After realising that my shared hosting account was too slow to run my main website from, I decided to look for a solid VPS hosting account.
I looked around various hosts comparing stats, reviews, and ESPECIALLY customer support. I know very little about hosting and my major concern was getting a host who could help me manage any issues I had.
I looked at various different well known hosts including KnownHost, HostGator, LiquidWeb before finally choosing.
As you can guess from the title of this post, I ended up with Hostwinds.
I was contact personally by a HostWinds rep through internet marketing forum and he assured me that HostWinds 24/7 customer support was top notch and could help me deal with any issues I faced.
In August 2012, I signed up for their level 3 VPS and began the website migration.
Everything ran smoothly and their support was great throughout the first 2 ½ months, right up to the point in time that I needed them.
In late December, an article on my main website was upvoted to the front page of Reddit and received 14 times our normal daily traffic in 12 hours. Then it crashed.
I wasn’t too concerned with the crash because I know the package I signed up for wasn’t really geared to cope with this kind of influx and the HostWinds support would be able to help me get my site back online before any major damage was done.
I submitted my first ticket to their 24/7 support team at 1pm local time with a HIGH priority with a polite request for assistance and waited for a response (Ticket ID: 151190).
After not receiving a response for 2 hours, I submitted a less polite message to their 24/7 support asking for someone to help me deal with this situation (Ticket ID: 599318).
When I still hadn’t received a response to any message another 30 minutes later, I called their 24/7 support team and waited for someone to pick up.
My call went through to an answering machine and I left a very direct message stating that I wanted someone to contact me immediately and let me know what was going on.
When I still hadn’t received a response to my first ticket or call, following a suggestion on a hosting forum I posted my situation on, I tried a gentle reboot. All that did was crash the entire server.
I submitted ANOTHER ticket at 4:06pm (local time) (30 minutes later and now 3 hours since the first ticket) with a less than polite message asking someone to contact me and help me with my situation (Ticket ID: 515734).
When I still hadn’t received a response an hour later, I called their 24/7 support team AGAIN and surprisingly, ended up at the answering machine.
By this point, I’d given up and already started looking for a new hosting provider that would actually live up to their promises.
Then, to my COMPLETE surprise, 5 ½ hours after I submitted the first of 3 tickets and two voice messages, I receive a response. Unfortunately, by the time this had come through, my site had dropped off the front page of Reddit and people were no longer trying to access my site.
This is the first reason you should never use HostWinds – their 24/7 customer service promise simply means you can submit a ticket 24/7. They’ll respond when they’re good and ready.
The response I received from their customer support was a surprise. I received a 1 line email from a service tech saying:
“We have fixed the issue. The domain www.xxxxxxxxx.com is now working”
No apology. No explanation.
No hint that they actually cared about their customers and were concerned with their sites well being, or their customer service reputation.
Just one line saying – the issue is fixed.
Over the next hour, the service tech also responded to the other tickets.
“Your server is now online”
“It appears to be working from our end.”
Not good enough.
This is the second reason why you should never use HostWinds – they just don’t care about their customers.
After going through this, I started the process of finding a new host. Given that it was the Christmas period and I was already tied up with family commitments. After searching for a month, I finally decided on a KnownHost dedicated server.
In contrast to HostWinds, they appear to really care about their customers and their customers sites health so I’m enjoying being here.
In the middle of transferring my domains from HostWinds to KnownHost, my HostWinds account was due to expire. Because I couldn’t afford to have my sites not hosted for any amount of time, I paid for an extra month’s hosting.
It turned out that my KnownHost account was set up and all sites were transferred before my new billing period was due to start with HostWinds so I contacted them asking them to cancel my account and refund the unused month of hosting I’d just paid for.
As this request was put in within 24 hours of the payment being made, I didn’t think there would be too many difficulties.
I lodged a ticket with and received a response from what I believe to be the only person in HostWinds who actually cares about customers. It may have been because I was cancelling my contract or he may have actually cared that people had a good experience with HostWinds, whatever it was, it was a pleasant change.
He informed me that he could and would cancel my account but was unable to refund my payment because I was past the initial 60 day money back guarantee, regardless of the fact that the month I had paid for hadn’t actually started.
I was about to file a PayPal refund request when I saw a notice saying something along the lines of (I’m paraphrasing here) “We care about customer service. Instead of submitting a dispute, you can contact our CEO Peter on his email address email@example.com. He’ll sort out your issues.”
I decided to try this before filing a PayPal dispute because I know how painful they can be.
Now, given the issues I’ve faced with HostWinds over this period, what do you think happened?
Do you think I got an immediate response apologising and offering a full refund?
No… That would be too much.
Do you think I got an email a few days later with a short and sharp response saying a refund had been issued?
No… Even that is too much.
I got no response.
I sent three emails in 7 days and received no response to any of them.
The only contact I received from HostWinds was after I filed a PayPal dispute letting me know that a refund had been issued.
This is the third reason why you should never use HostWinds – not even their CEO cares about customers.
So, in case this is all too long for you to read, here’s a quick timeline.
15th August 5pm – Signed up with Hostwinds
9th December – Upvoted to front page of reddit
10th December 12:55pm – First aware of website crash
10th December 1:06pm – Submitted first ticket to 24/7 customer support
10th December 3:11pm – Still no response to first ticket. Submitted second ticket.
10th December 3:35pm – Still no response to either ticket. Called but only got an answering machine. Left message.
10th December 4:06pm – Still no response to any ticket or call. Submitted ANOTHER ticket.
10th December 5:16pm – STILL no response to anything. Called AGAIN.
10th December 6:00pm – Site falls off the front page of Reddit and traffic stops coming
10th December 6:34pm – Receive response: “We have fixed the issue. The domain www.xxxxxxxx.com is working now.
10th December 6:35pm – Receive response: “Your server is now online.”
10th December 7:24pm – Receive response “Your server is online and working fine from our end”
16th January – Cancel hosting and request refund for unused month of hosting. Email CEO firstname.lastname@example.org as per instructions on PayPal dispute page.
18th January – No response from Peter. Email again.
22nd January – STILL no response, email again saying that I will be filing a PayPal dispute.
22nd January – Refund received.
(All times and dates are local times for +10:30GMT)
If you value your websites, if you value honesty, or if you value being respect by the people you’re doing business, do yourself a favour and stay WELL away from HostWinds.
P.S. If anyone needs to verify this story, I can provide receipts and screen shots of tickets, times, and conversations. Please just let me know.
Biggest Pro: They finally gave me a refund.
Biggest Con: They don't like their customers.