Categories
Opinion

Why we host Big Red Tin on US servers

Some time ago, I wrote a post in which I stated I’d be sticking with Australian web hosting provider Quadra Hosting. Shortly after writing that post I’d relocated the Soupgiant sites to an American service provider.

Even though I’ve done similar before, it’s not because I’m a compulsive liar. I promise. It’s because situations change and they can change quickly.

About the time we switched hosting providers, Soupgiant became responsible for hosting the Boxcutters podcast. Each week Boxcutters releases an MP3 between 35 and 45 MB which is, in turn, downloaded at least 1000 times.

The maths is pretty simple, each week Boxcutters, alone, uses 35 GB or more of bandwidth. With our current host, Linode, we’re paying a little under $US60 for a VPS and 600 GB of bandwidth. To get the equivalent bandwidth in Australia, we would be charged at least ten times that amount.

It’s not entirely the fault of Australian hosts that they’re pricing themselves out of an international market. According to the OECD, retail bandwidth in Australia is 50% more expensive than in the US. It’s safe to conclude this is a reflection of wholesale pricing.

To state the obvious, hosting pricing has to follow the lead of bandwidth pricing. So if Australian web hosting providers are gouged, gouging of their customer must follow.

I’d love to host the Soupgiant websites in Australia, partly due to home-town pride but mostly because the 25,000 km (15,500 mi) round trip to California is pointless.

The simple fact is: Soupgiant can’t afford to host our sites locally, given that most of the bandwidth is used for a loss-making podcast.

Hosting the sites in the USA means we may break even some months but locally there’s no chance.

Update: Since writing this post I’ve relocated Soupgiant’s hosting to Media Temple‘s dv service. A managed service is a better fit for Soupgiant.

Categories
Opinion

How to get 4.3 stars for customer service!

Coincidently, a few days after deciding to write this post, I was listening to NPR’s On the Media reporting on the problem with online reviews:

When it comes to rating products online, it turns out we’re way too nice. The average out of 5 stars for things like dog food, printer paper or boots is 4.3 and … all that kindness is actually kind of a problem.
Source

Which presents a problem: I’m about to give a positive review to Soupgiant’s host, QuadraHosting, due to their customer service, despite some major technical problems in recent months. This leads to one question: Am I being too nice?

In July, all sites on our hosting account — fortunately none of them belonging to clients — experienced an outage due to a data centre power failure.

Since then, it appears both Quadrahosting and Equinix have been working to ensure such a problem doesn’t happen again.

Another outage on Sunday Oct 12, 2009, between 8:20am and mid-afternoon, and my thoughts were that a change of webhosts was not only necessary, but probably urgent. As the outage was long enough to trigger an SLA credit, I wrote to QuadraHosting and requested a 10% credit to our account, which they subsequently denied:

Section 4a states that we do not cover loss of external power due to ‘[an] inability to obtain raw materials, supplies, or power used in or equipment’

If this was related to our internal power set up, then we could credit you, though it was the main power source that was [affected].

We apologise for this.

I responded that I disagreed with their assessment ‘as it was an upgrade by the data centre’ but that I accepted their decision. Rather than leave it at that, I detailed my real concerns which was rather more than the $2.99 I was hoping to get back. My concerns are:

…that since the external / power company outage a couple of months ago, I’ve found that my server is going down more frequently. I don’t know if the timing is a coincidence, but the result is I no longer am able to recommend you to my clients.

(Pro tip: at no point did I call them thieves, or worse, reality TV contestants)

Rather than leave respond with a cursory, ‘thank you for your comments,’ Brendan, who was handling my case, responded:

We appreciate you taking the time to provide us with some feedback. The upgrade was related to the power of the Data Centre. Please note that we do purchase power from them and this is considered as a third party source.

The upgrades to the systems in recent weeks were planned and announced to all our customers.

With this in mind, we have decided to give you credit to cover one week of your hosting plan.

Hopefully you will see major improvements in our systems once this power issue has been completed.

I believe there will be a similar incident in two weeks which we be very similar to the power outage we have recently experienced.

It seems there are major power upgrades at the data centre related to expansion. We will announce this to our customers when we have more information.

The end result, after some fine customer service, an explanation of how they obtain their power, and a little bribery, is that I’ve decided to stick with QuadraHosting while they and their data centre fix the power issues. If the problems continue after the upgrades, then I’ll reconsider my options.

Having dealt with a number of hosts and the kind of customer service that involves a student reading a script, I do think good customer service at a host is worth sticking around for. While their servers at the moment are a little up and down, the customer service outweighs that disadvantage.

All in all, I give QuadraHosting a 4.3 star rating for their customer service.