This is the story of a bad hosting experience, compounded by shit customer service, and my decision to leave Bluehost. I will tell anyone and everyone who will listen that this company is useless, their customer service is beyond deplorable, and they should be avoided at all costs.

Before I get into the details, let me tell you a bit about myself so you know where I’m coming from. I started playing with computers when I was about 14 years old. Most of my adult working life has been spent working in technical support for various computer hardware and software companies.

  • I briefly ran my own web hosting company.
  • I worked as an internal support technician for Google.
  • I’ve been certified by both Microsoft and Apple.
  • I’ve used so many different Linux distributions I’ve lost count.
  • My personal computer has three separate operating systems installed.
  • Over the years I’ve taught myself to code in BASIC, Pascal, C, Perl and PHP.

The bottom line is that I’m not the average joe who doesn’t know how all this stuff works. I know exactly what it takes to run a web server, and how to troubleshoot computer hardware and software. I can tell when something is really broken and when a lazy support rep is bullshitting me.

I used to love doing everything from myself. At some point, though, I went from custom built machines to nicely packaged PCs and laptops that came with a warranty and support. I dropped my dedicated, unmanaged hosting plans that gave me complete freedom in favor of managed services that would take care of the stuff under the hood while I worked on the business end of things. I didn’t want to fix things myself anymore.

And this is where Bluehost comes into the picture…

I had an idea for a business website and I signed up with Bluehost on one of their VPS hosting plans, which are advertised as managed. To make a long story short, the business idea didn’t work out. the site sat dormant for around a year. It got some regular attention, but it wasn’t anything I was actively working on. The hosting worked fine when there was no traffic and no demand on the server.

Eventually, I had another business idea, which turned into JT Write Inc. Since I still had this VPS account, and plenty of room left, I set up jtwriteinc.com on the same server. And the problems began.

And So It Begins…

The first problem I ran into was a somewhat common occurrence with WordPress. I upgraded something. There was a conflict with one of the plugins. The site stopped working. I couldn’t log into the admin.

I didn’t really feel like going through the trouble of figuring out what had gone wrong and how to fix it. I decided I’d just restore the last backup and be done with it so I could get back to work.

I logged into my hosting control panel and tried to enter their backup system. When I did so, it immediately started creating a backup. This meant, of course, that it was backing up my broken site, which was useless. No other backups were available to restore.

No backups at BluehostA little bit annoyed, I clicked on “Site Backup Pro” which is an extra backup service, a service I pay extra for. When I click on this icon, I am presented with a list of three previous backups. I am happy — for about 10 seconds.

When I try to download any of these backups, I am told that the server is working on something, and the download never starts. I tried several times over the course of about two hours and couldn’t download a backup or restore one on the server.

Of course, I figured it was time to contact support and have them give me a hand. I click on support with the intention of submitting a support ticket. I am greeted with a screen saying that Bluehost has decided they can give better support through live chat or telephone, so they’ve scrapped their ticket system.

Bluehost is in the U.S. I live in Argentina. I’m not going to call them and pay $1 per minute to sit on hold and wait for support. I opt for live chat. I click on chat and see a message saying there is a “higher than normal” volume of chat requests, so I must wait.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. More than two hours(!) later, I’m finally connected to a support person. I tell them my backups aren’t working and he says he’ll take a look at the site and try to figure out what’s going on.

are you kidding meAt this point, my site was still working, but I couldn’t get into the admin. After I finally got out of the chat with their “support”, the site was down and absolutely nothing was working. I was worse off than where I started.

No backups were available. My problem with the backups was never actually addressed. In the end, I was told to download a new copy of WordPress and re-upload the files to see if that corrected anything. It didn’t.

After some research on my own, I discovered there was an incompatibility with the newest version of WordPress and a very popular plugin which I happened to use. I disabled the plugin and the admin was functional again. I then had to go through my site and re-enable plugins and correct files that their tech support had screwed up.

