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CloudAtCost ignores clients and gets spurned on Social Media

Fri, 18th July 2014, 13:05

A relatively recent newcomer to the cloud marketplace, Canadian hoster CloudAtCost looked to delineate itself from the others in the cloud crowd by marketing itself as different kind of provider.

What made Cloud At Cost so appealing was, unsurprisingly, their approach to discount developer hosting, offering a number of servers with limited (95%) uptime for dirt cheap prices- even giving purchasers the option to free themselves from monthly fees by buying the servers outright. As you can see in the pricing plans, Cloud At Cost made a compelling argument for non-mission-critical server space, if, and this is a big if, they manage to stick around long enough to make things worthwhile. 

CloudAtCost hosting plan prices 

There’s just one problem: Cloud At Cost’s servers seem to be imploding, and the company can’t seem to get them all working at once.

Now, one frustrated customer representing a slew of others has made waves in social media with a particularly on-point parody website: CloudAtACost.com. (editor's note... surprise surprise. CloudAtACost is hosted by.. [insert drum roll please] DreamHost). Of course, it’s worth it to discuss founder Nicholas Diotte’s experiences with the host’s support team (and 95% uptime guarantee) but maybe a taste of the site’s fan art will serve as an introduction.

CloudAtCost fan art

Hosting for Suckers.. Ouch.

So where’s the animosity coming from? Like the beleaguered Comcast customer unable to cancel his subscription, Diotte has a record of absurd encounters with Cloud At Cost’s support system, stemming from ‘extreme packet loss’ to his servers. Five days after filing a complaint, he received the all clear: problem should be gone.

And so was his server.

This outage began an almost three week process of back and forth between Diotte and his provider, most notably, without any official recognition of what in particular was going wrong with the servers, or when the problem would actually be fixed. The scope of the problem became clear on Cloud At Cost’s social media channels, which became clogged with users interrupting typical PR blasts to ask for much-needed updates on the status of their accounts.

After realizing what a nightmare the whole event was becoming, Cloud At Cost finally responded.

CloudAtCost responds to support issues 

Two thousand virtual machines to fix at up to 20 minutes a machine. Not a pretty backlog, to be sure. But that’s where we start to get into the potential how and why of Cloud At Cost’s uptime woes: excess provisioning. It’s a common story, one we recently covered for OVH, regarding their turnover blues. Hosting is growing rapaciously, and that leaves every provider with a head for business thinking of ways to slice out a larger piece of that market share. But hosting is a service-oriented business, and it’s no small task to plan for all the possibilities of expansion.

As of now, the problem remains unfixed, but the grumbling will likely subside when the backlog is burned through.

Cloud At Cost’s discount dev hosting is a story about intense conversion, clearly. But in retrospect, will it be a story of retention? Quite possibly! But not if Diotte’s experience becomes more than the exception.

And regardless of how Cloud At Cost turns out in the end, it should be a broader lesson for anyone seeking a webhost on the cheap. There’s a fantastic array of low-end providers available, and they have some pretty enticing price points. But look at a run of the mill provider with standard specifications and a decade of successful service. How much more are they going to charge you? Ten dollars a month? Thirty?

The question becomes less about ‘how much can I save on hosting’ and more about ‘how much is my time worth?’ If you lose, let’s say, ten hours a year on the headaches of bottom-end hosting, how much have you really saved in the end? Experiences like Diotte’s help us remember to watch out for the Cloud at (opportunity) cost.

 

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