Minor Blip in my CLOUD: When “Unlimited” Has Undisclosed Limits (A2 Hosting Pulls My Plug)

Update 4-9-12: I’m still with A2 Hosting, but still having problems. Here’s today’s post on the subject: What Tha CLOUD? Searching for Web Hosting Nirvana – Varied Support, Service, and Pricing

Update 3-22-10: I am still getting responses to my support tickets. But no one from A2 has contacted me regarding my new contract or my questions regarding my 99.99% uptime guarantee. Here’s the one liner: “We have closed ticket RAF-8xxxxx because we haven’t received a response from you in 24 hours.”

Obviously A2 all-growed-up Hosting is not monitoring Twitter or searching their own name on Google.


It was a wonderful day, yesterday. The weather was holding Springly, I had coffee with a friend in the morning. And then checking, or attempting to check my mail… I got an error message, asking for my password. Uh oh. I’ve seen this one before.

Quick, check site:

#a2hosting say's something about "unlimited"

Oh boy. “suspendedpage” I’m not sure I’m familiar with that exact error. Either the Iranian Freedom Internet Marauders have attacked me, or I’ve pissed someone off. Or…

Well, at least MY HOSTING company has 24/7 support. And a Live Chat window where I can txt directly with a tech.

[transcript of my 2nd contact with A2 Hosting tech support any comments are in gray.]

You are now chatting with George M. – A2 Hosting Support (Sales/Support Chat)

George M. – A2 Hosting Support: Hello! How may I help you today?

John McElhenney: hi george

John McElhenney: my entire a2 system is down

John McElhenney: primary website is uber.la

John McElhenney: all of my sites are saying suspended

John McElhenney: but i paid for 3 years

George M. – A2 Hosting Support: One moment please while I have a look at that.

John McElhenney: thanks

[about 3 minutes pass]

John McElhenney: still looking?

George M. – A2 Hosting Support: I see that is suspended for excessive resource usage.

George M. – A2 Hosting Support: I’m sorry if you have not received an email yet.

John McElhenney: please explain

John McElhenney: I have pre-paid for 3 years of an Executive Web Hosting Package

John McElhenney: so my BLOG uber.la that gets in the neighborhood of 100 uniques a day is TOO big? pulling too many resources? that’s insane

John McElhenney: so… are you going to help me, or do I need to call someone?

George M. – A2 Hosting Support: Using 23% of available memory

George M. – A2 Hosting Support: That is for the entire account

John McElhenney: here’s what the “executive” level web hosting Disk Space UNLIMITED, Bandwidth UNLIMITED, Page Hits UNLIMITED ” suspended for excessive resource usage”

John McElhenney: so 23% is high?

John McElhenney: seems like less than 1/4 to me

John McElhenney: i’m sure I’m not using any resources at the moment

John McElhenney: Can YOU help me or do I need to call someone? I am completely down, my ecommerce, my email, everythning

George M. – A2 Hosting Support: 23% of the entire server available memory is quite high.

John McElhenney: this is IMPOSSIBLE

George M. – A2 Hosting Support: I can help you.

John McElhenney: it’s a blog

John McElhenney: i’ve had a few big days due to SXSW

John McElhenney: an interactive festival

John McElhenney: it is over

John McElhenney: i was participating and reporting on the industry

George M. – A2 Hosting Support: There are 90+ domains in the account.

John McElhenney: WHERE is your TOS for “executive” plans?

John McElhenney: What is it going to take to get me back ON.

John McElhenney: I am not interested in discussing symantecs with you

George M. – A2 Hosting Support: The suggested upgrade it to a reseller account with the account being moved to our reseller server.

George M. – A2 Hosting Support: You can find the TOS here http://www.a2hosting.com/about/policies/terms-and-conditions

John McElhenney: Is there something HERE that I have violated:

The terms “unlimited” and “unmetered” are defined by our experience with similarly situated customers. This means that your use of our resources may not exceed that of similarly situated customers. In particular, you may not use our services for the primary purpose of:

    • Audio/Video streaming (other than that which is incidental to a site’s operation)
    • Large photo galleries
    • Storage of a large amount of uncompressed or full-size digital images
    • Online backups
    • Online file (FTP) serving
    • Distribution of content such as MP3 files

You may not place excessive burdens on our CPUs, servers or other resources, including our customer support services. You understand that bandwidth, connection speeds and other similar indices of capacity are maximum numbers. Consistently reaching these capacity numbers may result our need to place restrictions on your use of the Services. You agree that we may place restrictions on your use of the Services or customer support services to the extent that they exceed the use of these resources by similarly situated customers.

