As much as I really want to do database blogs, I end up writing about bad support organizations quite often. So I thought that today I'd go with a recent support experience that will go down in history as one of the worst I've ever had.
As many of you know, recently my video tutorial site, MidnightDBA.com, went down due to technical difficulties. The problem is that while I've had this site up and running for 2yrs on GoDaddy, last week it just stopped working. I've made no significant changes. So why did it stop working? Well, this is what I set out to discover and the tale is long and sad, but does offer some lessons learned for other owners of .Net sites.
First, I'll tell you it's a .NET site that uses Infragistics controls for the datagrids and the menus. Other than that though it's a pretty basic site. So I started by making sure my project in Visual Studio would build and compile and then I pushed a new copy up to GoDaddy. The new build didn't work either. I looked around a little more and then got our top .NET guy at work involved. He worked on it for half a day before giving up. Before he gave up though, he said that he thought GoDaddy was blocking .axd files and that was the reason it wasn't working. So I called GoDaddy support, which I hate doing because every time I've called them in the past it's been nothing but heartache and grief. In the past when I've had problems GoDaddy support has done nothing for me at all. Typically their support techs are so grossly undertrained that they're little more than secretaries whose sole purpose is to find a way to boot the call. What choice did I have though?
So I called support and after explaining my situation to the tech, he went away to run some tests for about 15 mins and came back and announced that there was no problem with the server and that it must be something with my code. And that he was unable to help me because "we don't support custom code." I tried to explain to him that the site worked for 2yrs and all of a sudden just stopped, so there's no way it could have been the code. I haven't made any changes. He repeated his declaration. I tried explaining again the situation, and even went so far as to tell him that I had tried it on 2 other web servers and it worked just fine. He didn't care, and he didn't know anything about web coding so he didn't even know where to start if he did. I kept at him though and he eventually got tired enough of me to put me on hold again to ask someone else. This time when he came back (about 20mins later), he had some advice for me. It was that I needed to "push a ticket to my web.config file and something I didn't quite understand".
Let me get this straight. You want me to do something you didn't understand, and you can't tell me what it is, but you still expect me to do it? And what the hell does "push a ticket to the web.config file" even mean anyway? I couldn't get him to go back to the other guy to get clarification on the advice and he wouldn't put me on with him either. Apparently, those of us who have shared hosting accounts aren't high enough on the food chain to get to talk to the 2nd level guys. And if he really did give him that "ticket" advice then I'm not too sure he knows anything either. So I asked to speak to a manager. He put me on hold for about 30mins and a manager finally came on. I explained to him my issue and he fed me the same "custom coding" line. He put me on hold for a very long time too and came back and said that his 2nd level guys had pushed a file to the website to test and they were able to read it so there's no way it could be the server. It had to be my code... my code... my code that had been working just fine for 2yrs, that just decided to get tired and stop working. I fought with him for quite some time before giving up. And I do want to say though that during this time he took every opportunity to try to discredit me. A good example of this is he asked that since I said it had been working for 2yrs with no changes, then why did it show that I had uploaded the entire site that day? And he said that proves I must have done something wrong. I said, no, it's because when it stopped working I pushed the code back out there to ensure that there wasn't anything wrong with the local copies. But everything was like that. He was fighting me at every turn trying to find holes in my story.
I then went to Infragistics support for help thinking that maybe there really was something wrong with my site and since they do support custom code, then they'd be the ones to tell me for sure. And I really can't say enough about those guys. They responded fast, and they really knew their stuff. This is the 3rd time I've had to contact Infragistics support and every time they've been the best and I really can't recommend them enough. So that support tech worked with me and proved to me that GoDaddy was blocking .axd files and showed me how to prove it to them. I created a test page with a plain .NET treeview control on it. I didn't configure anything on it, I just added a couple simple nodes and that's it. And it didn't work when I pushed it to GoDaddy. It did work when I pushed it to my 2 lab web servers though, so I knew it was written ok. So I called GoDaddy support again armed with my new proof. And this time I was convinced that even they couldn't deny the logic I was about to throw at them. Have you ever looked back at something and wondered how you could be so naïve?
So here I am on the phone with GoDaddy support once again and just beginning my explanation of the problem to the 2nd tech, and I even showed him the test page I created that proves that even a simple page wasn't working. That's when he pulled out the "custom coding" line. I couldn't believe it. Wasn't this guy listening? How could he say that it was still a custom coding issue? So we fought for a few minutes and I said I wanted it escalated. He said he'd have to see because shared hosting accounts don't usually get to be escalated and it would take approval. Wow, what an answer. So he came back after several minutes and said he had escalated it. I said I would then like to talk to a manager. He didn't see the need since it was escalated, but he put me on hold again. This time I got a lady who actually listened to what I had to say. I showed her the test page and she fed me the "custom coding" line, but after explaining it to her a little better, she seemed like she understood.
She went away to talk to some of the higher techs and came back and said that without a doubt they weren't blocking .axd files. Then I used some more dazzling logic on her and she really started to believe me. And she seemed to really care about the situation, which is something I can't say for the others. In short, she said she would monitor this ticket and we parted ways while I headed to Houston to teach at SQLSaturday #57. When I got back, I called them to get a status since I couldn't check it online and was told that the ticket had already been closed. Apparently the advanced escalation team had pushed the same little text file up to the site and decided there was no problem so end of story. I asked to talk to the nice manager again and she wasn't there so the guy said he'd send her an email to call me. Frankly, I doubted he would. She did call me though and we talked for a few minutes and she was very disappointed in the outcome of the ticket because she was convinced that the issue had nothing to do with my code.
I told her that I really just wanted to talk to her to say thanks for at least caring. I had signed up with another host and uploaded my site and it worked right away with no changes. She was very upset that they had just booted the ticket like that, and she also understood that having my site down for a week was just too much and I had to do what I had to do. I told her she was too good for that place and she should polish up her resume and go somewhere that has the same level of customer service that she does.
So here's the bottom line, guys. GoDaddy has some of the worst support in the business. Not only do they spend the whole time trying to get you off the phone, but none of the techs supporting a web hosting company seem to have even the most basic knowledge about web coding. And all this is on top of the fact that GoDaddy changed something on the server config that brought down my site, and never informed anyone of the change. I would think that they would make it a habit of announcing these types of changes when they could affect their customers. But who cares, right? We're only shared hosting customers, we're not important.
This story, "GoDaddy isn't as Pretty as You Thought" was originally published by Network World.