Fittingly, just two days before Halloween in 2014, HostGator went down for emergency maintenance—much to the chagrin (and profit losses) of many of its clients (like those local Halloween stores). According to Endurance International Group, the parent company of the popular web host, “An update to an operating system resulted in a service interruption for a small segment of our customers. We were able to quickly diagnose and resolve the issue for the vast majority of the affected customers. There are still a few customers who are experiencing some residual issues, and our teams are working with them directly.”
This announcement came a few days after the initial October 29 issues, but it was of little comfort to many of HostGator’s customers. While web hosts of every size are busy reeling in customers, one of the biggest draws is guaranteed uptime and fast loading pages. However, with thousands of web hosts out there, only a handful are household names. HostGator is one of them, but now it may be more infamous than famous.
What’s the Problem?
According to a Linux systems administrator with HostGator, there was an issue with the update of an operating system. After 24 hours, another tech (the systems monitoring supervisor) said it was actually a problem with MySQL and Innodb. That’s all HostGator ever said about the details, even with three full days of intermittent downtime (some customers had it worse than others).
Finally, on Halloween at 12:33am, it was announced that “most” of the servers were back to 100 percent functionality. In order to play it safe though, HostGator said they’re “in the homestretch and will announce a full restoration of services as soon as possible.” Later, Sean Valant, social media manager for the company, issued an apology for the rough communication during the three-day outage.
A History of (Lack of) Excellence
For those in the web host industry (and some savvy HostGator clients), this wasn’t a huge surprise. In 2014, the company suffered a number of outages, including a big one in May where downtime lasted nine hours. Worse, none of these emergencies came with appropriate communication—most information was spread via @HGSupport.
For other web hosts and customers fed up with a lack of communication, here are a few key takeaway points from the “Halloween incident”:
- Communication is critical. Yes, sometimes there’s nothing you can do to prevent unexpected downtime (although, realistically, there probably is something that can be done). However, how a web host responds in these situations is critical. Leaving customers in the dark is only going to frustrate them—and have them searching for a new host provider.
- Apologize quickly and profusely. This is part of communication, but if you don’t acknowledge 1) your mistake if applicable or 2) that you get how maddening it is, you’re not doing your customers any favors.
- A well known name doesn’t mean much. Too many web host customers go with the easiest, most well-known, or first web host they stumble across. Just because a web host company practices solid SEO skills and has top keyword ranking doesn’t mean they’re the best.
HostGator is keeping on with the keeping on, of course, but for how long? They’ve left a wide gap for more reliable (and communicative) web hosts to scoop up their business.