Shared web hosting accounts are allowed to use a maximum of 300,000 inodes. [I have no idea what an inode is, but I look it up on wikipedia.]

John McElhenney: I don’t believe so

John McElhenney: I am leaving now for a meeting. I guess I will call in when my meeting is over to resolve or disolve my accounts. I just paid for 3 years unlimited, I can say my service has never been worse.

[end of transcript of my 2nd contact with A2 Hosting tech support ]

So after my meeting, around 6pm, I call A2 Hosting using their 1-888-LINUX-HOST number. [Does anyone else HATE it when companies display the easy-to-remember letters and don’t show the numbers anywhere? Cause if your on a Smart Phone that doesn’t mimic the dumb phone you have to figure it out for yourself.]

After about 15 minutes with my tech, he assures me they will have my system back up in about 30 minutes if I agree to be moved to a reseller machine and pay the reseller rate. Since I have just written a check to A2Hosting for over $300 I’m pretty sure I can cover the first month’s payment. “Just get my web business back online please.”

So I eat dinner, and look over some other work and when I check back to uber.la at around 9:00 I am getting the same error.

So time to file the 2nd support ticket. The LIVE CHAT option is no longer available on the A2 Hosting Support page.

And I write down the LINUX-HOST 888 number and start calling to talk to a tech as well.

Here’s something funny. Each time I was told, “You are the 2nd caller in line to talk to tech support, we appreciate your patience.” And after I made it to “You are the 1st caller” the system would eventually tell me, “We are sorry we cannot take your call at this time, please leave your name and number and we will call you back, or you may prefer to open a support ticket on our website at a2hosting.com/support.”

This happened 5 times. That’s 24/7 Support then? Goes hand-in-hand with your idea of “unlimited!

Okay, so today is a different day. The cold harsh light of day might reveal a bit more about what happened. And what the failure was.

Let’s look at A2hosting’s web hosting pricing page. The one I have referred about 30 people to.

A2hosting's pricing structure for web hosting says "unlimited"

Well campers, beware the ambiguous wording in A2Hosting’s Terms of Service. And don’t do any of those bad things. Cause, EVEN IF THEY HAVE YOUR PHONE NUMBER, they might just turn your entire world OFF. How could they send me an email about it? They just shut down all of my servers.

I recovered some of my work during the day by using Gmail. But if I had been hosting several client sites with A2 Hosting, I would’ve been the one with some explaining to do. Not A2 Hosting. No, they’re just infrastructure. Obviously it was something I was doing wrong. Some way that I was overloading my “unlimited” and “executive” account.

The fun began a week ago actually, during the SXSW conference. I started noticing periods where my blog was unreachable.

I put in the trouble ticket back then asking them to look into any possible problems. I figured my popularity was transient.

And yesterday, I guess I hit a limit that A2Hosting could not sustain.

a2 hosting simply turned me off yesterday #cloudfail

“Don’t you think you guys could’ve called me rather than just shutting me off?”

Well, my final thought on this is A2Hosting still has some growing up to do. And perhaps I should set my sights lower or higher.

I am in the market for a new hosting service. Yes I have about 30 live urls. But seriously, only 3 of them generate any real traffic.

I’m going to look into A2’s 99.99% Uptime Guarantee. I wonder what else I’ll find when I ask them to refund my March payment in full. BUT… I’d better had my next landing pad up and running before giving them notice. Oh, hell… I wonder if they’ll read my blog now? (grin)

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)
permalink: http://uber.la/2010/03/blip-in-my-cloud/

Other posts to help you kick ass in social media:

Most people don’t really enjoy being mean; they do it because they can’t help it. (from Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement

[I do NOT nor have I EVER worked for A2Hosting or any other hosting provider. The thoughts and experiences reported here are mine and mine alone.]

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