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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 23, 2006 1:47 PM. The previous post in this blog was The rest of the story. The next post in this blog is I can like Monday. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Monday, October 23, 2006

Stay far, far away from WebHostPlus

It's been nearly eight weeks since I woke up one morning to find my blog completely gone. My web host provider at the time, WebHostPlus, then of Fort Lee, N.J., notified me when I called, and a few hours later by bulk e-mail, that the server on which the blog resided had been hacked, and that all the data on it had been lost. Within a day or so, they were breaking the additional news to me and to thousands of other customers on some 16 servers that there were no backups available. We simply had to start our sites all over from nothing, using whatever files we might have on our own home machines.

The story that WebHostPlus told us never rang true. A bit of internet sleuthing revealed that the server on which this blog resided was indeed still functioning, but in a crippled state. The idea that a web hosting company that advertised "secure" web hosting with periodic backups could forget to keep a secure copy of anything, ever, was incredible.

Within 24 hours of the disaster, they stopped answering phone calls and e-mails to their supposedly 24/7 support lines. The only people whom you could get to answer a call were the poor gals in the billing department, who of course had no help to give any of the frustrated and agitated customers who were ringing their phones off the hook. No one with any knowledge of what had happened was available, or would ever be available, to discuss the matter. And no, there were no backups anywhere, so please go away. When I mentioned toward the end of the last ridiculous conversation that I was an attorney and that I might have to take legal action to get my old files back from her company, one of the billing people responded, in a very neutral tone of voice, "Sir, you do what you have to do."

Since then, I've been consumed with the technical side of blogging as I've brought the site back to life. It's been a wonderful education, and some of my best blogoshere buddies have blessed me with their kind advice and assistance, but the restoration has come at an enormous logistical and emotional cost. And the hassles aren't finished yet. By converting my four-year-old blog with thousands of entries to new blogging software, I've created a serious drain on the server at my new web host -- so much so that I'm going to have to pay quite a bit more than before to keep this site in operation. Ad revenues, which have now started trickling in, should defray at least some of the additional costs, but it's not a happy subject for me to ruminate about. This is supposed to be a hobby.

Anyway, now's a good time to get off my chest what I've been carrying around since the fateful morning of August 30: You would have to be out of your mind to do business with WebHostPlus. They'll lose your data and laugh in your face. And even if you haven't already made the mistake of trusting your work to them, be aware that they're buying up many smaller web hosts and subjecting the hapless customers of the target companies to the same horrible service and security risks. If WebHostPlus takes over your web hosting service, heed the advice that I was too stupid to take back when they took over mine: Get on the phone, find a new host, and get your site off WebHostPlus as quickly as you can! Run, do not walk.

This is not just an angry customer lashing out with rash accusations in the immediate aftermath of a tech snafu. I have now had many weeks to think and learn about what they did to me and so many other former customers of an acquired outfit called Netbunch. It was an abomination -- an outrage -- and if you hang around for too long after they take over your host, you will learn their shortcomings the hard way, as I did.

To support these assertions, I'm going to bore readers with a couple of stories: one, as much as I can reconstruct of the chronology of what befell my account on WebHostPlus; and the other, a pointer to the many horror stories told not only by ex-Netbunch customers, but also by the poor clients of other companies whose operations WebHostPlus has absorbed and then wrecked.

I first started using a web host and my own domain in August of 2003. Before that, I had been blogging for a little over a year on Blogspot. My first host, to whom the lovely Emily of Strangechord referred me, was called, and it was operated by a guy named Matt Eli. Matt was a student, I think, and at times it seemed as though the server was a computer in his dorm room. At one point along the way, I recall that a help ticket was responded to with a message like, "I have a final this afternoon, so I can't get to it until tonight." But the server worked pretty well, most of the time, and it was a dirt cheap service.

