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Web Hosting horror story

Choosing the wrong web hosting company never got anyone fired, right? WRONG! Not only did I get fired but the company I was working for also got RIPPED OFF of $1,000's! Learn from my mistakes so that it never happens to you.

In 1999 I was working for a small company in Los Angeles, California where we were about to launch our first eCommerce site ever. After thoroughly evaluating the available web hosting companies I came up with a list of the Top 10 list of companies I felt would provide the best service and support.

Prices were extremely different back in 1999. Web hosting with 15,000 MB disk space, 250 GB monthly transfer, and 1,000+ email accounts set you back $250 a month...now it will only cost you $7.95 a month!

I presented my Top 10 Web Hosting Companies list to my boss with the price and benefits breakdown and asked for his approval to proceed. The estimated time to get the site up on the new server and eCommerce enabled was about 3 months and I needed every available second so that I could met that goal and get my yearly bonus.

My boss then threw me a curve ball and asked me to evaluate another web hosting company that he "had received rave reviews" on. Their site was spartan and remedial and the level of service they claimed to offer was below what my Top 10 Web Hosting Companies offered. Their pricing was marginally cheaper than the competition, but the fishy part was that the "tech support" number went right into a voice mail system.

Nonetheless, I did a thorough evaluation of the company and gave them the thumbs down. My boss was less than convinced though and told me to please proceed using this less expensive web hosting company. I was irate as I felt I had just wasted 2 weeks of time evaluating the industry best web hosting companies, only to have to settle for this slightly cheaper web hosting company. I assumed that I had to do what my boss had instructed me to as he was the one signing my paycheck every week. So, without much fan fair I signed up for web hosting with this cheaper web host and began the site building process.

Within the first month I was running into all sorts of problems with getting the shopping cart software we had chosen to work on this new server. My tech support calls went into voice mail and I'd always have to wait a day or two before my call would be returned. Apparently the server we were on did not support our shopping cart software even though they claimed that it would be when I was signing up. We worked through a lot of issues and the web host did their best to solve the problems, but it always took a couple days each time I had a problem.

With each new tech support call I was getting more and more concerned that I was NOT going to meet my 3 month deadline and that I might have to kiss my bonus goodbye.

What really started to weigh on me was that every time I had a problem, the same tech support guy would call me back. Eventually I asked this guy how many people were working there and he avoided the subject...so I asked to please speak to his manager. That's when the truth came out that HE was the ONLY employee at the company and that it was HIS company!!! That's when I REALLY started getting concerned!

I raised these concerns with my boss and he asked me to please continue to work with the company as it was one of his friends'! I was shocked! I had not considered this even being a possibility and felt immediately deceived and mislead. I didn't feel like I had much choice in the matter though because we were only 3 weeks away from launching the site and I figured I was scoring points with my boss by helping his friend.

The final two weeks are always the most stressful as all of you who have launched an eCommerce site on a deadline may know and I didn't spend much time out of the office. 14 hour days and no weekends became the norm and I powered on through with my nice bonus in mind.

The official launch date came and I switched the DNS servers over so that our domain name officially pointed to the new server. By the end of the day the site went live to the shouts of joy and excitement from the rest of the office. The press release announcing the new site was to be released in a week and we would finally see if all our hard work was going to pay off financially.

The day the press release went out was an exciting day as web site visitors started streaming in by the bucket loads. By the end of the second day we had received over 50,000 new visitors with new sales being generated every hour! The site was officially a success and was on track to be profitable by the end of the month!

On the third day we had an additional 30,000 visitors by noon and that's when DISASTER struck....the site crashed!!! Calls to tech support went unheard. I shook my head in anger as I remembered that it always took them a day or two to get back to me. I ran to my bosses office and asked for his friends phone number as the site was down and we're losing business by the minute.

He was very hesitant to provide it and finally explained that his friend worked full time for someone else and was only available to help after work hours. He then told me that I was the "webmaster" and to figure it out on my own and that it must have been something I did...not the actual web server's fault.

I assured him that servers go down all the time and that it may just need to be rebooted and that we needed his friend to do that. Panic set in and I started thinking what a horrible mistake it was to use this guys cheap web hosting company! My boss and I conferenced called his friend and got his voice mail. My boss instant messengered him and he responded that he was in a meeting until 3 PM and couldn't step out...or do anything to help until then.

My boss told me to go try to get it back up until his friend was available to help. I went back to my computer and kept trying to FTP into the site with no success.

About 30 minutes later I received a CC email from my boss telling his boss, the CEO, that I was working on the problem and would have the site back up shortly. Now I really felt the pressure but also RAGE from being put in this situation. I had wanted to choose one of the Top 10 Web Hosting Companies, but let my boss force my hand so that I could try and get into his good graces.

3 PM rolled around and I went to see my boss to find out if he had heard from his friend yet. When I got to his office, the CEO and he were talking about the situation. The CEO immediately berated me and asked me why the site wasn't up yet. I explained the situation to him and that we were waiting for my boss's friend to get back to us.

