Jan 052009
Part of the Top Hosting Center Series - Previous in series         

Top Hosting Center is once again offering their Rudolph web hosting plan for “lifetime web hosting”.  This time around they’ve got two different Rudolph web host plans, but it’s still the same scam they were running last year (and which I, unfortunately, fell for).

They’re up to the same old tricks they were running last time around – having employees pose as independent bloggers, etc, but they still can’t seem to keep their servers online.  If you don’t believe me or think I’m just bitter try reading the comments section of any of my past posts on Top Hosting Center.  They simply can’t handle the load they have now, but are looking to sell more space on their already overloaded servers.

Oddly enough, my old nemesis “John Raul” never wrote about the new Rudolph plans.  He’s the THC employee who was running all around the internet last year claiming to be a satisfied customer when he was, in fact, on the payroll.  Top Hosting Center’s CEO, Eric Vanier, even replied to his various John’s various comments as if he was a customer while sending him a regular monthly paycheck.  Those of you who have followed this story here at Philaahzophy will recall that John claimed I got him fired a few months back.  Well, according to his latest blog posts not only is he still working for THC, but apparently he has fallen in love with Eric Vanier as well.  Very strange indeed.

BTW, THC has finally stopped pretending to be the “#1 Budget Hosting” company and is, instead, touting their “Top 10 Fastest Growing” award from HostReview.  Knowing how much Eric likes to make things up out of whole cloth I looked into it and it turns out that the “fastest growing” category is compiled completely by votes solicited by the web hosting companies themselves.  HostReview still has not reviewed the company itself and does not endorse it in any way.  Rather, this “award” is just a matter of Eric, John, and their cohorts gaming the system by repeatedly voting for themselves from various IP addresses.  Not very impressive as far as awards go, but very sad indeed for a company that tries to project a profesional image.

As for the word “scam”, regular readers know I don’t use it lightly.  But what else can you call a company that regularly advertises “Guaranteed 99.9% Uptime”, delivers around 85% uptime, and refuses to even acknowledge, much less grant, their users request for compensation?

If you’re just looking for a cheap place to host your own domain, then Top Hosting Center may serve your purposes.  But if you want to know that your website’s going to be online whenever anyone wants to visit it, I’d consider any of the thousands of other web hosting options out there.

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Nov 182008

So, I was catching up with the web hosting blog over at Web Hosting Geeks (who I wrote about last week the place to find any top list for the best website hosting for Australia) and learned that the folks at cPanel released “cPanel VPS Optimized” earlier this year, which uses up significantly less RAM than the normal cPanel. With Virtual Private Hosting (VPS) the cost is never in the disk space or even the bandwidth like with shared hosting. Rather it’s with memory.

When I first signed on with Wired Tree (my VPS provider) I asked if it would be possible to use an alternative control panel to avoid the memory hogging cPanel.  I believe I’d actually learned about the control panel memory problems through Web Hosting Geeks as well, by the way.  Anyway, they informed me that at this time cPanel was my only choice and if it was consuming too much RAM then I could always buy more.  Great.  I’m looking to save money, not spend more to run the apps that they reqquire of me.  Still, they have a great customer service rating and wonderful reviews at Web Hosting Geeks as well as on othe rsites, so I still went with them.

Now I learn that there’s a much more efficient version of cPanel?  Grrrr.  As irritated as I am with WiredTree I’m ever more thankful for sites like Web Hosting Geeks that provide independent, third-party information about the web hosting business.

Nov 102008

One would think that as the internet grows it would be easier to find a quality web hosting company. However, that has not been my experience. Although I haven’t been writing about it lately, Top Hosting Center still can’t manage to keep my websites online. This is despite their moving me to another server with a smaller load and me moving my sites that require the most services to another webhost. Over the last six weeks or so they’ve only managed about a 92% uptime, but they continue to ignore my requests that they honor their 99.9% uptime guarantee.

