Problems with SiteGround

I recently ditched all but one of my dedicated servers and decided to switch to shared hosting for all my PHP / WordPress sites. First I tried TMDHosting, had a serious issue, cancelled that, and then switched to SiteGround. I prepaid for 2 years. Might have been a big mistake.

Site disappeared

First, an entire site disappeared from their server. I had a copy in an old backup, but otherwise the site files and database had disappeared. Their support had nothing useful to say, and suggested it had to be my mistake. Possible, but highly unlikely that I accidentally deleted both the files and the database.

Sites offline

Yesterday I had an issue with permissions. There were 4 .well-known folders in my sites directory that were owned by root. I noticed because the letsencrypt installer didn’t work. Created a ticket, they fixed permissions on 1 of the 4 directories I had listed. I updated the ticket. They replied saying they’d fixed all 4. Many of my sites went down. 403 error.

Solution

I’m travelling in Seville. I was out. I turned around and went back to the apartment, jumped on live chat. They told me that somebody would reply to my ticket within 20 minutes and there was nothing else they could do. I logged in, checked permissions, found one site that worked, and fixed the problem.

Turns out that on several of my htdocs folders, the “other” r-x permissions had been removed. Evidently nginx was unable to access my sites. Today I see a reply to the ticket saying that they didn’t change anything, and they’re glad my sites work again. WTF?

What do I do now?

Two serious failures. The second caused real downtime, albeit a few minutes because I fixed it myself. Any recommendations on a good shared hosting provider? What do I do about my 2 year prepayment?

A WordPress hosting cooperative

Maybe you make WordPress sites for cash. Maybe you design themes or write plugins. Then, after your work is done, your clients (or friends, lovers, etc) need to be supported. Somebody needs to keep WordPress and her plugins up to date, secure, and backed up.

Would you like to share that load with some co-cooperators in a WordPress hosting cooperative? Imagine a small group of developers collectively managing 50 or 100 WordPress sites instead of individually managing 10 or 20.

Logistics

Ok, you’re sold on the vision, what about the details?

Initially, a loose association of a few individuals, no legal structure. I’m willing to act as the banker for the startup period. I’ll register a domain name and pay for a few servers. I promise to transfer ownership of the domain and any other assets when (or if) a legal organisation is created at any point in the future. Or, if I choose to move away, to transfer the domain and other assets to another person in the group.

My suggestion is that we adopt a split pricing model. We set a fair market price for customers. In the beginning, it’s probably simper to charge per blog irrespective of traffic, disk or cpu usage. We can change this policy as soon as we need to.

Members then pay a pro-rated share of costs based on their number of sites. For example, we have 10 customers paying $10 a month, $100. Expenses are $150 a month, we have 5 members with 4 sites each, $50 over 20 sites, each member pays $2.50 per month per site.

To distinguish between customer and member sites, we can say if money changes hands, it’s a customer site. So a member might pay for 8 of their client’s sites at customer rates, and 3 for their family at member rates. The distinction is whether or not the member receives cash from somebody for that site. We trust each member to be honest.

Payment optional

It’s not as crazy as it sounds, honest! I suggest we adopt a post-paid, payment optional policy. At the end of each month, we send invoices marked payment optional. Customers can choose not to pay and their sites will be taken offline in reasonable time period.

The advantage of this model is we don’t ever have to deal with refunds, price disputes or otherwise. If the client is happy with the service they already received, great, if they’re not, they don’t have to pay and we part ways amicably.

Principles

  • Transparency: All financials are publicly visible.
  • Profits: Until we have a legal organisation, any profits are kept in the group to pay for expenses. No payouts to members until the legal structure is sound.
  • Do-ocracy: Until we decide to change it, we each contribute what we can and what’s needed to keep the system online.
  • Respect: Inspired by the Ubuntu project, in joining the group, we each commit to treat other members and customers with the utmost of respect at absolutely all times.

Next step

These are my initial thoughts as I wrote this post in half an hour. If you’d like to join the discussion, become a member or a customer, post a comment below, shoot me a message, or otherwise open the communication lines. 🙂

Media Template – outrageous bandwidth charges

Cog clock - taken by balakov on flickrI’m pissed.

Happy Cogs recently did some work on the admin upgrade for WordPress 2.5. Through them, I found the hosting company Media Template. The pitch was appealing. They seemed professional, personal, all the things you’d want from a hosting company. That is, until I started digging.

One of their virtual server products costs $150 per month, and includes 2Tb of bandwidth. Excess bandwidth is charged, per Gb, at $2.56. Or, if you pre-purchase 1Tb, at half that price, $1.28 per Gb. That means that your first 2Tb cost $150, while your next 1Tb would cost $1’310.72, or 17.5 times more than your first 2Tb (1’748% to be precise).

Astounded by this absurdity I contacted their sales team. I was expecting the response to be in line with their website. Intelligent, considered, rational. I was sadly disappointed. It felt like the typical, corporate, monkey follow order, response you’d expect from Hewlett Packard or some other Indian outsourced outfit.

Not content to let matters lie, I have started a campaign. I have described my outrage at GetSatisfaction. Then I posted it to digg. Now I’m posting it here. Then I’m going to email all the links to the CEO and see what happens. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get an intelligent response. Otherwise, I’ll publicise the fact that their ticket system allows you to view the email addresses of people who contact them.