After a while, Matt sold out to an outfit called Mesopia. These folks provided about the same level of service as Eli -- generally not great and at times not very professional, but generally not terrible, either. The main man during this phase was Jay Higdon, who was technically savvy but would get defensive and occasionaly nasty if you said anything negative on the "community forums" that Mesopia had set up. The server on which my site lived, called Ivory, had its share of outages, and I got to know the server status page on Mesopia's site better than I should have had to. But again, things were cheap, and eventually Higdon always got things back in order.

As months passed, Mesopia's service seemed to be heading downhill. Help requests, previously greeted with defensiveness, were starting not to be responded to at all, and in time we were all informed that Mesopia was being "rebranded" as Netbunch. Sometimes support tickets would be closed without the problems being fixed, and with no notice to the customer. By January of this year, Netbunch's poor service had become intolerable, and I was ready to jump ship -- so much so that I opened an account on another web host, called InMotionHosting. InMotion has been quite good to me so far, and I should have followed through with migrating my blog over there then.

But just as I was ready to tackle that task -- which at the time seemed daunting -- along came the announcement that WebHostPlus had bought Netbunch from Higdon. The increasingly bad service that Netbuch was providing stabilized somewhat in WebHostPlus' hands, and after a few weeks of actually getting help tickets taken care of relatively promptly, I decided to stay with WebHostPlus.

Mistake-o grande.

Now, I was warned how bad it could get. Not only were there "WebHostPlus sucks" messages up around the internet, but also, back in early August of this year, WebHostPlus screwed up and let the domain for this blog expire. Matt Eli had assured me in the summer of 2005 that my domain had been renewed for two years. Foolishly, I took his word for it, not knowing how to do a WHOIS search and find out for myself what the domain registrar (a Seattle-area outfit called eNom) thought about it. Readers who were around in August will doubtlessly recall that embarrassing incident. WebHostPlus got the domain back up after a day or so.

But now let's get down to the real insult -- the alleged "hack" on August 30, the big crash, and the events leading up to it. The circumstances leading up to this disaster strongly indicate to me that the facts are not as WebHostPlus led us to believe.

On August 19 and 20, the site was down for quite a while, as WebHostPlus told us that it was migrating our sites to a new server. Some readers had trouble finding us for a while, as the IP address of the site had changed.

Ten days later, supposedly, someone hacked into all the Netbunch servers, destroying the data on all of them and all of the backups as well. The site was down by 5 a.m. on August 30, and in fact it may have crashed several hours before. Several early communications from WebHostPlus referred to "the FBI." At one point, one of the billing clerks there told me that the company had hired a former FBI agent to look into the hacking. One e-mail from another person at WebHostPlus said that it was the actual FBI that was investigating:

We are sorry to inform you that We had 16 servers completely wiped clean of all data. We are working with FBI and other Law enforcement officials at the present time.

At this point all we can do is recreate your account and give you 1 month of credit for the loss. If any data is recoverable, we will restore it.

A couple of very bad days later, I discovered that the WebHostPlus server was still up, but running in crippled condition. Indeed, as I write this a couple of months later, it's still up in that state. Check it out: My web pages were there, but I couldn't (and still can't) get into the control panel that gave me access into the databases, which are the key to a blog. And so the long, hard rebuilding of the site began.

It turns out that WebHostPlus are some truly bad actors. They have left a trail of broken promises not only with customers, but also with the people from whom they've purchased companies. Netbunch was not the first such company; there was another one called Dinix and one called 1planhost as well. Last I read on the internet, they had closed up shop in New Jersey and moved to somewhere in Pennsylvania.

These characters are so bad that it takes quite a while for the disgruntled consumers to realize just how awfully they've been treated. But unfortunately for the villains in this piece, when you mess with tech-savvy people, they don't go away, and they know how to get in touch with each other on short notice. And so, not surprisingly, already the class action lawsuit is being prepared. Great news, but it's not enough. There needs to be a criminal investigation undertaken, and these creeps need to be put out of business.