Meanwhile I’m paying roughly $50 per month to WiredTree.com for a Virtual private Server.  Their customer service is definitely top-notch, though so I’m not too frustrated at the cost for now.  It’s been a pretty steep learning curve, but I think I’m doing okay.  Still can’t figure out why I’m using so much RAM, but I’ve been told that memory is the single largest limiting factor in a VPS environment.  Weird that it was never a problem when paying so much less for shared hosting.

As I’ve searched for a better understanding of what, exactly, I need in a web host I’ve been reading a lot of articles over at Web Hosting Geeks (who I’ve written about before).  They’re primarily a website hosting review site, though they also have a large article directory and numerous links to resources elsewhere on the web.  I’ve been spending most of my time poring over the various customer reviews, though.  Not only do I find myself better understanding the world of web hosting in th emodern age, but it also keeps me from feeling like I’m all alone or have some bizarre requirements.

Sep 282008
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It’s been three days since the 6 hour downtime at Top Hosting Center and I still have not received a reply to any of my emails to support or to the THC CEO, Eric Vanier.  They also have yet to acknowledge that the downtime even happened other than this brief mention in their control panel news-

We are facing an issue with our dedicated firewall. It should be solved shortly. Your patience is appreciated

Of course, the downtime began on 9/24, but carried over into 9/25 as well.  And despite the present tense in that notice it wasn’t published until after the downtime was complete (or at least it wasn’t visible as the control panel was crashed as well).

When all of the site’s on my server (including Eric’s blog)  lost their database connection for 15 minutes this evening, customer support’s response was unsurprising – they denied it was happening.  However, once I asked if they wanted to see the screenshots they said they’d “check something else”.  A few minutes later, database connectivity returned.  Once again this coincidentally (?!?) occurred during a spate of StumbleUpon traffic – this time to my post: Applied Anarchy: You CAN Trust Politicians.

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Sep 252008
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I’m writing this in EditPad because my web hosting company, Top Hosting Center, has crashed yet again. This time not only all 20+ of my sites have gone down, but so have all of the TopHostingCenter.com domains that I know of, as well as the sites of: THC CEO Eric Vanier’s blog, my supporter in my recent spat with THC Hendra, and my primary antagonist in that fight – on-again, off-again THC employee John Raul, and at least 75 other websites that share the same server as indicated by the screenshot on the right. Additionally, I’ve already received one phone call from a friend who hosts with Top Hosting Center (on my earlier recommendation) who can’t get into his control panel to do necessary work, either. Somehow, I’m sure THC will find a way to blame me for this.

As I’m typing the sites have been down for a full hour. I can’t chat with customer support because that website is down (AGAIN); my email to tech support has, thus far, gone unanswered; and the only phone number I can find for Top Hosting Center is actually a cell phone (probably Eric’s personal line). In fact, since their domain is down I have no way of knowing if anyone actually received my email. For all I know the tech support is sitting around the office, blissfully playing Nerf football, thinking it’s an awfully quiet night.

I am SO done with Top Hosting Center! I had already started the process of getting hosting elsewhere when the heater core on my Bronco went out and ate up the cash I had set aside for the new hosting company. Now I realize I have no choice. I need to move NOW. Of course, I can’t move right this second because I can’t get into my control panel to download my SQL databases because their website is down. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!

Then again, I’ve paid for “webhosting for life”, so I’ll probably leave a few of my less important blogs/websites on their servers just to save space and bandwidth on the new server I’ll be paying for. Of course, then I’ll have to continue to complain about them here on Philaahzophy, something which, according to the comments he left on his blog, really pissed off Eric Vanier. Well, Eric, I’ve got a solution for you….

How about you honor your 99.9% uptime guarantee (which THC has come nowhere close to fulfilling) and give me a full refund on what I paid for the Rudolph plan? That seems like a reasonable request considering I had at least that much lost revenue just from the outage tonight. Provide the refund, one week’s time to move the sites, and actual access to my files so I can download the most current ones (including my databases) and you’ll never hear from me again. Well, once more to let everyone know that you upheld your end of the deal. How about it?

