For the last few years, this blog has been hosted on a smallish Virtual Private Server (VPS) at A Small Orange. I had originally started with a typical shared hosting account, but one of the sites I was hosting for a friend started getting a lot of traffic, and I needed something a little beefier to take the load. It just made sense to put my other sites on the VPS as well, including Windypundit.
Overall I’ve been pretty happy with hosting at A Small Orange. The technology makes sense to me, and support staff have been responsive and helpful. But it is a low-cost service, so there have been a few glitches. The server goes down occasionally, dropping off the internet for a few minutes, and every once in a while something worse goes wrong, and it stops serving web pages until I notice it’s down and restart it, which can mean several hours of down time. I’ve been living with that, however, because I like everything else about A Small Orange and the price is right.
Then late on Christmas day the site went down. It took me a couple of hours to notice the problem. (I get notifications from monitoring services, but who pays attention to that stuff on Christmas Day?) I tried logging in to restart the server, but I couldn’t get to the VPS management tools for my server. So I filed a support ticket.
It took unusually long for ASO support to get back to me, and all they could do is refer me to a network status report which explained that “a network issue was identified with some VPS servers” and they were working on it.
It’s now been 90 hours since my VPS went down, and they’ve issued over two dozen updates, including a second network status report and there’s no end in sight. Clearly something has gone terribly wrong. As near as I can tell, network problems with their servers at the TierPoint facility in Dallas caused a bunch of VPSs to shutdown in a way that makes them difficult to restart correctly, and continuing network problems are making things worse. All these problems have overwhelmed the support staff, and they are many hours behind in handling trouble tickets.
The folks at A Small Orange have been good to me over the years, and I felt bad for them. I have some experience fighting technical problems like that, and it’s not easy. But I wanted to have my websites up.
It’s not easy shopping for VPS services in a hurry, and they vary wildly in price depending on the level of service provided, but I found a reasonably priced plan at InMotion Hosting. It took them a couple of hours to get me set up with a VPS, and then I had to load my websites onto the server. I’d prefer to have done live transfers from the old server, but with the server down I had to fallback to backup copies from Christmas morning. I figure not much happened on Christmas, so I probably didn’t lose anything significant. After that, I just had to point all the DNS records to the new server and let the changes propagate.
All my sites should be visible to users now. It’s been less than a day, so I can’t tell if InMotion is going to work out yet. I’ll give it a month and see what happens before deciding if I should stay with them, go back to A Small Orange (especially if they offer nice apology freebies), or try some other service (suggestions welcome). This is about the sixth time I’ve changed hosting services, and I seem to be getting good at it.
S. Anthony says
I’ve been with ASO for many, many years, and even before when I hosted at Drak.net (that was purchased by ASO).
I’ve never experienced an outage like you are talking about before with them. They have always been super responsive and have been stellar with support responses.
I urge you to give ASO the chance to work out whatever issues they had and issue the proper responses to you. Considering the tornadoes in Dallas the following day, there could have been additional network problems caused by that alone that ASO would not have been able to handle by themselves.
Mark Draughn says
I’ve been a happy ASO customer for a couple of years, so this is kind of surprising, but I gave them as much of a chance as I could, waiting almost three days before switching hosts. I’m off work for a few days and there’s stuff I wanted to do on a couple of sites while I had the time. Given that it’s now four days, and they’ve issued a third status message, I think I made the right decision. And now that I’ve moved everything to another hosting service, it will be work to put things back, so I’m going to stay here a while and check out the neighborhood.
ASO hasn’t mentioned anything about weather-related issues at the data center, and as far as I know, all the networking issues are internal to ASO, between VPS and SAN. This is not an internet connectivity issue.
My VPS server has also been on and off in the last couple of days. I’ve lost about 10 clients already who moved over to other hosts. I’m at the point now where I’m telling all my clients to move over to other hosts.
ASO (A Small Orange) has got a big problem on their hands and I can’t take this anymore.
Mark Draughn says
My server came back up in the early evening of New Year’s day, for a total disruption of one full week. I haven’t completely decided to leave them, but my account renews on Monday, and I really don’t want them to have any more of my money.