Heart Internet Review, Is Any UK Hosting Company Safe?

If you host a website, then you will want to ensure that your site is safe, backed up and online. Many customers of Heart Internet this week have had a 3 day (and counting) downtime of their websites. Crazy you might think? I agree; businesses have suffered, profits have been lost, but what can you really do to protect your website, and online business from such serious problems? I’ll show you…

Heart Internet Downtime.

Yes, for the last 3 days thousands of customers from Heart Internet have been offline from what Heart say was a ‘power outage’, and based on just a few of the messages from their customers, and the subsequent online reviews, this has hit customers very, very hard, and having read a few of the comments, customers are literally screaming, begging and pleading with Heart Internet to get their websites back online – not a great place to be in!

Heart Internet is most known for it’s reseller package, that enables the customer to be in the position of being able to resell hosting, and this is where things can get tricky. When you are searching for a hosting company yourself, you will no doubt come across such resellers offering hosting services which have been purchased from companies such as Heart Internet.

But, they NEVER advertise this fact. Nope, no hosting company is going to openly admit that they are in fact just a reseller for another company, and that if the original company, and their hosting platform goes down, then subsequently so do all the resellers, and their customers – everything goes down like a pack of cards in the wind.

Just look at a few Heart Internet Hosting complaints here from the downtime over the last few days:

Sites_Down_Heart_Internet

This does not make for good reading. In fact, on TrustPilot, there are now what seem like endless negative reviews for Heart Internet, and their Facebook page reads like a horror story.

I have used Heart Internet myself, and still do for a few websites (that also went down during their current outage) as well as many other hosting companies, and the one thing that sticks out more than anything is this:

You can trust no hosting company 100%

Here’s the problem, all data centres are, are basically warehouses containing thousands of servers (hard drives with outputs to the internet), not that dissimilar to the hard drive in your computer, and if your computer, laptop or device has a hardware failure, then you are pretty much screwed at that moment in time.

The problem with most people, and businesses that use data centres for hosting (and we all have to if we have a website) is that you really are totally reliant of their professionalism, and back ups, as well as their ability to communicate with customers – not just in the good times, but also during outages.

Now with Heart Internet, in my personal opinion, their service has dramatically declined over the last few years. They were bought out by another company – HEG (who has bought out a few leading hosting companies), and when these takeovers happen, the first thing on the agenda for the buyer is to try and streamline the new business, and this usually involves a standard line of thinking: ‘where can costs be cut’.

More responses to the Heart Internet Downtime.

Website down Heart

It seems that at Heart Internet, and I see this myself in the poor response to ticket replies, is that the cost cutting has seriously affected customer confidence. And this, backed with higher than previous outages (websites and servers going offline) leads to a very precarious situation for anybody hosting a website using such companies.

When your website goes down, and offline you expect at the very least to know when you can expect it back up again. This week alone I have moved some of my own websites away from Heart Internet during their downtime, and I will explain how I did this later, and how I was almost totally unaffected by this poor performance.

If you are running a website for profit, then every minute and hour your website is down, new business and profits are being lost, which if you have never been in that situation, is highly frustrating. Also, when you cannot even get hold of the hosting company concerned, with an update (tickets not being answered) this magnifies such frustration – It drives you fricking mad, let me tel you!!

And if you want to see just how mad downtime can get you, watch this video from a Heart Internet customer having problems with the current downtime (Warning – Strong Language):

That’s how crazy choosing the wrong hosting provider can make you, when your website goes offline; and if you don’t have a disaster plan in place for when it happens – as it will happen to you at some stage if you have an online website hosted somewhere 🙂

Now of course Heart Internet are not the only company that can literally make your blood boil over. There are a few that, over the years, have had me tearing my own hair out…

For example…

BlueHost Hosting Problems I Personally Had.

For many years when I started this very blog, I was using BlueHost, which in the beginning was fine, and as with most hosting companies, when everything is running smoothly you have no need for concern, but it is when your website goes down that hosting companies really show their true colours, and unfortunately this year I have had a fair bit of downtime with this very website you are reading from; and when contacting BlueHost support, I found them to be totally clueless most of the time – another victim of a buyout.

