Friday, February 23, 2007

A Web Host Bill of Rights

Like many small businesses, my company (Pacific Data Works) contracts web-hosting to a third party. Actually third parties. We have two websites, one hosted at LunarPages the other at Web.com (formerly called Interland). Our main site and mail server is at Interland.

Two days ago, Web.com suffered a massive "facilities" problem that for 10 hours shut down not only hosted accounts like ours, but Web.com itself. The company's own website was off the air.
Because of this problem, all e-mails sent to us and to other companies hosted at Web.com were bounced back as undeliverable.

Everyone understands that grave things can happen in which web-hosting services are compromised, but I don't understand what happened next: nothing. Web.com sent out no notice to customers that they might have lost e-mails or apologizing for the inconvenience. I don't care about the apology although it would be nice, but I do care about not finding out about bounced emails until I started receiving word from correspondents who were surprised their e-mails to us were rejected.

LunarPages suffered a day-long black-out last year due to a power problem in their host building. They didn't notify anyone either, but they did place a long mea-culpa on their official blog, explaining the problem. However, their website still advertises that they are down less than 9 hours a year.

I think it is about time for a Bill of Rights for customer of Web hosters. At minimum:

  • Web hosts should notify customers when the Web site has been unavailable for more than 4 hours.
  • Web hosts should notify customers when e-mail service has been down for any period in which incoming emails were bounced back.
  • Web hosts must post accurate information about outages on their website. An outage is defined as any period of time in which more than 20% of hosted accounts are not available.
  • All outages should be fully explained as to the nature of the problem and what is being done to make sure it will not recur.
  • Web hosts should refund the pro-rated share of hosting fees for outages automatically.

I think that's a good start.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

No legislation is needed you just need to draft a contract. If they fail to live up to the contract you can sue for "breach of contract" and get some or all of your money back.

Chat with a lawyer about it.

glen
http://glen.net

Daniel said...

Have them question why it happened..If they fail to do so, you have no choice just to cancel it and have your money refund to you.


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web hosting said...

You need to read the SLA regarding their uptime before agreeing to it.

99% users don't read the contract before signing up to anything.

Lunarpages Review said...

Nice wishlist! I used Canaca for quite a while and they were a joke. Nothing like the outages your talking about, but my provider every 3 - 4 days would drop offline for up to an hour. And it wouldn't be just my website, but their entire network!

Anonymous said...

I agree, and would add one more: upcoming server update notices to warn customers that their code may end up broken due to version conflicts. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me.