SIMILAR EXPERIENCE TO THE POST & EMAIL’S REPORTED BY INVESTIGATOR EXPOSING OBAMA’S THUGGISH TACTICS
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 26, 2012) — A report of an experience in which investigative journalist Douglas Hagmann was forced to relocate his website from the web hosting company GoDaddy is reminiscent of The Post & Email’s nine days of downtime in late January and early February of this year with the same provider.
On January 20, 2012, The Post & Email’s site was shut down overnight without an explanation. The following morning, a customer service technician restored service after stating that we had “violated our terms of service” by ostensibly experiencing higher than normal website traffic. January 19 was the day on which Atty. Orly Taitz had announced that her ballot challenge to Obama’s eligibility would be heard in the state of Georgia on the 26th.
Six days later on January 26, just as we published our real-time coverage of the ballot challenge hearing in Judge Michael Malihi’s courtroom, the site went down again. We had hired a website developer who had begun doing some routine work just before the shutdown occurred. He initiated a three-way call and is a witness to our amicable and prepaid purchase of a dedicated server with GoDaddy on the afternoon of the 26th. GoDaddy had refused to restore service even though The Post & Email was still hosted on a shared hosting platform which had been prepaid through 2014.
After five days of downtime, the site was brought up briefly and then went down again as the move to the dedicated server began. Arlen Williams of Gulag Bound was very gracious in posting our work during the nine days of downtime. While GoDaddy ostensibly worked to restore the website, one of their technicians and an executive-division assistant stated that they needed further assistance, so we brought in a technician who had moved the site previously from another host to GoDaddy at our expense.
The technician was able to restore the site, but only to December 31, 2011. As it turned out, none of the files between January 1 and January 26, 2012 had been moved. This writer watched in real time as the missing files were copied from the shared hosting account to the dedicated server in a process which took several hours.
After the dedicated server failed several times within a 24-hour period, we advised GoDaddy that we were canceling the account, expected a full refund of the unused portion of the shared hosting account and the dedicated server purchase, and would not be recommending their firm to anyone else. GoDaddy had been strongly recommended by at least two readers of The Post & Email in good faith.
The difficulties with GoDaddy cost The Post & Email almost $2,000 in total, necessitating in part our move to a subscription-only platform.
We wrote two letters to GoDaddy CEO Robert Parsons which went unanswered.
The first letter reads:
January 29, 2012
Mr. Bob Parsons, CEO
14455 N. Hayden Rd., Ste. 226
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Dear Mr. Parsons:
RE: GODADDY CUSTOMER NO. 31873971
I am writing to inform you that I am very displeased with your hosting service and will be terminating my business as soon as I am financially able.
My electronic newspaper, The Post & Email (www.thepostemail.com) has been hosted by your company for approximately 16 months. I purchased a five-year hosting package after receiving very strong recommendations from several people as well as performing my own due diligence, including speaking with members of your hosting team staff before making the move.
Before purchasing, I made clear the fact that the newspaper was a very busy site and we intended to grow to become one of the most respected publications on the web. We had had a dedicated server in the past, and I stressed to your staff that even then, security had been a problem and many readers were unable to access our articles at any given time. I had asked hosting staff to look at my site from the outside thoroughly to determine whether or not we should purchase the dedicated server or virtual dedicated server option. Your employees assured me that it was not necessary.
While we have grown exponentially since that time and I do not hold you or your employees responsible for our increased need for memory and expanded database, I do hold you accountable for what has transpired most recently.
On Friday, January 20, I published a breaking-news story on the Obama eligibility issue, and people flocked to the site to read the news that one judge in America had finally adhered to the rule of law and would hold a hearing to examine evidence of Obama’s alleged constitutional ineligibility as well as possible fraud and forgery. Several hours after I published the story, The Post & Email went down.