For my part, I had paid them via PayPal, and so I believe (and fondly hope and pray) that they do not have a credit card number for me. And given that the crash happened right after I re-upped for a year with them, I have contacted my own credit card company, with which I paid PayPal, and put a stop on the charge. So at the moment, at least, I'm not out of pocket monetarily to WebHostPlus. But if you count up how much of my time they've wasted, the damages are well into five figures.

The web hosting business turns out to be a real jungle. I'm not usually the first one to jump up and suggest governmental regulation of businesses -- particularly not those involved in information technology -- but there ought to be some here. There needs to be a way to pull the plug on evil people like WebHostPlus before they hurt more innocent customers.

While I'm on here ranting away to no one in particular, let me add some advice to anyone who's got a website: It's a cliche, but you really do need to back up everything, all the time. Fortunately for me, the WebHostPlus folks were lying about everything being lost -- some of my backups were still sitting on the old server, and it was stilll limping along enough to let me download them. I managed to pull them off there and eventually use them to restore my blog. If what they were saying had been true, I would have had no backups at all. But even with what I salvaged, the data was two months old, and the intervening two months of content were missing. As a result, I still don't have all the comments from that period back up where they should be. And I shouldn't have let them get away. I could have saved a backup to my home computer the night before, or a week before, the crash. If I had, life would have been immeasurably easier.

It doesn't take long to learn how to do the backups. With a blog like this one, which uses a database set up in a format known as MySQL, it's that database that holds the key to your content. Back it up on the server you're renting from your web host, and then back it up again to your computer at home. Remember, if your web host's server gets nuked, all they'll have are whatever tape backups they have kept -- and that's only if they'll dig them out for you (which WebHostPlus couldn't, or more likely wouldn't, do). After a few months of blogging, the backup file you're making gets big, and the backup process takes a while, but it's nothing compared to the time you'll spend trying to grab your posts off a Google cache if you lose the database for good. (Come to think of it, I am going to stop right here for a minute and get a full backup going of this blog.)

Anyway, if Dante were writing his Inferno today, he'd create a whole new level of hell for the unscrupulous web hosts of the world. And you'd definitely find somebody from the WebHostPlus there, stinking up the joint. Avoid them or face the consequences.

Comments (6)

So who are you using now? Or would you rather not say?

I am now on InMotionHosting. So far, they've been great -- especially given that I've been giving their server fits with Movable Type 3 and a large, mature blog. You get real humans on the phone within 5 minutes, every time you call during business hours. It's by far the best service I've had from a web host to date.

A reader writes:

I've dealt with them, too, when they bought out a GOOD host ( that I had a server with years ago. Luckily I knew somebody on the helpdesk and was in communication with the CEO of the company getting bought out, and she basically told me "Look, this server move that these guys are planning? The estimated downtime they gave you of 3 hours is WAY slim -- they don't even have their data center in Jersey setup properly, etc.... Get out and off while you can." Long story short, they ended up taking nearly 14 hours to move (some sites from some folks didn't come up again for 48 hours), and I was thankfully long off their servers. You can search for both companies, and hear horror stories. But here are some good ones about WHP getting looked into:


The dinix migration debacle thread (138 pages worth):

More on that:

They basically took a good respectable host and flushed them and their clients in the toilet.

LPE -- new one time term -- Longest Post Ever (until next time)

And just think, it is all made relevant because broadband folks like Comcast artificially limit upstream speed from end users. There is nothing more evil than the abuse of monopoly power, or rather nothing more evil than the governmental-stamp-of-approval of abuse of monopoly power.

Since when is a hobby, or life's great adventure, less important than stuff folks do to get green paper? LPE's speak for themselves.

And just think, it is all made relevant because broadband folks like Comcast artificially limit upstream speed from end users.

All of which combines to explain part of the reason why, despite the occasional bursty slowdowns when I do something that generates real traffic, nearly everything I do online is served off a machine sitting at home on my DSL.

I wish I could get DSL. I'm jealous.

But even if Qwest ever offered DSL in my area, I'm sure the contents of my file with them will ensure that they never ever do business with me again. But in a plausibly deniable way, of course.

