? Well, they were, and none of us were much too happy with it!

But I’m a stubborn bastard, and I figured I’d stick with webhosting.com past the 30 day refund period, even given the truckload of problems I’d had. It was a stretch of bad luck, I told myself. There’s no way a big company like webhosting.com would tolerate these problems much longer. Everything would be fixed, and the remaining 14 months in my contract would be peaches and cream. And I’ve got to face it, the heartfelt candour of the beleaguered tech support people got to me. They sounded so much like they wanted to help, that they were sorry, and that they’d piss on a sparkplug if it’d do any good. My heart went out to them, God bless their diet-coke-fueled techie brains. Confident in my decision, I slid past the point of no refund, and no return.

Over the next few weeks, things went from bad to a million monkey wrenches in the works. E-mail went down, and for longer than it ever did before. And wouldn’t you know it, each and every time e-mail would go down, there were people here at my company expecting life-and-death messages from our clients stateside. I didn’t care so much about our web page at that point, but e-mail was our lifeline, and webhosting.com kept pulling the plug! I’d racked up nearly six hours of excruciating tech support hold time. I’d memorized the pattern of hold-music and canned sales pitches. I’d brought in a pillow to muffle my screams of utter frustration.

Finally, there was nothing I could do but give webhosting.com the big heave-ho. Sure, we were well past the 30-day money-back guarantee period, but I figured I had an iron-clad case for refund. Summoning every essence of D.A. Jack McCoy that I could find within myself, I drafted a most lucid letter of complaint, requesting immediate termination and money-back. It felt good cramming that letter into the fax machine and nimbly punching in webhosting.com’s number.

I followed up with a few terse phone calls, but before I could threaten to bring the matter to the attention of my associate Coconut-Arms Malone, they folded like a house of card houses. They said that I’d receive my refund– pro-rated for the unused time. It took nearly two months of constant phone calls and e-mails, but finally, webhosting.com coughed up the dough.

I ended up moving my domain to a nice little web hosting company in Philadelphia called serve.com. And our friends jumped ship from webhosting.com to 9netave.com. While everything hasn’t exactly been wine and roses, there’s been a lot less whine and woes with these new companies. I don’t know how webhosting.com got to be #2 on c-net’s top 250 lists, or why it’s in the penultimate position still to this day. But I did learn this valuable lesson, dear readers: finding a good web host is just like playing the ponies: there’s no sure thing!

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