At first I thought a hacker had infected it or launched a Denial of Service attack, which has happened before. I called and spoke with one of your customer service representatives, who stated that “everything looked fine,” then said something about a “terms of service violation.” He asked me if I had received an email from your company within the last few minutes, which I had not. He didn’t mention what the alleged violation concerned, and I had no idea what he was alluding to.
I did not receive an email until the following morning, when, at approximately the same time, a GoDaddy representative called and stated that they had shut down the website purposely because it had been interfering with other websites, most likely due to high traffic. This had never happened before and I asked what I could do to prevent a recurrence. The representative stated that I had to simply reply to the email that I agreed to the terms. I stated that I was unaware of what had caused the downtime and had subsequently hired a website professional to troubleshoot several things. Since the representative mentioned “optimization,” I added that to the list of items to be checked.
I am a writer and not technically knowledgeable about websites and how they work. When I bought the hosting package, unlimited bandwidth was included, so along with the determination of your staff at that time that the hosting was adequate, I thought it would work and that you would let me know if it became obsolete. On one occasion before the violation occurred, I had called and even mentioned the prospect of moving the site, as readers had been receiving many error messages such as “Unable to access server” and “Internal Server Error.” At that time, your rep assured me that I was “getting ahead of myself,” although he did try to get me to renew my webmail subscription three months before it was due to expire.
While on the telephone with your representative that Saturday morning, January 21, I asked what had taken so long for him to contact me. He said they were “backed up.” He stated that he could tell that I was very cooperative and surely did not wish the situation to recur. Unbeknownst to me, the website person I had hired had already spoken with your company several times on my behalf to assure you that we were working to correct any potential problems on our end.
On January 26, 2012, I published breaking news from the Atlanta courtroom where the eligibility hearing was held. At 11:12 a.m., while attempting to publish the final edit, the site went down. I had known that the website developer had been backing up the website at that time and planned to begin optimizing it, so I had believed that the situation was related. I was wrong.
About four hours later, I received a call from the “Network Violations” unit stating that they had shut the site down and I needed to take action or risk suspension of the account. I returned the call immediately and asked what had happened and what I could do.
This time I was told that a “query” had caused some “runaway code” which had caused the potential of an interruption in service to other sites on the server. Again, I did not understand the terms but explained that my website person had been working on the site earlier to free up disk space. I asked if the site could have been hacked, which they doubted. I contacted my website person immediately, and within an hour we held a three-way call with GoDaddy during which I purchased space on a dedicated server to accommodate my website and prevent any future threat to the others on the current server.
This site has been moved several times before and it has always been a nightmare. It is a very complicated WordPress newspaper with site files of 2 GB and a 300-MB database. One very experienced website developer had been unable to relaunch the site following the initial move to your hosting, resulting in multiple days of downtime. That was certainly not your fault.
Despite the new purchase, GoDaddy refused to restore The Post & Email even temporarily. Based on previous experience, I knew the site would be down at least three days, with January 26 being the first day.
During the business transaction, the representative from Dedicated Hosting assured the web developer and me that GoDaddy would migrate the content of The Post & Email. However, when I called on the morning of Saturday, January 28, to check on the status of the move, I was told that GoDaddy WOULD NOT migrate the content and that my website person had to do it.
I contacted the website professional, who said that he would make every effort to have the site up and running that evening.
There had been a misunderstanding about the password which was not your fault, but after that was set straight, he was able to log in.
Three hours later, he informed me that the “original plan” of GoDaddy migrating the content should be invoked, since he was “not familiar” with the setup of the new server. At this point I was thoroughly confused, because your staff had first told me they would migrate the site, then that they would not, and then the website developer stated that he was unable to do it. Why couldn’t it simply have been done by your staff as originally promised? I had received a ticket on Saturday evening at approximately 8:40 p.m. stating that the server was ready, but more valuable time was lost due to this misinformation.
During a live chat session this morning, I was told that the migration would be done by GoDaddy staff but that the 72-hour waiting period would begin all over again.