But, Jack - I, for one, love these kinds of stories. Don't be embarrassed about posting them. Publicity of mistakes is the best form of market correcting behavior. Well, that and punitive fines. But those are harder to get.


As a lawyer/blogger, I get
to be a member of:

In Vino Veritas

Lange, Pinot Gris 2015
Kiona, Lemberger 2014
Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris 2015
Aix, Rosé de Provence 2016
Marchigüe, Cabernet 2013
Inazío Irruzola, Getariako Txakolina Rosé 2015
Maso Canali, Pinot Grigio 2015
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Kirkland, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016
Cantele, Salice Salentino Reserva 2013
Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013
Avissi, Prosecco
Cleto Charli, Lambrusco di Sorbara Secco, Vecchia Modena
Pique Poul, Rosé 2016
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Rosé 2016
Stoller, Pinot Noir Rosé 2016
Chehalem, Inox Chardonnay 2015
The Four Graces, Pinot Gris 2015
Gascón, Colosal Red 2013
Cardwell Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
Della Terra, Anonymus
Willamette Valley, Dijon Clone Chardonnay 2013
Wraith, Cabernet, Eidolon Estate 2012
Januik, Red 2015
Tomassi, Valpolicella, Rafaél, 2014
Sharecropper's Pinot Noir 2013
Helix, Pomatia Red Blend 2013
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2013
Locations, Spanish Red Wine
Locations, Argentinian Red Wine
La Antigua Clásico, Rioja 2011
Shatter, Grenache, Maury 2012
Argyle, Vintage Brut 2011
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16 Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2014
Benton Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
Primarius, Pinot Gris 2015
Januik, Merlot 2013
Napa Cellars, Cabernet 2013
J. Bookwalter, Protagonist 2012
LAN, Rioja Edicion Limitada 2011
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Rutherford 2009
Denada Cellars, Cabernet, Maipo Valley 2014
Marchigüe, Cabernet, Colchagua Valley 2013
Oberon, Cabernet 2014
Hedges, Red Mountain 2012
Balboa, Rose of Grenache 2015
Ontañón, Rioja Reserva 2015
Three Horse Ranch, Pinot Gris 2014
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
Nelms Road, Merlot 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pinot Gris 2014
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2012
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2013
Villa Maria, Sauvignon Blanc 2015
G3, Cabernet 2013
Chateau Smith, Cabernet, Washington State 2014
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16
Willamette Valley, Rose of Pinot Noir, Whole Clusters 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Ca' del Baio Barbaresco Valgrande 2012
Goodfellow, Reserve Pinot Gris, Clover 2014
Lugana, San Benedetto 2014
Wente, Cabernet, Charles Wetmore 2011
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
King Estate, Pinot Gris 2015
Adelsheim, Pinot Gris 2015
Trader Joe's, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley 2015
La Vite Lucente, Toscana Red 2013
St. Francis, Cabernet, Sonoma 2013
Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, California 2013
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2013
Erath, Pinot Noir, Estate Selection 2012
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Intrinsic, Cabernet 2014
Oyster Bay, Pinot Noir 2010
Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco 2014
Layer Cake, Shiraz 2013
Desert Wind, Ruah 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2013
Des Amis, Rose 2014
Dunham, Trautina 2012
RoxyAnn, Claret 2012
Del Ri, Claret 2012
Stoppa, Emilia, Red 2004
Primarius, Pinot Noir 2013
Domaines Bunan, Bandol Rose 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Deer Creek, Pinot Gris 2015
Beaulieu, Rutherford Cabernet 2013
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012

The Occasional Book

Marc Maron - Waiting for the Punch
Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice
Kenneth R. Feinberg - What is Life Worth?
Kent Haruf - Our Souls at Night
Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
Amy Stewart - Girl Waits With Gun
Philip Roth - The Plot Against America
Norm Macdonald - Based on a True Story
Christopher Buckley - Boomsday
Ryan Holiday - The Obstacle is the Way
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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