Oh, and just in case they try to claim it never happened, here are screenshots of the down sites that I took about 30 minutes into the downtime-

At this point I’ve decided to live “blog” this occurence, so please forgive the odd formatting of the reset of this post. Remember, I’m still writing this in EditPad as well, so am hand-coding in all of the HTML. I did try to ask tech support how long it would be and whether it was worth staying up, but they didn’t actually give an answer. Still no responses to my emails to tech support or to THC CEO Eric Vanier.

On to the live “blogging”-

10:57- Tophostingcenter.com came back online. Unfortunately, all of the blogs on the server continued to get an “error establishing database connection” (as shown in the screenshots below)

11:11- Everything crashed again, including tophostingcenter.com and the chat window. Meaning, of course, all of us users are once again 100% in the dark. I don’t even have a way to grab my files in order to move them. Again, here’s the screenshots-

11:43- In the half hour since the last crash I’ve been checking around the internet to see how long it should take to reboot a web server on the assumption that maybe after getting things “fixed” the server needed to be rebooted again. The longest time I found was 20 minutes. So clearly there is more wrong at THC then I can guess at. 🙁

11:55- While I’m waiting for Top Hosting Center to come back online I decided to play around with a little math-

I’ve been with THC since December 19, 2007 – 278 days
That’s a total of 6,672 hours or 400,320 minutes.
So far today my sites have been down for 201 minutes, or .005 of the time I’ve been with THC, giving them an uptime of 99.95% – within their gurantee. But that’s only counting the downtime (so far) today. My sites regularly crash at Top Hosting Center. But I don’t even need to go into all the small crashes to make my point. Checking my old emails I found a notice from “Customer Care” dated June 7, 2008 and titled “Server Downtime – Official Statement” in which they admit to having been down for six solid hours. That’s an additional 360 minutes right there.

Adding that to tonight’s outage we’ve got more than 560 minutes of downtime.

Since I’ve been with the company for 400,320 minutes, 99.9% uptime would require my servers to have been online for 399,920 minutes, or less than 400 minutes of downtime total. Meaning that they passed that guranteed threshold quite some time ago. Of course, since I paid once for lifetime hosting they can’t really offer me a free month or anything to make up for my losses. In other words, their “guarantee” is meaningless. Not only have they faile ddramatically to provide what was promised, but their no system in place to compensate me for my losses or their breach of contract. Hmmm… makes that offer I made to Eric up above look all the better.

12:04- The sites came back online while I was playing with the math. Let’s see how long they stay up this time…

12:09- Database error connection again. ::sigh::
Still no responses to my emails, though I assume they’re all pretty busy over there.
At least FTP access is still up (for the moment) so I can continue grabbing my web files. I don’t even see the point in trying to contact online chat support again.

12:18- AND.. we’re back. Crossing my fingers it will last more than a few minutes…

12:21- Gone again. This is getting mighty repetitive.
Lost FTP access this time as well 🙁

12:35- All sites still down. They have been down for more than 4 hours now, that’s more than 240 minutes of downtime with this problem itself. Still no response from THC. It’s way past my bedtime. I’m tired and this got boring about an hour ago. So, I’m off to watch some Rough Science and try to go to sleep.

1:15- Tophostingcenter.com is up. Sites still have “Error connecting to database”. FTP is working. No email responses.
On Rough Science they measured the speed of a glacier. Now I’m gonna try falling asleep to CSI.

I may check back in depending on how long Mr. Sandman takes to show up. Otherwise, I’ll be back tomorrow, hopefully with an actual website available to post this on. If not, maybe I’ll actually give that cell phone a call.

1:31- Everything crashed again 🙂

2:13- Everything still down.

2:26- THC Back up. FTP up. Blogs have database error.

2:40- Everything back up. For now. This post goes live @ 2:48am

3:00-  Still no response to my support emails

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