I’m recommending Hostgator – Again – For Now…

by James Cook on March 14, 2011

I’ve been a customer of HostGator for about five years. Over that period I’ve recommended them to clients and students, sold a few hosting contracts through the affiliate ads on my site and even offered a tutorial on how to sign up for hosting with the company.

I’ve been happy to do that because they have been the best hosting provider I have worked with…PERIOD.

I say that because their level of customer and tech support has been exemplary…

Until Last Week

On Firday, a number of my sites were unreachable for five plus hours for visitors in certain locations (including mine). This was apparently the result of a problem with the CloudFlare Content Delivery Network (CDN). CloudFlare is a third party service offered and promoted by HostGator. Upon becoming aware of the problem I contact HostGator and CloudFlare support.

HostGator Support

As usual I was able to get in touch with HostGator support almost immediately. Unfortunately, it was quickly apparent that the techs I dealt with:

  • had little or no understanding of CloudFlare.
  • had no access to information on the status of the CloudFlare network.
  • couldn’t provide support other than offering to pass the issue up the chain where I would get a response within 24 hours.

I asked that CloudFlare be disabled on all my domains and crossed my fingers.

CloudFlare Support (or rather lack thereof)

My response from CloudFlare was even less helpful. The only support offered was through their trouble ticket system. In response to my ticket, I got an email stating, “We usually get back to people very quickly.”

I’m still waiting.

Seven hours later, in response to a question on Twitter, I did get this:

@DWcourse I've been able to confirm a brief service issue in our Chicago datacenter. Fixed now...sorry about that.
@CloudFlare
CloudFlare

Apparently, to CloudFlare, five plus hours of down time is a brief service issue.

Back to HostGator

The issue was apparently resolved and my sites (sans-CloudFlare) appear to be working fine.

However, because I considered the issue serious and I had no way of knowing if the issue might still be affecting other locations, I continued to ask HostGator support for information.

Here an excerpt from their last response:

“Additional information is necessary in order to troubleshoot this issue. The only information we received from you is the output of a trace test, and the output of some pings. We'll need to know exactly how to replicate the issue.”

So, let me see if I understand.

  1. I spent about an hour with you in Chat and on the phone as well as filing a trouble ticket and corresponding with you on Twitter.
  2. I gave you ALL the information you requested.
  3. I gave you additional information (including that the problem might be CloudFlare related).

But the problem is that I didn’t give you enough information to troubleshoot the issue. Did it occur to you that perhaps you should have asked for the information you needed when I was on the phone with you and the problem was ongoing?

And now you want me to tell you how to duplicate a problem I didn’t create and that was, from all indications, the result of problems with one of your third party providers?

That’s not just bad support; it’s insulting and makes you appear incompetent. I could have at least respected you if you had said, “Since the problem is not ongoing, we can’t diagnose it.”

So I Pulled My Affiliate Ads

In my experience there are two reasons to change hosting providers

  1. Ongoing uptime and performance issues.
  2. Bad support.

This experience definitely falls into category two. So I started exploring other hosting providers and pulled the HostGator ads from my site. After all, if I’m unhappy with the service, I don’t want to recommend it to others.

But I have another rule:

  • Don’t jump ship after one bad experience – especially if a company has a history of excellent service.

So, after cooling down, I’ve decided that, given their previously excellent track record, HostGator deserves a second chance and that I’m still willing to recommend them. So I’m not changing hosting providers and I’m reinstating the ads and offering these caveats:

HostGator Hosting

HostGator service has traditionally been excellent. But they are a young and rapidly growing company and, in my experience, the quality of service from hosting companies can deteriorate rapidly if they grow too quickly or don’t continue to devote adequate resources to support. Given that HostGator’s reputation is built on customer service, I expect them to carefully monitor the quality of their support and take steps to correct problems like the ones I experienced.

CloudFlare: Not Recommended

Neither CloudFlare nor HostGator is currently able to offer adequate customer support for the CloudFlare service and I recommend that users not activate the service on their HostGator domains.

The Future

I’ll continue to monitor and report on HostGator and, if support does deteriorate, I’ll let you know and find another provider to recommend. And, if future support lives up to their past standards, I’ll (very happily) let you know.

About comments

If a representative of HostGator or CloudFlare would like to respond, please include an email address so I can use to verify that you are authorized to speak for the company.

Please do not submit recommendations for hosting services.

Merrick Felder April 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Jim,

I read these posts from a year ago. I’m ready to start hosting, and I wonder if you are still planning to reinstate HostGator’s ads so that I can sign up through your site.

Please let me know!
Thanks,
Merrick

DazzlinDonna March 17, 2011 at 10:06 pm

I happily use both Hostgator and Cloudflare, but I can understand the frustration. Just for future reference for anyone using both, you can disable Cloudflare yourself in Hostgator’s cpanel (and re-enable it again later). That would be a quick solution if you weren’t getting any help, and just wanted to solve the problem right away. Also, you can deactivate it from within your Cloudflare account (on the Cloudflare site itself).

jcook March 18, 2011 at 7:05 am

Thanks for the comment Donna. You can activate/deactivate Cloudflare on the shared hosting accounts but on reseller accounts it requires contacting customer support. Unfortunately, the reseller account Control Panels lack a couple of features that the shared accounts have.

DazzlinDonna March 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Aha! Good to know. Thanks for the info on that.

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