I explained that I am in the news business and that The Post & Email needed to be restored. I have tens of thousands of readers. It did not matter. I asked to speak with a supervisor, which was granted. I expressed to the supervisor that I had already waited more than 72 hours – in fact, the site was into its fourth day of downtime – and asked if the migration could be made a priority. I was told, politely, no.
I understand that each customer must wait his turn, but as an existing customer, I had already waited more than 72 hours due to inconsistent statements on the part of your employees. I paid for these hosting services and yet was treated like a brand-new customer whose website was still functional elsewhere. I made a rapid and costly purchase that I had not planned on, and then, after it was paid for and another $102.00 spent to move domain names to your company to house everything under one roof, I was told that another 72-hour waiting period applied.
I am told that migrating content from one server to another does not take 72 hours, particularly when a ticket has already been issued stating that the server is ready.
I am very displeased at how this situation has been handled. I have spent an inordinate amount on new hosting after being shut down by your company, yet I am told to go to the back of the line, not once, but twice. I would think that moving the site to a new server within your company would have been a priority, because at that point I could have moved it anywhere and wish now that I had.
So I am now a hostage to the queue in which my site has been placed. If my website, which is read by tens of thousands of people each day, is ever operational again and I am able to recoup from this tremendous loss of business, I plan to move to another host which is much more responsive to the needs of the professional community.
In seeking a means of contacting you, I viewed your video which discusses how to hire effective employees. First, I think you should take some of your own advice and ascertain that your employees’ responses are consistent, timely and responsible. Second, I find your use of scantily-clad women exploitative and not befitting of a serious professional organization.
As I compose this letter, my website is still down, and there is no guarantee that it will launch properly at all several days from now. I continue to lose business and readership. I may even need to hire another professional to make the site functional once your team has finished the migration. I do not have much faith that it will go well this time, either.
The Post & Email is a small business trying to survive in a very tough economy, something which I am sure you can understand. I will appreciate your personal response to this complaint and any ameliorative action you might take given the enormous inconvenience and loss of income you have caused me.
The Post & Email
The second letter was sent by certified mail. While we received the green card back, there was no response from Parsons or anyone from GoDaddy. The name and company of the website technician have been removed in the event to protect his identity.
February 4, 2012
Mr. Bob Parsons, CEO
14455 N. Hayden Rd., Ste. 226
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Dear Mr. Parsons:
RE: GODADDY CUSTOMER NO. 31873971
FOLLOW-UP TO MY LETTER OF JANUARY 29, 2012
CANCELLATION OF ACCOUNT
As stated in the above-referenced letter, I advised your staff on February 3, 2012 that the dedicated hosting account purchased on January 26, 2012 is to be canceled as soon as my website content is removed from the server, which will occur this weekend.
My instincts were to move my business to another more responsive company after having been shut down without warning on the 26th. I remained with GoDaddy only because it seemed more expedient, as you had hosted my website for the past 16 months. However, nothing could have been farther from the truth.
I followed up on my initial letter with a phone call to your corporate office on Monday, January 30, when I reached a young woman named Mandy. I related the fact that my website had been taken down by your technical staff on both January 20 and January 26, having been deemed a “danger” to other websites on the server. I stated that I had hired and paid a website developer to optimize the site but that your staff had refused to bring it back up so that he could complete the process. I informed her that GoDaddy staff had initially stated in a conference call that they would migrate the content from one server to another and later reneged, stating that my own person had to do it. They then placed my business in two sequential 72-hour cycles which kept my website offline for almost a week. Following that, service was intermittent, and I received emails from dozens of readers stating that they could not log on to the site, even when we finally reached the dedicated server.
My newspaper reports on corruption in government, and in just over two years on the web, we have 125,000+ readers a month, with 40,000 unique visitors each month. I was just about to introduce a new design and business model which would have increased my income significantly when this disaster struck and consumed nearly all of my remaining funds.