In the end, I spent the better part of about 8 hours trying to fix my site and get everything back online when the whole process should have been a 15-minute restore from a backup. I should have been able to do everything without needing to contact support. Not only did they not help me, leaving me to do everything on my own, they actually made the problem worse.

On top of this, I couldn’t simply submit a ticket and go about my business. I had to sit there for two hours with my browser open, checking the tab every few minutes to see if one of their reps finally answered the chat.

I resolved to make my own backups and begin looking for another host. Other things came up and I put off the task of moving to a new host. I ended up getting busy and leaving the site where it was for too long.

Bluehost Fiasco Part Two

I hadn’t done anything to the site itself in a couple of months. I was working on other promotional tasks and hadn’t done more than update WordPress and plugins. I wasn’t posting or updating any content.

I got to a point where I was about set up a more intense marketing campaign and I wanted to tweak a few things on the site to maximize results. When I logged in and started working on a new page, the site started responding slower and slower until it eventually didn’t respond at all.

After confirming that the problem was the server and not my own Internet connection, I logged into my control panel and set the server to reboot. The site came back online but lasted less than an hour before the same problem popped up again.

I contacted support to see what was going on. Again, I had to wait approximately 90 minutes before I could talk to anyone. When I got to talk to a support rep he looked in on the server and said there was a process running that was overwhelming the CPU.

The process was a Linux program called “host” which is responsible for looking up DNS (name server) information. When it’s called to do something, it normally takes less than a second to do its job.

I asked if he could tell what was pushing this process out of control.

No.

I asked if he could tell what program was calling this process to run.

No.

I asked if he could do anything to prevent this from happening.

No.

not this shit againHe told me (again) to download a fresh copy of WordPress from their website and re-upload the core files to see if that would fix anything. (It didn’t.) He also suggested I check for malware and ended the chat. He didn’t want to do anything and just pushed the problem back at me.

I re-uploaded the WordPress files just in case something somehow got altered or corrupted and was causing this problem. It didn’t change anything. Within an hour of rebooting, the host program would run out of control and bog the server down to a point where it wouldn’t respond anymore.

This tells me the problem is another file on the Bluehost server somewhere, not my WordPress files. Which means my own backups are going to be useless. I back up my WordPress stuff, not their operating system files.

Frustrated and annoyed with their support, I decided that I’d try once again to restore a backup and just put things back to where they were a week or a month ago. Since I hadn’t updated anything for a while, I could restore an old backup without fear of losing anything.

You guessed it. Neither backup system worked, again. Now, VERY frustrated, I have to resort to sitting and waiting on their carefully chosen, more efficient support system again. I have never once been able to speak to a support rep without waiting at least 90 minutes. And, as I said, one must sit with the browser open and monitor the page to see if a rep comes online to chat. You can’t leave a message and go about your day.

When I finally get to speak to a support rep, I ask about the backups, stating that I had mentioned problems at least a month or two earlier. He makes no apology of any kind and simply tells me no backups are available.

someone who gives a shitI explain the problem I’m having and ask if they have a malware scanner they could run. He tells me, “We don’t do malware scans on demand.” Period. Full stop. Not even a hint of condescending bullshit courtesy or respect. He doesn’t say sorry. He doesn’t offer any other kind of solution. He doesn’t even tell me they do regular malware scans at a certain time and I could wait for that. This is Bluehost technical support at its best.

I am furious at this point and close the chat.

I am now dead set on moving to a new host as soon as possible, but I need my site to be up and accessible in order to transfer everything correctly to a new server. I need to stop this host program from killing the server every hour.

I decide to set up an automatic process that will simply kill any host process that is running every 60 seconds. This should stop the rogue process from running away with the server resources. This kind of automatic task is known as a “cron job” in linux.

Feeling a bit happy with myself that I’ve come up with a temporary solution that should work well enough to let me get my site the hell off of Bluehost servers, I go to the cron job section on my hosting control panel.