In fact only a few weeks ago this very website went down, and when I contacted BlueHost I was met with their usual 30 minute wait for online chat, which then turned into a 50 minute wait, and then when I finally managed to speak (online chat speak) to a ‘technical support’ personal, I waited another 10 minutes, only to be told:

“Something is not working on the server, we are not sure what yet, but we should be able to fix it over the next few hours”

What?? How flippant can you get. I wait almost an hour to be told in no uncertain terms that they have no idea what the problem is, and that they ‘should be able to fix it over the next few hours’? No thank you. And, BlueHost are a massive company, who once had a very good reputation, until they were taken over by Endurance International Group.

It is safe to say that I quickly moved this website elsewhere…

And take my advice on this one, I seriously advise against you using ANY hosting company owed by Endurance International Group, because, and again from personal experience (I have the ticket transcripts to prove it) you will have much heart ache from all companies owned by this outfit, and they include the following:

Endurance International Group:

Endurance_International_Group

(Image Above Copyright ResearchAsaHobby.com)

I have personally tried a few of the above named hosting companies, and had problems with all that I have used, JustHost, BlueHost, and HostGator just to name a few (again, I have evidence to prove this).

Like I said earlier, when things are going fine, you will not take much notice of whether the hosting company is up to the job, but believe me, when things go wrong – and they most definitely will – you will see what the hosting company is made of.

Problems when your website goes offline:

  • You potentially lose customers.
  • You create a bad reputation.
  • You lose profit.
  • You can lose search engine rankings.
  • Your website database can be destroyed.
  • You can lose valuable work, if not saved.
  • And much more…

The list of problems from choosing a poor hosting company is endless, but what can you do?

Well, I have a method of protection that works extremely well for me. Like I already mentioned, when Heart Internet went down this week, and so many thousands of their customers were panicking, I managed to move my main websites elsewhere inside around 45 minutes, thereby keeping my websites live on the internet and avoiding all the problems mentioned in the bullet points above.

Hosting Solution – Keeping Your Websites Safe

The following are procedures I personally use to ensure my websites stay online (unless I was say on holiday, or not near a computer, then that would be different, unless you had somebody in place to complete the recovery procedure for you, but I am talking about generally). I don’t promise these techniques will work for everyone, but I absolutely guarantee that if you follow these procedures, that your hosting concerns will be much lighter than they are now – and this could save you from a major headache!

Here is my advice on keeping your websites safe, and how to deal with such problems when hosting companies go offline:

  • Never keep your domain registered at the same company that hosts your website. The reason for this, is that if you are hosting the website at the same company, then you cannot change the nameservers/DNS for a quick get-a-way should their own website be affected by the same downtime. By changing your nameservers, you can in effect point the domain name at any hosting company in the world, and as soon as you do so, you can quickly bypass all the problems the current hosting company is having.
  • Always, always, always keep regular backups of all your website files, and databases. This is the number one problem that people are having when trying to move hosting company. Many people simply do not back up their websites, or rely on backups that their hosting company promise they are doing each day. But, even if the hosting company are doing backups on a daily basis, then if you cannot access these back ups they are absolutely useless in a disaster. So always back up YOUR website on a daily basis, including databases, and keep them on a hard drive on your computer.
  • Always have control. Even if you do not have a backup of your database, or if this will take time to reinstall, then at least you can put up a holding page with a message to your customers IF you have control of the nameservers, as mentioned in the first bullet point. This is FAR better than your customer seeing a ‘error communicating with database’ message, which frankly, makes you look amateurish.

hosting_server_down

  • To save time when a hosting disaster strikes, make sure that you have already researched suitable alternative hosting companies to switch to. The last position you want to be in, is having to decide on a migration of your website, as well as having to decide on a suitable new hosting company. Therefore do your due diligence BEFORE such a disaster strikes.
  • What you could also do, and I advise you do this, is once you have already chosen a suitable alternative, have them already host your website files. I mean, for £2.99 per month you can have a back up hosting company in place, that is already hosting the bulk of your files, and then when such a problem arises, you just need to update the database (from your PC), and change the nameservers.

The above, are actions I already take to ensure my websites stay online in the event that a hosting company turns bad, or has blanket downtime of a timescale that can cause you problems.

What to do when the hosting company has downtime:

OK, when a hosting company has downtime, I firstly consider how long this downtime is likely to take, and how their communication has been historically. Now Heart Internet (at least for the last 2 years) have been taking longer, and longer to answer support (cost cutting), and there have been a few issues in the last few weeks of other periods of downtime, all of which you need to take into account.

Of course sometimes the downtime can last minutes, but my personal decision, and the basis of activating my disaster recovery plan, is when the period of downtime is already lasting several hours.