However unhappy I might have been with your refusal to bring my website back online during what turned out to be one of the busiest news weeks in American history, I immediately purchased a three-month dedicated hosting package to resolve the issue. I don’t know what else a customer could have done, but apparently that was not enough.
The migration of the content did not begin until Sunday, January 29, following the disagreement over whose job it was to do it. Later on Monday, January 30, I received a call back from Mandy which included a dedicated server technician, Nick. I very much appreciated the follow-up the same day.
Nick stated that he had created two new domain name servers, as GoDaddy staff had advised me to change the registration of the domain names associated with the site to GoDaddy. While on January 28 I had originally asked support staff whether or not such a change should be initiated, I was unaware that changing registrars was the worst possible thing I could have done at the time. However, that was the advice I was given by your support staff. Relative to that, Nick and Mandy explained that the other registrar had not released the domain names despite the fact that I had clicked through all of the confirmation emails on Saturday. Mandy advised me to call Network Solutions and ask them to expedite the transfers, which I immediately did, leaving her a voice message directly afterward. I thought her thoroughness and explanation of what needed to be done were excellent, and I began to feel optimistic that I would be online soon.
Nick confirmed that he was almost finished with the migration to the new server but that there was a connection string missing to a third database and he wished to speak with the person who had designed the website. Since I did not have that information, I contacted XXXXX, a WordPress specialist (XXXXX) who had successfully restored and worked on the site before. Mr. XXXXX responded with the names of each database and said that there was no connection string for the third database, which was empty anyway. He also agreed to “fix” whatever GoDaddy technicians could not, since they had confirmed that they were having trouble.
I had explained at the outset that the website is very difficult to move and restore. While I do not have the technical ability to do it myself, I related that the move from a previous hosting company to GoDaddy in October 2010 was not completed by the technician hired to do it after 36 hours of almost continuous work. At the time, I was lucky enough to have found XXXXX, and he was available to take over the project. He restored The Post & Email by that evening and guaranteed all of his work. That is why advance warning of a move would have been not only helpful to me, but necessary in order to avoid significant downtime. Simply shutting down a customer without any advance warning of the site reaching its legal limits is a bad business practice, in my opinion, and fails to address the problem.
Where was the account manager who should have been monitoring the performance of my site as well as the others on the shared server and reporting any anomalies or risks? Other companies have such people assigned to track these things and advise if an upgrade is in order. Closing down an existing customer’s online presence, then failing to make every possible accommodation to restore service in the best interests of both the customer and the host seems a very poor business decision to me.
On Monday, Nick and Mandy acknowledged that there were some challenges with the migration and that the graphics were not displaying properly. I expected as much, which was why I had called in XXXXX to finish the job, as before.
On Wednesday, February 1, the site went up on the old server after XXXXX pointed the new domain name servers to it following the registration transfer. I quickly published an editorial telling the readers that the up-time was temporary because of the expected move to the dedicated server. We certainly expected that the downtime would be minimal.
On Thursday morning, February 2, my early attempts to reach the site yielded the message, “Error in establishing database connection.” Later that day, a “Wordpress newspaper” theme showed, evidently a skeleton of the website coming up, which was somewhat encouraging. This was the case for several more hours. Mandy herself called me and affirmed that the content was not coming up properly and that she “hoped” that XXXXX would be able to restore the site to functionality.
However, we all know that websites do not run on “hope.”
At approximately noon on Thursday, Mr. XXXXX and I installed Teamviewer so that he could show me what he would be doing to restore the website completely. He found that approximately 2,000 records had not been migrated to the new server. He said that I could quote him as having found that “an old backup through December 31 was installed.” Nothing published after that date was there, so XXXXX spent the next three hours locating the files in the old hosting account and moving them to their proper places on the dedicated server while I observed. You are welcome to confirm this with him at info@XXXXXX.
