CI Host - How NOT to run a hosting company

CI Host is one of the sloppiest operations I've ever seen. I recently received an email from them stating that their shared hosting was being acquired by X7 Hosting. This transition process has infuriated me, and they will be losing a 10 year customer. Nine days without access to all your websites is unacceptable.


It all started back in 1999. A friend of mine and I tried to start a website. We bought a server and a domain from them and didn't have much success. I used the server to store online files mostly. In 2003, my friend turned over the server to me exclusively. Over the years, nobody really bothered to bill me for any services. I got an email in 2001 from a group of guys that had worked for CI Host and stolen the email list. They started their own server company and spammed everyone on the list about their new service. In 2005, the server and domain name just disappeared. I called them and they told me it was for non-payment. I expected it to be a large bill considering we hadn't paid in years, but it was only for the last year of service. I told them that an invoice would be a great starting point to pay for their service. I paid the yearly fee and they got the site back up and running. The person on the phone even admitted to problems within the organization. Two years later, I got an overdue bill notice for the last two years of service. Again, I told them that this was the first I had seen of this bill. I agreed to pay the full amount of $500 for two years. The only problem was, they charged it twice. There were two charges for $500 on my account. I called them and told them what happened. They told me they would take off the credit ASAP. 3 weeks went by and I didn't get my money back. I called the bank to report it. The bank told me it had to be 30 days before they could do anything. I called CI Host again. After 30 days without a credit, I called the bank and got the charge removed. Then CI Host decided to issue a credit, basically giving me those last two years for free. How could an accounting department be so disorganized? Another year went by and they decided to start charging me like a normal company. You know, with invoices and stuff.


In 2003, during this free period, I started a website about Camaros. It was a fun side project, just to learn about database-driven websites. I spent hours designing it, and 2 weeks later, the database was lost. Nobody at CI Host could help me. They had no idea what I was talking about. I decided to give up on it since it was a learning project anyway. Soon after my database project ended, the "Web 2.0" era began. I started learning about content management systems and podcasting. I built a website for my podcast, which began getting many followers. So many of them requested a forum, that I built one. An SMF forum based on a MySQL database. Things were going well until February of 2006 when half of the forum was suddenly gone. There was no notice from CI Host at all. It was just gone. Hundreds of posts erased. I figured that since I used their backup utility, I had backups of the files. No such luck. To this day, their MySQL backup downloads just give you a tgz zipped file that will not unzip. I called to ask for assistance. They told me that a large portion of the data had been lost due to a corrupt drive. I asked them where the backup was. They told me it was supposed to be backed up every 2 weeks, but that it hadn't been done for 4 months. I talked to a woman who was a manager there, and she told me the drive was being sent to a data recovery center. After two weeks, I called to see where the data was. She told me it hadn't been recovered yet, but she would contact me. She said they would recover the data and help me merge it with the current database. Another month went by, and my phone calls went unreturned. I decided to physically go to the company and find her, because it was only one highway exit from my house. I saw some guys outside smoking and asked them to get her. They told me she didn't work there anymore. My messages were going to some machine somewhere and not even being heard. I just gave up on that one.


I've had other issues over the years as well. Email addresses that won't work or disappear randomly, hacked sites, changed passwords that I didn't change, inboxes that won't empty, sites going down at the same day and time every week with no explanation, and incompetent Linux support. They even had a fire in the building and the sites and phones were down for days. Again, I had to drive there to find out what happened to my site. When my site was down, theirs would be too, and there was no way to figure out what was going on. A few weeks ago, I called again about my database backup problems. He said he was only there for emergencies and nobody else was there. I asked him what he would do with a database emergency and he just blew it off. 


I've been using for domain names for years and re-directing the site to my CI Host server. I've also been using Drupal for CMS a lot recently. When Drupal came out with version 6, I really wanted to try it out. I installed the database and it wouldn't work. It turned out that CI Host had an outdated version of MySQL and PHP. MySQL was a version behind, and PHP was 2 versions behind. As far as PHP was concerned, that was 3 years without an update. They told me it would all be updated soon, but it never was. That was 2 years ago. Last month I started a website for a client using exclusively Godaddy servers. Everything was up to date. They even had a section to install Drupal automatically, without the manual database setup and technicalities to deal with. I was very impressed. I vowed that every website I make from now on will be on a Godaddy server. 


Now, to the reason I'm leaving. Last week I was VERY busy. I was working 15 hour days, and hadn't stopped working in weeks. I was also out of town, which makes the whole email thing that much harder. While working, I received an email from CI Host. It stated that they were transitioning to X7. The letter suggested logging into FTP and backing up everything for the changeover on March 27th. I just glanced at the letter because I was very, very busy at the time. I figured that wouldn't be a problem, because I wouldn't be as busy the week before. Backing up 5gig+ of data over FTP would really suck, but I could get it done before then. Once I got home, I had to finish one last project before I could have some relaxation time. It was a project that was almost two weeks late on its deadline anyway. I finished it, and opened my FTP program to upload the final version. "INVALID PASSWORD." I tried again... "INVALID PASSWORD." This was odd, so I called CI Host to see what the problem was. They guy on the phone told me it was due to the server conversion. I said, "I thought that was happening on the 27th." He told me that on the bottom of the email there were more details about the transition. It stated that for a nine day period, the server would be frozen. Are you kidding me!!?? Nine days without access to a website? That is unacceptable. I demanded to speak to a manager. No website should be unaccessible for more than an hour, let alone 9 days. You can't tell me that there is no way to migrate servers in a transparent way that doesn't disrupt business for nine days. I had a very important project to upload. Another server wasn't an option, since everything online was pointed to that server. The tech support guy told me that no managers were there because it was a Saturday. "You mean to tell me that you're migrating to new servers and you have no managers on duty?" He told me that they were being flooded with calls and complaints. I stated, "Well, while all your managers are off having a weekend barbeque, I'm stuck here with a major problem on my hands." There was no way this guys was going to help me. I told him that I couldn't wait until Monday to resolve this. He told me someone would call me back and took my number. I told him that he needs to do what ever he can to get a manager on the phone within an hour, or they will be losing a ten year customer. He told me he would do what he could. As far as I'm concerned, he did nothing. An hour went by, and they lost a customer. I would have even settled for a call anytime the rest of the day. Apparently I'm not an important enough customer for them to bother. As of this Monday, I will begin migrating my information to a new Godaddy server. Goodbye CI Host. Thanks for nothing.