Offline !

Posted by bob on November 12, 2015

Some of you might have noticed that recently this website was not available for several days.  There is a story I can share about that. runs under a “Content Management System” (CMS) to deliver dynamic web pages that can adjust their format for small mobile screens or larger desktop displays.  The particular CMS is called “Concrete5” which is open-sourced and quite powerful.

Like many small websites, mine has been running on a shared host.  This keeps the cost of having one or a few websites very low.  Unfortunately, the shared hosting provider I had selected some years ago, provided an environment that was not very suitable for our CMS.  Essentially, the shared hosting provider had created an odd configuration that did not match most other shared hosts and it effectively kept “breaking” our CMS in strange and unexpected ways.

Now at this point, I have to share that my IT guy is a wizard and kept bailing me out of multiple problems induced by that original shared host.  But eventually I decided that I should pick a new hosting provider that would be better-matched to the CMS.  So let’s call the original hosting company “A” and the new provider “B”.

Transfer of the actual website went smoothly.  The new shared host seemed even a bit faster.  But then one day, that new hosting provider “B” had a server go offline.  Unfortunately, it was the server on which my website was running. 

“Okay, no big deal, they claim to run RAID, promise 99.9% uptime, and all those good things,” I thought.  Day after day, status messages were put up saying that they were working very hard to fix the problem.  Yet there was nothing to explain the cause or scope of the problem.

After 5 days, I had enough of that.  So we moved again, to Shared Hosting company “C”.  Again, the transfer process was smooth, thanks to excellent work by my IT wizard, and our shared compulsion to maintain backups.

So far, company “C” has not broken my website or  taken down their server for any noticeable time.  In fact, we are finding that their shared hosting is significantly faster.  They say they use Solid State Disks (SSDs) for online storage, and their snappy performance certainly backs that up.

So what’s the big deal in this story?

The big deal is how many companies seem unable to identify the key parameters that are important to their customer. 

If you are a web hosting company, the most important thing you offer is web hosting.  Pure and simple.  If your servers are down, my website is offline, and obviously, I will not be a happy customer.  If you solved an internal cost problem by outsourcing the remote administration of your servers, you did not solve my problem (wanting a stable web presence) or serve any advantage to me, your customer.

If you are a car company, make sure that you still deliver reliable transportation.  If you are bank, please keep our money safe.  If you are an insurance company, then please ensure that you insure!

This stuff isn’t that difficult to comprehend, yet it seems that every day I encounter companies that have forgotten their real mission.  Companies exist to solve some specific problems for their customer.  When they stop doing that, customers will run to other vendors.