Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fasthost "Support" - Laughable!

And of course by putting the word "Support" in quotes in my title, I am indeed, as you'd expect, implying that Support is the very last thing they seem to actually provide.
I've been using Fasthosts for my own and my client's hosting for many a long year now. I've paid them a fair few bob over the years, and I've brought them new customers, in my capacity as a self employed web developer, (see www.xledev.co.uk).

Up until very recently, this has been a fairly stable and satisfactory symbiotic(ish) relationship, and I've happily sung their praises to anyone who was interested.

But it's all gone Pete Tong recently, because I've had troubles, and with these troubles has come the requirement to contact their Support department. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
I won't bang on, because if you search the web you'll find many examples of annoyed people who've fallen foul of Fasthosts in one way or another, but I can give you a couple of amusing examples, and a little advice.

There are two ways you can approach them, by phone or by email. By phone costs you money, and a great deal of time. Eventually you might get through to someone, but in my experience they will sound a very very long way away. They will be quiet, and there will be an annoying delay on the line, and though I totally admire people who have gained any sort of fluency I another language... I can't help but feel they don't really understand half of what you're telling them. When what you're telling them is technically complex, this can be, ah, problematical.

Then there's email. Email is quicker for you to actually create, but it is eye-wateringly long-winded to get anywhere. They never reply quicker than 24 hours, and often take longer. Their first reply is always just that, a reply, no effort having been made to solve anything. They will ask you for some more information. 24 hours will pass. In my experience, the next response will be from someone who has not actually read your email properly, it will be a knee jerk reaction, and it will probably imply that you are at fault. Reply, 24 hours pass. You might break through the drone wall at this point and get through to someone who actually understands what you want... maybe. They may help at this point, or they may ask for more info. You'll notice that a week has nearly passed. Eventually you might get it sorted, and they might gently apologise.

One example recently, was that when developing pages using ASP, their new hosting was not returning error messages, just a general purpose page which told you nothing. I made a page with an error on it, and called it "deliberate-error.asp" in order that they could see what I was on about. After three days of getting this across to them I received a message from them saying that the page I had given them had an error in it, and perhaps I should fix it myself! Doh!

I tried hard to lay off the sarcasm in my reply, because I reckon it may have been lost completely on this 'support' operative who, I imagine, was "not from round here".

I am currently locked out of my account, because when I log on I'm told that a transaction I instigated (I didn't) has failed due to a problem with the payment (it's a free option and is trying to take a payment of exactly £0.00). It says I should either update my payment method (I can't as it won't let me in to do so) or Cancel. When I click Cancel a message comes up saying it's "Unable To Cancel". Checkmate.

The support phone call I made about this suggested I should email in for support, as they didn't understand what I meant. I emailed in four days ago and am yet to get a response worth having.

Advice. Only ring them if it's not your own phone bill and you've nothing worth doing for an hour or so. If you email them, try and tell them absolutely everything about your account, including FTP details and password, cos that will save you at least one 24 hour cycle. Never type too much in the email to support as they clearly stop reading after the first sentence.

Finally, probably, use 1&1 for you hosting.

Fasthosts, as my teenage son would say : "Epic Fail!"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Arriva - Please Keep Your Distance

Last week I was merrily rattling along in my car on the old school run, all was right with the world, I was in quite a good mood (for me). I was doing about 50mph along a straight bit of road in excellent visibility, when from a side road emerged a coach. I'm not sure, but I'm guessing the driver didn't even look in my direction, and he certainly ignored the Give Way sign staring him in the face.

He pulled straight out in front of me, causing me to brake violently. His smoking pile of junk then proceeded to accelerate at snails pace, belching toxic smoke, onward towards his next victim no doubt.
I avoided running right up the back of him by a few feet, and as I pulled back from him I glanced up at the neon display on the rear of this abomination. I was close enough to read through the grime, "62". For verily there is only one bus goes down this particular road, and it is indeed the 62.

But there was more... the 62 disappeared and a message came up in its place. I approached closer to read it, ironically.

My good mood shattered, I was stuck behind this flickering message for quite a long while, long enough for me to mull over some thoughts about this sign.

First and foremost of course, I heartily wished I could comply with this instruction, and keep a distance so great I would never have to see it again.

Secondly, just exactly what is "Your Distance", i.e. my distance, and what if my distance was about a foot... would that be okay? I suspect not.

Thirdly, which sad sack of bones sat down in his or her office at the Arriva HQ and thought to themselves, what on earth can we do now we've got these dot matrix signs for the bus numbers? Shall we flash up interesting info, like the time? (no! then they'd know we're running late!) or maybe a happy message like "Have a nice day" or "Sorry our antiquated piece of crap is holding you up"... No.

No... then inspiration came... "KEEP YOUR DISTANCE"... that's what we'll say to them. Ha ha!

Arriva, do us all a favour and just say "62" on your sign. That's all we really need to know. Thanks for the advise about the distance thing, but really, just a "62" will do.