My Hosting Disaster with Global Internet Solutions, or, Why GISOL Sucks
Written by Dan Carlson
Updated June 24, 2007
This page is written as a way of apology and explanation for the chronic downtime that Star Trek Minutiae and its co-hosted sites, Star Trek: Renaissance and Star Trek: The Breen War have suffered in the past nine months. Although there is not much that can be changed about the situation at the moment, as the webmaster I feel a responsibility to give an explanation for the lack of uptime on my sites.
Dan Carlson, 2004-03-07
Update: As of July 19, 2004, Star Trek Minutiae is no longer hosted with GISOL. I am keeping this web page up as a warning for other webmasters who may be considering GISOL’s services.
As always, in business the motto of the business world is caveat emptor — “let the buyer beware” — but the buyer can’t be aware if he doesn’t have all of the available information. I’m sorry to say that I forgot the key maxim of buying services on the Internet:
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
I signed up for a hosting account with Global Internet Solutions in July 2003. The service seemed perfectly normal at first, and I had no complaints. Then the downtime began, and I discovered that quite simply, GISOL sucks.
Here’s an account of the down time that has accumulated over the past seven months:
|Total||9+ days||+3.4% over 235 days
+2.4% over 365 days
|September 8-9, 2003||2 days||Hard drive failure, backups lost|
|January 15-16, 2004||2 days||Database error during upgrade|
|January 30-31, 2004||2 days||Hard drive failure, restored from backup|
|February 15, 2004||1 day||Server overload|
|March 5-8, 2004||3 days||Hard drive failure during kernel upgrade|
The first incident could be dismissed as an accident: there was a hard drive failure, that took the entire server offline for two days. But in addition to the sites being offline, the server’s backups were also lost! I had to restore my site’s entire set of pages by uploading them manually. And that was only after I had to directly contact them to ask why my site was down; I wouldn’t have been informed otherwise!
The second incident did not affect Star Trek Minutiae, but it did cripple both the Renaissance and Breen War sites, because they both rely on databases to generate dynamic content, and with the database server offline, visitors could not get anything other than an error page.
The second, third and fourth outages all took place in the space of 45 days, in a string of outages that I’ve never experienced or even heard of from other sites under similar hosting arrangements in the three and a half years that I’ve been a webmaster.
Misrepresentations, Misinterpretations, or Lies?
Not only has GISOL been providing poor service, but several of the service features that they offer are either unclear, or deliberately misleading, or else impossible given their hardware complement.
In their list of hosting features, GISOL advertises a “99.999% Uptime Guarantee”.
But the GISOL terms of service also states:
4. The provided service is provided on an “as is, as available” basis. The provider gives no warranty, expressed or implied, for any account(s) or other services provided, including, without limitation, warranty expressly includes any reimbursement for losses of income due to disruption of service by provider or its providers beyond the fees paid by client to provider for services.
Source: GISOL Terms of Service (as of 2004-03-07, retrieved from the Internet Archive)
So, which is it? Do they guarantee that your site will be up for all but 43 minutes in any 30-day period? Or are they not responsible for any downtime at all?
My websites are hosted on GISOL’s “Start-up” plan, which includes 100 GB of data transfer (bandwidth) per month for all three hosted sites, inclusive. Frequently during the winter months, STM and its sister sites would go offline for a period of five to ten minutes, as the server became swamped during peak demand periods.
Combined, the three sites in my account consume no more than 10 GB of bandwidth — barely a tenth of what I’m allowed to use. As it stands, the support staff have told me that the intermittent outages are due to server load during peak times... What would happen if my account started drawing five or six times the traffic that it currently uses?
Perpetually Expiring Offers
This last section does not directly affect my site’s uptimes, but it does make me question the company’s credibility in their advertising. If you look on the company’s main page and list of hosting packages, they offer special deals on their packages — specifically, $5 off the monthly payments for each plan. Their pages repeatedly claim that this “special offer” will expire at the end of the day.... but go back the next day, or a few days later, and the offer is still there!
Because I paid for a full year’s service in advance, I unfortunately cannot afford to cancel my account early. As of early March 2004, the account is not due to expire until mid-July. However, I am already evaluating possible new hosts for when my current contact comes up for renewal.
Hopefully, this page will help demonstrate the necessity of researching your web host adequately — although at least some outages can be accidental and unavoidable, it’s important to determine a company’s uptime record in the past and what kind of guarantees they offer. In addition, the full terms of service should always be read and understood before you pay for anything.
Beware! Or you’ll be “sorry, out of luck!”
One technique I learned to research a prospective web host ahead of time is to perform a Google search for “[your host name] sucks” (with the parentheses). When I searched for “GISOL sucks”, I was not surprised to see 140-plus results listed, for that exact phrase. And the top result is for none other than gisolsucks.com. More details can be found there, from people who had even worse experiences than me!