Fasthosts : Your technical support isn’t technical or supportive..

The first draft of this post was rather explosive, containing many expletives and could probably have landed me in jail on some trumped up charges. This is the more moderate version.

To cut a long and boring story short, I made a change to my hosting package today, which suggested it was an administrative change, rather than something physical. The fact it transferred my whole site to another server is annoying, but if I had bothered to read the 3000 pages of T&Cs it would probably have become obvious.

The website was down for a little time, but the static pages came back pretty quickly. This made me think maybe my whole site had been moved to another server. OK. Brief glitch, but no major worries. Then I noticed my forum and blog were either giving “Server Error” or “Can’t connect to database” errors. A quick check with phpMyAdmin showed the mySQL databases were all fine and unchanged. So the pages were fine and the DBs were fine, but it wasn’t working? Now I started thinking it might be a network issue between the webserver and the DB server.

This is where I called Fasthosts technical support. I’m not going to go into the whole long an painful episode, but I would just like to list a few choice points that show how bad the “technical” support can get. The support person:

  • Didn’t seem to understand the difference between a web URL and an operating system path.
  • Told me I had just reset my SSH password when I had actually set up a new FTP user for her to use.
  • Told me that SSH doesn’t allow more than one connection attempt per hour.
  • Told me I had said FTP was unavailable, when in fact I had said it was fine all the time.
  • Wanted me to give them the FTP and the database passwords to “diagnose” the issue, when I told them the connections to these services were fine. Having dealt with them before I knew that in giving them these details they would just make a connection and say, “connection works fine”.
  • Told me the scale-up was administrative and didn’t affect my services, then later said it could affect my website for 24 hours because everything was being moved to a new server. When I suggested the OS file paths might have changed, she returned to the administrative-only stance. WTF?

At this point I had decided the only thing that could be a problem was if the OS path had changed (a few config files were referenced from a secure directory using the OS path, rather than a web URL). SSH was knackered also, so I asked if they could just connect to my account with SSH and do a “pwd”. This got escalated to an engineer????

In the mean time I did a reset of my SSH password, hoping that it might get me connected again. Trouble is the reset request can take up to 15 minutes to be processed. After about 10 minutes I was able to SSH the server again and did the “pwd” myself and sure enough, the OS paths had changed. I put the new paths in a couple of files and everything was working again. I rang back and closed the ticket…

I don’t mind that they use muppets to triage calls. I mind when they say things like, “Let me explain this to you”, in a patronizing tone, then proceed to talk complete garbage because they don’t understand the technology. I also mind when you ask a specific question, like “Can you just SSH to my account and tell me the result of the ‘pwd’ command”, you are bombarded with a whole bunch of crap and the sum total is the original question isn’t even placed on the ticket.

Support is a tough job, even when you know what you are doing, so why do these companies insist on using total dumb-asses? I know the answer. No need to tell me… :(