This will also depend on what type of website you have. If your website is just a blog of family photos, then you may wish to bear with the hosting company through this down period, but if your website is a website that is run  as a business, and therefore any downtime is costing you money or losing you customers, then you would want to act sooner, rather than later. Even relatively ‘cheap’ hosting becomes very expensive when your website is offline for prolonged periods of time.

back-up-plan-hosting

OK, here is what I do when hosting disaster strikes.

  • Having my domain separate from my hosting company, I immediately, using the NEW hosting company’s (the one I had already stated that I had as a back up in case) temporary website URL (www.1.2.3.4.5.6.-mywebsite.com) upload the back up from my PC, including updating the backup database, and all files. This means you can view what the new website will look like, and act like before changing the nameservers.
  • Then once the website is looking how it needs to on the temporary URL,  I go to where my domain is registered and change the nameservers to the new hosting company.
  • Sometimes the DNS may take an hour or so to propagate, but is most cases this happens in minutes, and then the website is back online also in minutes. When I moved hosts this week, the DNS was resolved inside minutes, and unless a visitor has been on your website that day, under your old hosting company’s IP address, then they will never have known your website was even down. And if a customer has been on your website on the old hosting, then usually a quick flush of the computer’s cache solves that anyway, or a re-start of their router to force through the new DNS changes so that they can view your newly hosted website.
  • And that is it, bingo, by managing a recovery plan, you have now switched your website to a new hosting company that is live, attracting customers, and more importantly is not losing you money. Simple really, but it is only simply IF you have already taken care of the details for when such a disaster strikes.

This week I have literally watched thousands of customer comments from Heart Internet’s customers, almost crying over the fact that their business websites have been offline, and as I write this content, this has now run into 4 days of downtime for some of their customers. And me? I activated my recovery plan inside the first hour, and was back online inside that same hour.

I am by no means a technical expert in this stuff, so if I can do it, anybody can. It is a simple procedure than literally anybody, and any business could follow.

Why people, and companies, who rely so much on their website to bring in income fail to plan, and prepare is a mystery to me. It really is not rocket science to create a situation whereby you are protecting your business as much as you can.

The problem with resellers relying on companies like Heart Internet, is that if they themselves are using Heart as a reseller, and have resold many website hosting package to their own customers; which means moving and migrating so many sites elsewhere takes much more time. But, then again, everybody is responsible for their own website back up, or they should be, so it is all solvable with a recovery plan.

Remember also, that even though your original hosting company may have gone bad at that moment in time, it does not mean you have to cancel all services. No, if the hosting is cheap enough it may be worth using that hosting company now as your back up plan, and switching between both hosting companies.

Disaster-recovery-plan

Therefore, if you follow the above plan of action, you will always have a back up plan in place, and a hosting provider that you can immediately switch to, should the worse happen.

Do NOT trust your hosting company to do this for you!

Always be prepared, and remember that hosting companies WILL have downtime, as night follows day. The main questions you need to ask yourself are how much downtime are you prepared to accept, and can you be bothered to spend just a few hours in advance on setting up your recovery plan. It is not difficult, but most people simply will not do it.

And if you are a reseller of any kind, and are reliant on a third party for hosting, then make sure that your customers also have a back up plan in place. It is their website after all. Maybe send them to this page so they can see how to do it. This also protects your business, and your customer interests.

What has happened at Heart Internet this week should send shivers down even the most hard core website owners, and unless you want to be in the same position that thousands of their customers are still in today – having no website online 4 days after the downtime started (and it is now a Saturday, so this could easily go on into next week) – then you should prepare for the worst now, and then when it happens, you simply follow a few simple steps, and can avoid the carnage.

So finally, the last question is: How important is your website to you?…….

 

 

 

Structured Data, Review
Title: Heart Internet Review, Is Any UK Hosting Company Safe?
Reviewed by Ben Doyle on Feb 13
Rating: 2.0
Summary: Heart Internet Review & Hosting Back Up Disaster Plan
Description: Our Heart Internet review has shown the world what happens when a datacentre goes down, and shown how important it is to have a disaster plan in place.

11 Comments

  • Gary says:

    Spot on Ben, I have 2 website still down on heart internet’s servers an absolute bl**dy joke they have been, I also have a ticket open from over a day ago asking them to fix this. 3 days?????!!!! Down!!!! As soon as I get it back up I will be migrating somewhere else for sure!