At approximately 3:15 ET, the site became live. It was missing some graphics but workable. I logged in and worked for approximately 90 minutes when the server went down at approximately 5:14 p.m. ET. I called the Dedicated Server support line immediately, and a man named Pete confirmed that he had no access to the server. He took my phone number and promised to call me when the trouble was identified and resolved. He also tried to sell me automatic backup protection for $30 additional each month, stating that if it was a hardware problem, my information could be lost with the current plan. As you might imagine, I was in no frame of mind to spend any more money.
I never received a call. Upon checking the website at 7:45 a.m. on Friday, February 3, I was pleased to find it restored. I called Support and was told that the problem had been a “broken chasse” requiring replacement. When I asked why it had taken so long to repair (more than six hours), I was told that “priorities are spread out all over the place between shared hosting and dedicated hosting.” What that told me is that even though I was paying more than ten times the amount of a shared hosting account, I would not receive commensurate service when something went wrong. I also mentioned that I had been promised a phone call which never came.
Incredibly, there is more to this story. Over the course of that first 24-hour period, the dedicated server failed no fewer than three times. Following the hardware episode, the site went down at approximately 12:50 p.m. ET. At 1:03 p.m., I left a message for Mandy stating that I would be canceling the account and that I would notify the Dedicated Support team of my decision. At 1:11 p.m., I called Dedicated Support and spoke with Will, who said he would submit a request to reboot the server and notify me by email when the site was back up. I informed Will that due to constant problems with the account, I would be canceling service within a few days.
I actually found the site restored at about 2:15 p.m. before receiving the email notification. However, the site went down again later that day, and I gave up even attempting to log in.
I had never seen anything like this with any other host. I felt relieved to have made the decision to move on from a relationship which obviously wasn’t ending well.
However, in a phone call initiated by Mandy at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Friday, she and a technician named Josh began to explain to me why, from their viewpoint, there were so many problems with my site on the dedicated server. Before they got too far, I confirmed that I was closing the account so that they would not have to waste their time with me on the phone. I saw no reason to continue the conversation under the circumstances and said so, after which Mandy became defensive, stating that there was something “wrong” with my website which was causing the disruption on the dedicated server. She stated she had had numerous people working on this problem, which I am sure she did. Josh stated that things were fragmented and placing “stress on the server.” When I asked what could have been done about these problems, he said “optimization,” which was the very thing I had hired and paid the other website developer to do after this nightmare began on January 20.
Even if that assessment were true, why had the website run smoothly on your shared server? Who did the migration from the server where it had been working to the server where it was not working?
At that point, the phone call should have ended. Why would your employees wish to waste their time arguing over past events with a customer who is leaving due to dissatisfaction over those events? But it continued, and I perceived that I, the customer, was being put on the defensive. Why?
Why wouldn’t a good customer service team want to make things right?
At one point, Mandy stated that my version of events was not supported by “the documentation,” yet it is supported by my records. I maintain that everything I said during that telephone conversation and any other is true to the best of my knowledge, understanding and recordkeeping. As a journalist, honesty and integrity are absolutely essential and have been elements of my character for my entire life. I resent any suggestion that I have not been completely honest with GoDaddy staff at any time.
Instead of arguing with me over the phone over support tickets and expended resources, it is my experienced opinion that Mandy and Josh should have taken the time to look at my account thoroughly and produce a report at a later date. Attempting to prove me wrong in a situation which most likely benefited them more than me was unprofessional and very immature. These two employees were probably half my age and had no idea how to handle the situation.
Josh reported that “most of the hardware” on the new server had been replaced on Friday. But shouldn’t that have been done before migrating the contents of my website? Wouldn’t “optimizing” your hardware be standard procedure? How old is the equipment you are renting to your customers, and what is its general condition?
I consider the phone call from Mandy as bordering on harassment. I had advised her that I was changing hosting companies, that I would like two refunds, one for each of the hosting accounts for which I was still paying, and that I would be sending a certified letter to the corporate office. That should have been the end of it. Why was there a need to call and tell me what all of my responsibilities were, when you, the company, could not live up to yours? Why was there a need to argue over how much downtime there had been over the last eight days when all parties concerned knew that for the majority of the time, the site, and my business, were down and just about destroyed? Is there no longer any honesty in business?
