Shafted by FastHosts
04 August 2008
Back to the problem in hand. A couple of days ago Matt noticed some sucky speeds on a couple of our servers and ran some speed tests – they all kept returning upload speeds that consistently capped off at just below 1024kbps. Tests from our other servers were bringing in pretty much symmetrical speeds so we started to find out what was particularly special about the servers getting low connection speeds. Turns these servers had just passed their 12 month contract expiration date and the first sign of this was the advert inserted into our server control panel…
So immediately on the phone to Fasthosts to find out what was going on Paul discovered that indeed we’d reached the end of our 12 month contract and had apparently been shifted from a “10242kbps pipe” to a “1024kbps pipe”. The incentive here was to get another 12 months of connection from us or face paying for an unusable level of service. Sounds like plain blackmail to me, its as if my mobile phone company cut me down to 1 bar of signal because I dared to let my contract expire.
First the issue of the virtual data pipes that Fasthosts offer, looks like a damned fine job of selling a terrible restriction to the customer as a feature. The deal seems to be, cap your maximum throughput in exchange for unlimited bandwidth. Surely even someone with the tiniest spark of intelligence can see that with capped throughput there is now a theoretical maximum amount of bandwidth that a server can use per month anyway. They even have the cheek to suggest that this “feature” normally costs between 500-600 GBP per month – maybe if you’re running a physical leased line to someone’s premises, but not for a cable in a data centre buddy.
Tied into the insanity of these virtual data pipes they also seem to be pushing another major crippling drawback as a feature and this is one we also hit having multiple servers in their data centre. Your servers are completely unfirewalled from the outside world – but are completely firewalled from each other. Read that line again. Yes there is zero access between servers in the same data centre, this is of course unless you pay their private lan tax per server that you want to be able to communicate. This again is nothing short of blackmail in my opinion, their marketing material has the audacity to sell this with the text “No server outside your LAN can communicate directly with yours.” Of course this is totally fucking useless for any other purpose than extorting more money out of you because every other sodding host on the internet can access your server. They wax lyrical about the new networking equipment they are the first to market with thank god and lets hope they are the only ones to market with whatever oppressive network device they are using.
Back to our immediate predicament – Paul checked the Way Back Machine for the signup page during the time period that we signed up and came across the evidence that we were supposed to get this data pipe deal for the life of our server subscription.
This page even came with the offer terms and conditions, there it is in black and white – 12 months minimum term and a usable internet connection for the “life of the dedicated server package”.
Armed with this he rang back and spoke to someone until they escalated him up to a team leader. Despite being a year long customer with many servers spending a lot of money with them they were totally unwilling to do anything until the team leader had ascertained which package we had signed up for in the first place. To do this she maintained that she needed to contact a developer the following day (tomorrow), I have no idea why a developer needs to get involved in this issue – it sounds like the old days of administering SiteVista, perhaps she’d reached the limits of what she could achieve with MySQL Query Browser herself.
Our pleas to have service restored to full capacity in the meantime so we can run our business, an actual going concern with real life customers who have real life expectations of our service, fell on deaf ears – they even told Paul at one point that he was “expecting this to be resolved more quickly than it will be. ” Totally and completely unacceptable. The last word today was being told that someone would ‘call us back tomorrow’ and that “we can only go back to the previous speed automatically and immediately by signing for another 12 months”.
Tomorrow is another day, and will be a day of Fasthosts receiving call after call from us until they resolve this issue properly. I hope you will spread the word around everyone you know – Fasthosts are not the good deal they seem and one day they might also let you down when you have come to rely on them.
Update: So we received an email back from Jo Ryall and who is he? Director of Customer Experience at Fasthosts. Jo said he would attempt to circumvent whatever went wrong in the billing system and restore our service to full capacity. This was done a few hours later and we’ve been promised that it will not happen again – with a number to quote if we ever need to reference this particular problem. We aren’t willing to discuss our future plans for hosting at the moment – we’re just glad FastHosts responded to our crisis in a timely manner and saved us a whole week of unplanned emergency migration work.