And I hit the Bluehost bullshit trifecta! The cron job system doesn’t work either. I can’t set up a cron job through the control panel.

Ready to slit someone’s throat, I go back to support, and the 90+ minute queue. The following is a direct copy and paste of the chat I had:

9:50:54 PM

Peter P

Welcome to our real-time Terms of Service Support chat! My name is Peter. Please note, I assist multiple customers at a time, so your patience is appreciated.

9:50:57 PM

Peter P

I would love to assist you with this request, but first I need to validate your account, will you please provide me with your last four characters of your cPanel password.

9:50:57 PM

Peter P

I would love to assist you with this request, but first I need to validate your account, will you please provide me with your last four characters of your cPanel password.

9:51:15 PM

JT

XXXX are the last four

9:52:21 PM

Peter P

thanks

9:52:26 PM

Peter P

what can I help with ?

9:52:54 PM

JT

I can not access the cron jobs section through my control panel.

9:53:26 PM

JT

It tells me there was an error communicating with my server and sends me to the server settings screen with the reboot, console etc options

9:56:31 PM

Peter P

since you do have full access to the server, you are free to create cron jobs from the command line.

adminschoice.com/crontab-quick-reference

9:58:50 PM

JT

I don’t understand how to use the editor that comes up when I use crontab -e at the command line.

9:59:00 PM

JT

But I pay for hosting with a cpanel to manage it, it should work

9:59:51 PM

Peter P

you are on a unmanaged server

10:00:45 PM

JT

So that means my control panel doesn’t need to work?

10:06:43 PM

Peter P

usually that error means the server needs to be rebooted, if that does not fix, then you might need to update cpanel

documentation.cpanel.net/display/ALD/Upgrad

At this point, I ended the chat. I’ve never wished more that I could kill someone with my mind.

I am on a managed server. My control panel is on the bluehost.com domain, which I obviously do not control, so there’s no way I could upgrade it myself even if I wanted to. Again, I get not even the faintest hint of respect or willingness to help.

On top of these basic facts, you’ll notice the chat starts with him telling me that he’s working with more than one person at a time. I’m not even important enough to get the full attention of the rep who’s supposed to be helping me. And apparently neither are the other customers he’s helping.

First, here’s a screenshot (click to enlarge) of the Bluehost VPS sales page, which clearly states in the title that their VPS plans are managed:

Bluehost Managed VPS page

 

Second, in this screenshot you can clearly see the domain where my control panel resides:

my bluehost control panel

 

And here is what I get when I try to enter the backup service that I pay for, after telling them several times that it wasn’t working:

bluehost backup error

And finally, just to illustrate how wonderful their support system is, before I wrote this article I decided to go through the process of requesting help and take screenshots along the way. In each of the screenshots below, the time is clearly marked in the top right corner.

You’ll see that it took just under 90 minutes to get into a chat with a rep. A few moments after I entered the chat, I was told the approximate wait time was 8-10 minutes. That message vanished quickly and it was about an hour and 20 minutes before I finally got a response.

Bluehost Chat Wait 1

In the end, after waiting hours to get no help at all from Bluehost support, I connected to my server through an SSH terminal and set up the process killing cron job. My quick fix worked.

Within about 48 hours, my site was moved off the Bluehost servers and set up with another company. The new company had my account set up in minutes and moved my entire site without me lifting a finger. The monthly price is also about 60% lower. Everything works as it should, I get responses from support within 15 minutes, and it’s been smooth, stress-free sailing so far.

So to Bluehost: I bid you goodbye and good riddance. The fact that you remain in business is unfathomable. I have never had such a bad customer service experience with any other company, hosting related or otherwise.

bye bye bluehost

 

By |March 4th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

JT is the founder of JT Write Inc. He is a freelance writer available for hire to produce content for your personal or business blog. A master practitioner of bloggery, his skills provide many benefits. He is always interested in networking and discussing new possibilities.

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