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Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

I should have trusted my gut instinct

A few months ago Alentus, the company I've been using for 4 years to host first safarisoftware and 47hats.com had a major email outage. My gut said then, "These guys are getting flaky - time to bail." But inertia, too many other things to do and residual good will got in the way.

Today I'm paying the price. 47hats.com is down. So is safarisoftware, so is Alentus.com. No email, ftp, nothing.

An hour into this outage I called Alentus. I figured that by then, they'd realized they'd crashed. Nope. Just their "you've reached us after hours - email us" vm.

So here's the lesson I ignored and now get taught with a bigger stick: when you get uneasy about a vendor - especially an Internet Vendor - trust your gut.

When (it had better not be if) Alentus comes back I'm gone as fast as possible. Any personal recommendations for 1) reliable linux hosting with good support for Wordpress and 2) a host for rails app will be +++hugely appreciated+++.
Bob Walsh Send private email
Saturday, August 16, 2008
 
 
TownDrunk
Saturday, August 16, 2008
 
 
1) http://www.futurequest.net
Outages are reported on their discussion group within 5 minutes (not kidding) and updated frequently.  I've had emails answered, again within 5-10 minutes, in the middle of the night.  Also, they automatically refund you if they miss their (99%?) uptime targets, without you having to ask.  I've been completely blown away by the level of service I've received.

2) Don't know, not a rails guy.
Mark Smith Send private email
Saturday, August 16, 2008
 
 
I've also been using Alentus for many, many years. My website is also currently down.

I switched my email over to Google Apps a long time ago. I would have thought that would have prevented any problems, since my MX records point to Gmail.

Unfortunately, my accounts don't seem to be getting mail right now, so the outage must be impacting my whole domain/DNS/etc.

Bummer.
Jer Money Send private email
Saturday, August 16, 2008
 
 
Bob,

Are you looking for managed hosting or "do-it-yourself" type of hosting? If the latter, I like Slicehost. But, I think you are looking for the former. If that is the case, I don't have much of a recommendation other than to say when I was shopping around, Knownhost was very nice in their customer service.
Joel Marcey Send private email
Saturday, August 16, 2008
 
 
Jon Chase Send private email
Saturday, August 16, 2008
 
 
Hey Bob,

You should probably play it safe. Use DNS round robin (which most DNS providers give) and have 2 providers for your site (easy if static). This is atypical of many companies providing failover to your website that you can control (dependent on your DNS services).

The easy way to do this is for the same DNS record you can specify 2 IP address which belong to 2 different service providers.

Hope this helps. If you want to know more let me know and I can give you more details on implementation.

Regards

Ajay
Ajay Soni Send private email
Saturday, August 16, 2008
 
 
Bob
Can't help you with that, but have found out from past mistakes that never ever have the Host and your Domain Renewal service, as the same company.
mick
Saturday, August 16, 2008
 
 
Slicehost is awesome, I would definitely switch to them.
James Avery Send private email
Saturday, August 16, 2008
 
 
Linode is also great if you're going the self-managed VPS route.  They have four different datacenters across the US, so if you want to make sure your site is available, setup duplicate versions in two locations, and host your DNS separately with a low TTL (we use DynDNS, there are lots of others that work great as well).  Then you can shift traffic to the other location if you happen to suffer an outage.

And if you need to know when you've had an outage, let me know - we can help with that!
Jason Abate Send private email
Saturday, August 16, 2008
 
 
After going with several hosts I've ended up with Pair and I haven't noticed a single bit of downtime in the several months I've used them. They don't support rails but you shouldn't see your site down too often.
Martin Pilkington Send private email
Saturday, August 16, 2008
 
 
same here. Moved my ASP sites to DiscountASP and PHP sites to MediaTemple. I suggest you do the same.
Eric G Send private email
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
http://www.wiredtree.com

Their managed VPS seems pretty solid

Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
Another recommendation for eapps.  Support was very prompt when I had questions setting up my server.
Mike Send private email
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
This is what I use:
registrar - godaddy

DNS - nettica (they allow one click backup of all DNS entries from all of my 60 domains) + round robin DNS with 10 minutes TTL.

email - google apps

php shared hosting - mediatemple + pair (they both are good, but mediatemple has Grid and attractive pricing, so I am slowly moving my production sites to mediatemple.

windows servers - some at Crystaltech, some at thePlanet with round robin DNS.

