Wednesday, December 27, 2006

This is Help?

Computer nightmareSo, as I mentioned yesterday, my big goal for the day was to get the CNP of Ohio contest registration feature up and running on the production server. Should only take an hour, I said. Usually only a few tweaks, I said.

Sometimes I'm such a Pollyanna.

The hosting service we are using for the CN website is, a budget hosting service that I myself use. The least expensive of their plans costs $70 per year and has most of the modern conveniences of a hosting service. To access and set up these facilities, you must use a feature called "CPanel". It's basically a control panel for websites. With it you can, among a myriad of other things, check stats, create new email addresses, and (most important to me in this case) set up MySQL databases.

Today, unfortunately, I couldn't access the CPanel site for the CNP of Ohio website. It's actually located on a different server than the actual server, so this only posed a problem for adding new features, it didn't mean that the production server itself was down. After a couple of hours of waiting, though, I decided that I needed to bring in, you guessed it, Customer Support.

Now, I realize that, being a budget service, they have to cut corners somewhere. To save money, they've chosen to have only web-based support. I've used it in the past and, while it does have a clunky interface, the folks there have always been responsive, usually getting back to me within the hour. I'm hoping that today is an exception and not a foreshadowing of things to come.

I placed my first ticket this morning around 11. At around 12 or so, I got a response back that everything was fixed. Great! Except it wasn't. I was still having the same problem. So, I went back to the now-closed ticket and re-opened it, letting the support folks know that there was still a problem. A few hours later I was told that the problem lay in the network and that I should just wait for a few hours. I might want to try a command called "traceroute" which for those who don't know, will print out the path that a network message takes as it finds its way from one computer to another on the network. If there is a problem, it will tell you where that's happening, too.

So, I waited another couple of hours, with similar results. So, I decided to try another help ticket. From my tests, it looked like there was a problem in a significant network node which meant that pretty much no one in the midwest was going to be finding this particular server. As a hosting service, it would behoove them to make sure this got cleared up. I thought I would just re-open the original ticket. This time, though, the ticket had been deleted entirely. All of my old tickets were there but that one.

Strange. OK, I'll just make a new one. Once again, I worked up the details, including a dump of the traceroute results. Off it went to the great and powerful Oz. A few more hours later and I got the message back that I had filled out the form incorrectly and to create a new ticket with the correct information. Guess which part of the form I got wrong? Nope! It was the field which called for an "Example URL". Apparently they didn't want the URL of the CPanel which was causing trouble, but rather the URL of the site about which I was asking the question. Obviously!

Don't even get me started on the response mechanisms -- sometimes response by email, sometimes only on the support website, sometimes in both -- consistency is apparently vastly overrated.

On a positive note, the work on the donations features for Community Housing Network are coming along nicely. I even managed to fire off a test transaction to (the front-end service which we are using to process credit card transactions).

More as the situation develops.

On a More Personal Note

I did manage to get our new cell phones set up today. Well, to be more accurate, I got them registered and turned on. It's probably going to take me about six months to really get the hang of this thing. My old phone did about one thing. It made phone calls, two if you count receiving calls. This new one does that, plus just about everything else except walk the dog (and I might be wrong on that -- I only just started reading the voluminous documentation). Still pretty exciting!

So, which hosting service do you use? Would you recommend their customer service?

5 days.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm using They cost more than $70/yr for a "business" account, but you might be able to host several operations on one account.

I've not had much need to use their support services, but I've usually gotten a fairly quick response when I needed them. I've always used online support, but they also offer 24/7 phone support.

I think they're physically located in Germany, but that hasn't been a problem for me.