I put the question to Mandy and Josh this way: “What is a customer supposed to do? I was told that my site was a threat to others; I purchased an upgraded plan immediately; it took a week to migrate the contents under duress, the new server has all kinds of problems, and yet, I am being harassed about a network violation which I tried to correct! What else could you possibly expect from me?” There was dead silence on the other end of the phone.
And my question to you, sir, is this: “What happened to the days when the customer was, if not king, then at least important?”
I did not have my recorder with me at the time, but if I had, I would have recorded that telephone conversation in which Mandy became very contentious. Do you have a copy of it, by chance?
In a parting statement, Mandy predicted that my website will cause problems on any other server at any other company. That has not been the case in the past, and I maintain that if it had been migrated properly, it would not have occurred this time, either.
I am no less than astounded at the way this matter has been handled from the start to its unhappy finish. As a result of this ordeal, I have had to spend more than $1,800 between two web developers, server costs, and domain name transfers, and I am not finished yet. As stated previously, the newspaper is a small business trying to grow in a very troubled economy. I recall when your accounting software first came out under the name Parsons Technology and my husband bought the product to use for our taxes. You also were once a small businessman trying to grow your brand name.
On Thursday morning, I had asked Mandy if, given the many obstacles and length of time encountered in restoring service to my account, an adjustment of sorts could be considered, e.g., complimentary hosting or some other type of goodwill gesture. That was not the first time I had made such a request, and I never received a response. I do not think that GoDaddy wished to retain my business, which is fine.
However, in order for me to even attempt to recover from this debacle, in addition to full refunds on the two hosting accounts and email account, I am respectfully seeking compensation for damages in the amount of $2,500, which is very modest given the amount of grief, stress, loss of sleep, time spent on the phone to the detriment of my family, and quantitative business loss I have suffered over these last nine days. I have already lost an advertiser and most likely, half my readership. If there is no newspaper to read, people will go elsewhere and forget about The Post & Email. Truth be told, the business might never recover and be forced to close.
I have read your Legal Agreement carefully and understand that you are protected against normal business interruption and employee errors. However, this situation extends far beyond those protections. All of it was preventable, but none of it can be undone.
Your company was recommended to me by a retired military officer who deeply respected your background, and many of my readers are active or retired military. I am sure they will be distressed to hear of how poorly this situation was handled and perhaps rethink their own web hosting options.
The new hosting company prepared the dedicated server in two hours, not 72. They did not put me at the end of the “queue.” The content of my site will finish uploading on Sunday, February 5. It simply does not take a week to do it. Nearly nine days of almost-total downtime was simply unnecessary and makes your organization appear incompetent and unconcerned.
I will appreciate your personal review of this matter and a response at your earliest convenience.
Very truly yours,
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
P.O. Box 195
Stafford Springs, CT 06076
No response whatsoever was received to either letter.
GoDaddy has been accused of blocking domain name transfer requests after its name appeared on a list of companies which supported the proposed SOPA bill resulting in a boycott and reported loss of 37,000 accounts late last year. GoDaddy later issued a statement reversing its initial support of SOPA, which was not passed by Congress, although another similar bill has been proposed.
CEO Bob Parsons has his own video blog which conveys “rules” for business success and for now, appears to have dropped the “racy” advertisements in a new effort to promote a more upscale image, something The Post & Email had suggested to Parsons in our initial letter to him. However, Parsons claims that “We appreciate all of our customers and are committed to providing you the best value and service possible,” which The Post & Email does not find convincing given our experience.
Parsons has also been busy traveling to repressive countries such as Zimbabwe.
Perhaps Parsons will “grow up” when he realizes that Obama isn’t good for his business or anyone else’s.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.