    • Ben says:

      Hi Gary,

      I feel your pain mate, I know how damaging downtime can be.

      If anything, this should definitely be a learning experience for you, to protect yourself in future against these situations.

      4 days of downtime is not on at all, but again from what I have read, the pure lack of communication from Heart will not be helping.

      No doubt they have tens of thousands of websites being hosted in their data centre, but with such a responsibility, comes a liability when things go wrong.

      I also doubt compensation will be paid, because such a move would probably bankrupt Heart, so yes, use this as a lesson and always have backups, and control of your DNS/Nameservers elsewhere, so that you can move quickly.

      Personally, I would never host a main website with Heart Internet, it is well known now that the once great service they offered has rapidly declined since the HEG takeover.

      Ben

  • David McGregor says:

    Excellent post and makes total sense. One of the things that worries you most in business is a ‘lack of control’. This is good advice to follow. Thank you Ben!

  • Csm says:

    Heart have been totally shambolic over this, my database has been corrupted and they have told me to fix it, can you believe it. It was their fault and they ask me to fix it?
    I have lost 6 clients through this already on my reselling package and I don’t know how many more are going to jump ship. But this is now day 5 of the mess and there is still no sign of it ending and I know many others in the same boat as me.

    A right mess.

  • Doodled says:

    A good plan for a blog Ben but I see it as unrealistic for sites with rapid data changes in real time – discussion boards, e-commerce, etc.

    If you jump ship after an hour and change your DNS it may take a couple of days before this change is effective world wide during which time, if the old site comes back to life, you will end up with differing data on different servers.

    • Ben says:

      Hi Doodled,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Yes, I did state that it depends on what type of website you have, but it at least it would give you control over your website.

      Many websites on Heart are still down now, on day 5, so if those were business websites, and I would image the majority are, I feel that most of them would have migrated quickly with hindsight.

      Regarding DNS, I have been hosting websites for around 15 years and never seen DNS take longer than an hour or so to resolve (of course it could, but unlikely in my experience). Sure there may be a few customers who have not cleared their cache, etc, or flushed the old IP, but compared to days worth of downtime, I personally would feel it a good workaround, but yes, agreed, it all depends if you are prepared to lose an amount of data compared to a live website.

      A decision needs to be made on how much downtime you are prepared to accept.

      I wrote the above mainly based on an income generating website. e-commerce sites should have all orders emailed to their local email client, so I don’t think that much would be lost compared to having to totally rely on a hosting company for online exposure.

      Ben

  • Ben says:

    Hi Everyone,

    Just as an update to this, 10 days later, many customers of Heart Internet are still having problems with their websites being down.

    It seems crazy that in this day and age, that one of the largest web hosting companies in the UK can create problems for so many customers.

    Ben

  • Dave says:

    I do NOT recommend Heart Internet. I also have lost over £3000 in business over the downtime and even today I am having problems.

    An absolute kick in the teeth considering all the money I have spent with them over the years. Angry does not even come close.

  • Marc Tankmar says:

    Heart internet had sold me a domain which was never functional and never worked properly, after many times of getting it resolved my domain was never functional.
    On top of that HeartInternet SOLD my domain name with out any warning and kept asking me to renew it which I did (they wanted money even though they sold my domain).

    In the end the technical support didn’t seem bothered, in fact saying it was my fault as there are no Guarantees that if i renew a domain that the domain would actually be secure!! These are their words!!!

    Even though you pay annually to renew your domain (which HeartInternet request Money for) It doesn’t mean it will guarantee your domain will be safe. I mean what company operates like this!!??

    They have no call centres which deal with these problems so everything is done with ‘tickets’ which makes the process so much more difficult to resolve.

    I switch to GO DADDY and its sooo much better. They Guarantee your domain name will be safe just like its supposed to be!!

    Useless Company

  • Billy says:

    I have been in the website business since starting designing websites back in 1997.

    I have been hosting with HI (Heart Internet) using their reseller account since Oct 2008, and not one outage. All sites we host were not affected with the outage.

    HI support were always exceptionally quick at answering support tickets but over the last two years…ish on the occasions I have had to raise a ticket times for response were noticably taking much much longer. The responses were also of a reduced quality.

    One thing I noticed was their usual blogs about what was happening in the industry and with HI stopped.

    Once the new year is out of the way I am moving all my clients over to Rochen Hosting.

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