I’ve recently completed my migration from Webhost4Life! Woohoo! For a long time, I’ve felt a bit captured because they’ve hosted my blog, email for a few domains, etc. It’s difficult to make the move.
I’ll say this upfront: if you need $10/mo hosting, it’s hard to beat and easier than hosting at home. So right away, before I slam webhost4life too much, I understand the cheap price and you can’t really expect the moon. If you’re hosting your kid’s sports league site, the neighborhood website, etc., it’s a nice option. But it ends there.
I've been using Webhost4Life since 2004, so I’m a long time customer. I’ve had a few speed bumps along the way (like getting shut down with no notice due to high volume when I hosted Worldmaps on the site), or arguing over using too much file space when I was still way under the account limit. Webhost4Life also went through a migration back in February that was a bit painful. This past weekend, there was a solid 48-72 hour outage that, due to the more than 48 hour response time after I submitted the ticket, it was simply easier to accept the outage and migrate elsewhere.
What bothered me about this outage in particular was that it was clear my files were being messed with. For example, each of my sites looked a little like this:
Obviously I last deployed the site back in the migration in late Feb. I noticed the outage late Friday, 5/7/2010, and it was probably down most of the day. So sometime earlier that day, my web.config files were messed with. Not only that, but each of my sites (some of which were legacy, and had no App_Theme / Ajax had these added:
And, even further, my global.asax.cs file was modified and namespace was changed, as if updated by a tool or opened in VS. Many folders had an App_Themes folder – all new. Things get a tad more interesting when I crack into specifically what was changed (this is what leads me to believe it’s Webhost4Life, not a hacker, making the changes). First, this is what my web.config looked like locally … I use 3 databases. The default/logging databases are the same, the warehouse is my local server (at home) where I store archives of the logging data, where the SQL Server is on the same box:
Once deployed, the Warehouse server isn’t used at all. I just keep the setting there so the settings are side by side. When I opened the modified file, I saw this:
My connection strings were modified! First up, my Warehouse setting was something I only used locally at home – it seems some tool has likely replaced it. Also, the sql399 site was replaced with VCNSQL86 connection. When I log into the Webhost4Life control panel, I see that VCNSQL86 is the correct server name – obviously at some point, the name was changed from sql399.
I don’t have a problem with name changes, but I do have a problem with the files being changed for me and not being notified of a change. In fact, I think a better approach is to just let my app die than modify it for me. Shared hosting or not, I think someone going into the files without explicit permission is a violation. Besides, like most developers, I work locally and FTP my changes to the site, so any changes they have would be overwritten next time I deploy.
Even though I redeployed the applications, all sites were still broken. Something still wasn’t working … the subdomain to folder feature wasn’t working correctly which prevented the sites from starting. I know the site was working Thursday, so it had to be related to all these changes. After more than 48 hours, I did finally get a reply back on my original ticket, and the reply sums it up:
I have checked the domain 'structuretoobig.com' and sub domain 'blog.structuretoobig.com' and noticed that it is not pointing to our server.
I’ve asked for more details, so we’ll see what happens.