July began with this message from Host Gator:
“I apologize, but I was forced to suspend the script "index.php" as it was causing a high load on the server, and due to it affecting all of the other accounts on the system, I forced to take immediate action for the health of the server.”
A text log that would freeze your brain followed, but all I needed to know was in that sentence: They shut down my store.
Brad the support guy said it’s Turnkey’s problem. Turnkey invited me to file a support ticket, which brought some general advice about optimal server configurations. I shut down all my advertising and threw myself on Host Gator’s mercy. What else could I do on the Fourth of July?
Now, it’s good that Gator monitors their server performance. I’m glad that they shut down scripts that degrade service for everyone else. I’m a lot less glad that they shut me down with no warning on Sunday morning of a holiday weekend -- at the beginning of the week that I’m leaving for vacation, no less. With my anemic cash flow and payroll taxes due by the end of the month, I was dangerously close to insolvency. Downtime could push me over the edge.
I persuaded them that my backup scripts might have been to blame and that they should revive me after I removed them. Curio City was back up by afternoon.
Imagine how my heart sank when I received the same email on July 11, while I was vacationing in the Berkshires. There was no way I could bluff them into changing their minds a second time. I had to demonstrate that I’d taken steps to solve a problem that I couldn’t even analyze without a functioning store and direct access to their server. Either there was something wrong with their server configuration, or there was something wrong with my Sunshop script (possibly introduced during the transfer from Mocha). I had to figure out whether Sunshop or Hostgator was at fault, and I had no idea how to do that. They helpfully suggested that upgrading to a VPS for a mere $105 per month would make it all better.
Switching hosts again was the only way to break the impasse. It took a couple more days to make that happen. So much for vacation.
Curio City finally staggered back up on Saturday, July 16, after five days of downtime. Right now it’s running fine at MDDHosting, a small company that I chose for their personal service and their expertise with PHP scripts. I want to believe that this is all behind me at last. But because I was never able to figure out what went wrong at Gator, I have no confidence that Sunshop won’t go rogue at MDD at any moment and send me right back to oblivion.
If that happens, I will have to upgrade from a shared server to a semi-private one. That would double my hosting cost, but it would also solve the problem without needing to understand it first.
When Hostgator eventually followed up on the dormant support ticket, I tersely informed them that I had moved to another host, and got this: “We are sorry to hear that. Is there anything that I could do that would convice you to change your mind? “
Heh. I answered:
“Well, let’s see…
You locked my store twice in one month, costing me >$1000 in sales…
Then you tried to sell me a plan costing over $100/month…
No, I don’t think you can change my mind. Sorry it didn’t work out.”
The week ending 7/16 was my worst ever, barely topping $100 and sending me deep into the hole vs. LY’s pathetic vacation sales. My cash-flow crisis became a rout. Last year I had managed to stash $2,000 in a savings account earmarked for site improvements and emergencies. Now I expected to need all of that money to cover operating costs, and thanks to payroll taxes coming due it still wouldn’t cover my entire July credit card bill. For the first time ever, I was contemplating going out of business.
And now this week is on track to become my best since March. I’ve made up most of last week’s shortfall and I even have a realistic shot at matching last July (with one less week!). I can probably pay my taxes and pay off my credit card using only half of my emergency reserves – even less if last month’s purchase-order customer sends me a check on time.
There’s life in the old girl yet.