Backup from all of these web hosts goes to Amazon S3.

No single point of failure (or too many possible points of failure;)

But for what you are looking for, I guess Nettica DNS server + Gmail + MediaTemple can be a great combination.
Saurabh
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
Bob, I'm in the same boat as you.  We actually moved our main web site to Rackspace about a year ago.  We've kept all of our customer sites on Alentus because we didn't want them to have access to our server (even if it is just FrontPage).

I've been with Alentus since about 2002 and their service has gone downhill fast in the last year or two.  I cannot believe that they still don't have phone support on the weekends. 

Just in case you don't know...they have www.alentusnews.com to let you know about outages and other things.  It is not hosted at their facility so you should be able to get to it.

Best of luck.
Crazy Eddie
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
thanks all for your suggestions and support: Here's an update. This is what alentus posted yesterday at the site mention in the post above:

August 16, 2008, at 12:45PM MST

There is currently an issue with an outside ISP that may prevent some customers from connecting to their website. Our techs are currently working to resolve the issue with the ISP.

There is currently no ETA.
===
Well, as of 7:45 am PT 8/17 they are still down, they've supplied no further information and the same lame "we sorry, it's the weekend, have a Nice Day" voicemail is playing.

I can understand accidents etc. Prolonged clueless non support is not forgivable.
Bob Walsh Send private email
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
We are in the same Alentus boat as you are. My email is down, my site is down, my client's sites are down and we get nothing from Alentus.

We will be bailing out of there if and when they get back up. This is no way to run a railroad. At the very least they should be posting updates on their news page.

Alentus started going downhill when they started all the acquisitions of other hosting companies. Finding a reliable host is not easy.
Diana Demarest Send private email
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
I use Rails Playground for shared and dedicated hosting.  I haven't had any problems with them in any way in the year that I've been with them.  I'm looking to add another couple servers next month and will go with them.

My only suggestion... if you're doing some screwy DNS-stuff (like using EC2 for scaling), run the DNS your self via UltraDNS or something similar.  It's not a question of ability, it's a question of being able to fine-tune what you're doing.
KC Send private email
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
What's up with getting companies to manage your DNS? Why not just leave it at e.g. Godaddy? More tools/reliability? When should one do this?
anon
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
>>>>What's up with getting companies to manage your DNS? Why not just leave it at e.g. Godaddy? More tools/reliability? When should one do this?

There can be different reasons for everyone. For me, the reason was to keep registrar & DNS at different places + round robin DNS with small TTL. Keeping registrar & DNS server at different places allows you to transfer the domain without any downtime.
Saurabh
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
Email is too important for me to trust a third party. If I lose an email, I could lose money. I've been burnt twice, different providers.

+2 slicehost

Now if anything goes wrong, I can fix it myself. I do have a backup server (outsourced) on a lower MX priority.
MT Send private email
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
Only 22.5 hours after going completely dark, silent and dead Alentus is back up.

3 guesses what I'm doing right now...

And thanks again to all who made suggestions on this thread.
Bob Walsh Send private email
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
Get out quick before it goes down again :-)

I will be curious as to which provider you chose, Bob.
Joel Marcey Send private email
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
Don't forget to download / archive the log files and transaction receipts before you close the account.
Saurabh
Sunday, August 17, 2008
 
 
Bob,

I had to deal with similar problems from various places a year ago.  I wound up at http://www.freedombi.com  mostly because it was owned by a friend and I was able to personally vouch for every member of his technical staff.

They don't have a rails-specific package but their price on virtual private servers is competitive with another major provider in town, Liquid Web.  Unfortunately I've seen a lot of down time at sites hosted with Liquid Web (another friend hosts there), partially because they're using commodity machines for their hosting, rather than actual server hardware.

Drop me a note offline if you want more information.  I'd be happy to hook you up with these guys.
Clay Dowling Send private email
Monday, August 18, 2008
 
 
I recommend "linode.com".
I have been with them for 5 years now, and never had a single problem or outage. They are also very open, and regularly offer more space, RAM, etc..
Good option only if you are proficient in managing a Linux box, because they only provide raw VPS server.
sergio
Monday, August 18, 2008
 
 
Did you notice their page about the downtime on www.AlentusNews.com?  They make it look like they were only down for a little under two hours.  Nice.
Crazy Eddie
Monday, August 25, 2008
 
 

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