That's when my boss turned on me and claimed that he didn't know the tech support people there and that they're probably more my friends since I've been talking with them so much on tech support calls over the past 3 months.

I was dumbstruck and couldn't believe that I hadn't seen this coming. I just stood there with my mouth open in disbelief not knowing what to do next! Here's my boss denying any connection and the CEO yelling at me for answers. It was the worst situation I've ever been coerced into and the one I want you to PROMISE me you'll never put yourself in.

I gritted my teeth and told the CEO that the site would be back up as soon as my boss's FRIEND "got off his F#$%ing day job and returned our calls!" The CEO and my boss both teamed up on me then and told me to watch my language and to quit making excuses and go solve the problem.

I wanted to just leave...I wanted to quit...I wanted to cause serious harm to those F#$%ING IDIOTS! I couldn't keep my cool as I wanted to start kicking asses and throwing punches, so I went for a walk to calm down.

After an hour I was fuming more than ever and called my boss from Starbucks to give him a piece of my mind. He told me to calm down and go home and relax for the rest of the day and that everything would be solved this evening by his friend. I relented and told him to call me as soon as the site was back up.

The next morning I received a call from HR telling me that I would no longer be needing to come into the office! I was fired!!! I couldn't believe my ears...how did this happen? What the HELL was going on?!!! "I did nothing wrong...why was I fired?" HR had no answer and no severance!

That's when I learned another hard lesson in business...a severance of 1 to 2 weeks minimum is NEVER guaranteed...especially when you're working for a privately owned company where the CEO himself approves the checks. To make matters worse, because I was terminated before the end of the year, I would not be receiving my bonus check! So all that hard work the past 3 months of 14 hour days and no weekends was for not! Can you imagine how angry I was?! Well wait, it gets worse...

After calling my friends and family and venting and receiving a lot of moral support, I then started thinking about the web site that was still down when I went to bed the night before. I went online and pulled it up and the site was back up and working fine.

I placed a call to a coworker of mine in Marketing and told him that I'd been fired and asked him if he knew what the hell was going on. The answer still drives me up the freaking wall! He told me that after I had gone home, my boss's friend that owned the web hosting company came over and, in front of the CEO, rebooted the hard drive and got the site immediately up. He then explained to the CEO that I was a novice (even though I had already had 4 years of webmaster experience!) that didn't know what I was doing and that the site would have been back up in 5 minutes had I simply rebooted the Hard Drive. He forgot to mention that ONLY HE could reboot the hard drive since he had those access rights and I did not!!!

The CEO was so impressed that, with my boss's recommendation, he offered my boss's friend my job on the spot! Apparently I had been training him how to run the site with each and every tech support call!!!

I can't tell you enough how stupid and taken advantage of I felt...nor how much hatred I built up just from that inconceivable event. I wanted revenge...but I also didn't want to "lower myself to their level."

I decided the best thing to do was to explain to the CEO exactly what had happened and to let him know that he had been bamboozled. I first tried calling him but none of my messages were ever returned. I then tried emailing him, but I couldn't get through his admin that screened his email and whom informed me that "my emails were unwanted and to cease and desist or face the legal consequences." I tried mailing him a letter but I'm sure it also never got through his admin. So, I did the only thing I could...I moved on.

About a year later I ran into the CEO at a UCLA Extensions Leadership Course where he was the surprise speaker that day. After class I waited my turn to chat him up and while shaking his hand firmly reminded him of who I was. He was as shocked to see me as I was him and clearly didn't recognize me until I told him who I was. I quickly explained to him what had happened and that I tried to tell him at the time, but his admin had kept me at bay.

He didn't apologize for what had happened, but he did share with me that he had to lay off my boss and my replacement when he shut down the web site. He told me that the web site management costs kept rising every month with the increased traffic as the web hosting company was charging "overage fees" of about $800 extra a month!!! Not only was my boss's friend collecting my salary, but he had also been collecting over a $1,000 a month for the past year for hosting the web site! He got greedy and thought the CEO would keep paying the bills. He was wrong.

I wanted to explain that he should have just transferred to a different web hosting provider as web hosting costs were coming down quickly, but I felt the result was just. Karma reared its ugly head and bit him right in the ass!

That company is long gone now, but the horrible memories of that event still haunt me and I find myself clenching my teeth in anger thinking about it when I'm trying to fall asleep.

I pray that something like this never happens to you in your career. Remember, even your best work friends whom you may have known for years, can turn on you in a minute when it benefits them the most. ALWAYS watch your back and anticipate these types of events.

It's because of this event that I have become MUCH more discerning with my choice of web hosting companies. That's why I only recommend a select group of cheap web hosting companies these days.

But hey, be my guest and try some other low cost web hosting companies out...just don't come crying to me when you get RIPPED OFF and get lousy service and support to boot!

Follow the industry experts' advice and your success is guaranteed!

Best of luck in your career and your cheap web hosting endeavors!

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