Never, ever, use WebFusion

“WebFusion — Seriously Easy WebHosting” – I beg to differ…

A long while ago we chose WebFusion to host the company web site, choosing their ‘MyServerWorld.NET’ package. Oh my word, what a mistake! Never ever consider using them as a hosting provider, and to be honest given that their support is provided by PIPEX, don’t use them either!

I suppose this rant has become more a review of WebFusion’s services, and touches also on the effectiveness of PIPEX’s technical support.

Setting up the site initially was a bit awkward. I received the email with all the server and log-in details, which seemed all fine. I’m usually pretty good at this kind of thing, but I just couldn’t get uploads working at all, I was unable to see my directory folders or any files inside. So, I trotted off to their sham of a technical support website. Here, not only was I utterly confused by the layout of the site, it didn’t actually cover my choice of hosting! Honestly, try and use it — it’s rubbish.

So having exhausted the pitiful search for login problems on that site, I emailed technical support. After a few hours (yes really) they got back to me, and pointed out where I was going wrong – I had to set the ‘home directory’ to be /mydomain/web — something which, in fairness, is clearly on the instructions I was emailed. So I was being a fool, and fair enough thought I.

The site uploaded without a hitch then and was fine for a few weeks. Then, just as we needed to do an urgent site update, I was unable to log in, either to the ‘control panel’ or the FTP site. ‘Very odd’ thought I, checking all my password details, and checking with the only other person who has access to the site — has he changed the password etc? Nothing. So, I’ll have to speak to tech support…oh wait…

Without being able to log into the ‘control panel’ it’s almost impossible to find out what the support email addresses or phone numbers are. Great work there — they’re not on webfusion’s site (or weren’t at the time) — so how the flippin’ heck am I supposed to get the password reset? Eventually a Google Desktop Search found an email mentioning it, and I rang them up.

They offered no explanation as to why my password had changed ‘just one of those things’ apparently. Yes, I often find my passwords change all by themselves.

So, not a good start, but again we were up and running ok, so I put my misgivings aside. Then…guess what? Yup, password stopped working again. This time I wrote a fairly nice email to the tech support people explaining that this had happened again…and could they explain why? They reset my password, and the only explanation was:

“Our apologies Matt, the only advice I can give you at present is to be carefull (sic) that you’re not logged on at the same time in 2 places with both MyServerWorld, FTP and/or email. “

Riiiight! Of course! Since the dawn of time, logging into a computer from two locations at once resets the password! How foolish of me. And yes, he really did say ‘don’t have two people logged into email at the same time’. Hey Mr Clever, how are we supposed to give our employees their own email addresses, but not have them log in at the same time? Organise a bloody rota? Jesus! I tried to get a better answer from them on this, but as yet I haven’t received a response from the emails I sent.

About this time we asked about statistics for the site too, a fairly reasonable thing to expect when even my ISP (Freedom2Surf — highly recommended) provides excellent stats on its free webspace. The best we got was ‘unfortunately we don’t have a definite date of when this will happen. In the mean time, there are plenty of places on the net that offer a service you can use on your hosting.’ So you mean, pay someone else? Great. We’re using the free counters at StatCounter at the moment — but today I noticed WebFusion’s now implemented some stats of its own. Not that they bothered to tell me.

So, today we were ready to upload our latest site information — and guess what? Yup, password broke again. So same drill again, ringing them up. The world’s most bored-sounding man answered the phone, and reset the password. I mentioned this has happened 3 times now, and he said, ‘oh that’s because the passwords get reset every 42 days’.

Aaaaaargh — why the fuck didn’t they mention that before? I had pestered them and tried to cajole a simple answer from them, but no. It took a chance mention from one of their techies to ‘fix’ a problem! I’ve just re-searched their tech support site, and there’s no mention of it anywhere!

Forgiving soul that I am, I thought, ‘right, that’s all that done then, water under the bridge’ — at least I know why etc etc.

So we uploaded the new site, which includes an executable file. Doing a quick check to see if it all worked…’file not found’ — oh? The executable file wouldn’t download. Hmm…we renamed it to .TXT and all was well. O-kay, so I contacted tech support again:

Thank you for your email.

For security purposes the use of .exe is not allowed on our servers. The best work arouns (sic) is either to rename the file as you have been doing or to Zip the file.

I hope that this helps.

NO IT BLOODY DOESN’T HELP!!! It’s hardly very professional to hand out a URL to our customers and tell them to ‘rename it from a TXT to an EXE’. Nor is it much better to unnecessarily ZIP up our already-highly-compressed- self-installing executable, just because it’s “a security risk”. What security risk anyway? I can host EXEs on xania.org with no security risk. My ISP hosts them too. So why in the name of sanity can’t a professional business-grade provider host them? I put this to them in email-form, and 3 hours on I’m still waiting for a reply.

While researching for this blog entry, suddenly the ‘control panel’ stopped working:

Uh-oh — here we go again. Firstly, was it some problem at my end? I asked a few friends to try, and they had the same problem too. So it wasn’t me — I sent yet another tech support request to them. After an hour or so, I got the reply “The control panel should now be back online. Please let us know if you have any more problems.” Well, I’m trying now, and it’s still intermittently failing. So I can’t configure my webspace at all. Fantastic.

That was the last straw. I put a sanitised prĂ©cised version of this blog entry into an email, and sent it to webfusion, CC’ing their services and sales people too. I sincerely doubt anything will come of it — they’ve ignored all my other emails — but who knows.

In the meantime I’m looking for a new hosting solution. If anyone has any recommendations, let me know. I’m also contemplating just colocating my own server and using that instead; at least the only person who can bugger it up then is me, and not a wall of faceless idiots. Paul Sladen has a list of cheap colocation solutions, I’m thinking about it anyway.

Well, I’m glad that lot’s off my chest. In summary — don’t ever consider WebFusion as a web host, nor even PIPEX itself.

Filed under: Blog
Posted at 17:14:00 BST on 3rd May 2005.

About Matt Godbolt

Matt Godbolt is a C++ developer working in Chicago in the finance industry.