It has been a rough year in the Web Hosting industry. There are plenty of excellent web hosts, as this site's reviews will attest. The bad hosts grab the headlines and good hosts have created public relations nightmares for themselves. There have been some new developments in recent controversies. We decided to take a look at them.
Dreamhost billing fiasco
The Dreamhost billing saga continues, as previously reported here. If you are unfamiliar with the story and don't care to click, Dreamhost over billed their clients a whopping 7.5 million dollars. The situation (which was bad enough) was made considerably worse by the cutesy and flippant tone taken about it. If your debit card was overdrawn and you were faced with the prospects of checks bouncing I doubt you found a cartoon of Homer Simpson or an email stating “We’re really really realllly embarassed (sic) about this” very comforting. I like humor and informality as much as anyone, but it was completely inappropriate in this situation. It has been said before, and I'm sure better, this was a public relations disaster of epic proportions.
Imagine you had convinced your boss to allow you to have Dreamhost host your companies website. You would look like an idiot giving this boss the provided explanation, like you had turned the website over to teenagers. If your personal site is hosted by them, I imagine you had to lose confidence in your choice. The gravity of the situation seemed completely lost. “Oops! LOL!” just doesn't cut it and is completely unacceptable.
The after effects of this continue. The Consumerist reports on a Dreamhost customer that got caught up in the confusion, thought she was overcharged (she wasn't) and had her credit card company reverse the charge. Dreamhost then suspended the account immediately. An argument can be made that this customer may have acted too quickly, but the lack of response reported is troubling. They seem to be capable of a serious tone when it comes to money owed to them. Dreamhost has been reasonably well reviewed, it is unfortunate for them that it looks like the anger and confusion continues and will for some time. They are caught in the uncomfortable position of the court jester now trying to be taken seriously.
Not only did Dreamhost harm themselves, they missed out on a tremendous opportunity. I have a background in customer service, specializing in handling difficult situations. Most of my best customers were created during a crisis. People are generally loyal. If you help them get out of a difficult situation, even if it is one you created, they remember that. They know that if you helped them when things were going wrong, they can count on you when things are going right. Crisis equal opportunity, and this was totally overlooked.
iPowerweb problems persist
IPowerweb is a lot more troubling. It is hard to know where to begin. The unaddressed security issues that lead to StopBadware.org to identify them as one of five hosts having the largest number of malware-infected sites on their servers? The email outage and unannounced server migration, as detailed here? The problems the North Country Gazette has had, including the site being taken down as retaliation for negative press, only to have the problem escalate? More Gazette problems here and here. Non-existent customer service? Reducing themselves to posting fraudulent reviews on this site?! The problems are many and deep.
As if all of that wasn't bad enough, on Friday the North Country Gazette told the story of an attorney that after going through the typical customer service nightmare of getting FTP installed on her site, she was shocked to log in and discover that it wasn't her site she was logged on to. It was IPowerWeb's site. She had access to all of their files. Horrified, she notified them. It took over two days for the problem to be fixed. The fix involved installing something onto her website, which had the side effect of making her computer crash and forced her to reinstall programs. Nice. Good thing it was an honest person that had access to all of their data, and the data of their customers.
The article goes on to mention the newest problem with IPowerWeb's email. I'll quote:
“If you have a website that is unfortunately hosted by IPowerWeb and use their webmail, unless the intended recipient has actually requested the email that you are want to send, it will be considered spam and Ipower will be forced to “suspend or terminate your account”.”
That is mind-boggling insanity. If you use webmail, sending an email to someone that hasn't requested it causes your account to be suspended or terminated?! It is obvious that things are out of control there. Stay away at all costs.
It is sad to me that the Hosting industry gets affected by stories like these. How many people read horror stories like the ones above and decide to just forgo having their site hosted? How many others just quietly give up and accept the situation? We need to be vocal about the unacceptable behavior when it is exhibited. There is plenty of misleading press out there, when searching for a good webhost we should make sure we have done our part to keep the conversation honest.
What do you think? Were you caught up in any of this? Do you feel Dreamhost has resolved the issue in a manner you are comfortable with? Are you still using IPowerWeb? Leave a comment! We want to hear what you think.