Where was Alaska Coin Exchange from April 15 through May 18???
The five weeks that my two websites www.alaskacoinexchange.com and www.pre1916proofs.com (now www.pre1917proofs.com) were down were definitely part of a learning experience!
Here is what happened. Sometime around the middle of March, I received an email message from the website host, 1 Plan Host. The email said that server upgrades would be performed sometime in the not too distant future. That is actually good news because new servers with new software generally means that the websites based on those servers will operate faster, which is very important for websites like mine with tens of thousands of images and millions of lines of html code. A server upgrade also typically means a day or two of downtime. I can accept that, as that is the nature of computer upgrades. It comes with the territory, and is a small price to pay for better future performance.
On April 15, 2006, when I fired up the computer I found that the orders that had arrived earlier that day included many previously sold items, as well as coin prices that were far out of date considering that the price of silver was zooming up day after day. I immediately checked the Alaska Coin Exchange website and found about a three month old version being displayed.
The first thing to do was to immediately replace that old version of the website with the correct current version. I update the website almost every day, so it was a normal routine procedure - except that my username and password were now invalid! I went to the control panel and tried to fix the username and password problem there but that did not work at all either. Next order of business is to submit what is called a trouble ticket to the website host to alert them that I have a problem. Having a very out of date version of the website on display is a very big problem so I tagged the trouble ticket as urgent in hopes of a quick reply.
No reply had arrived by 24 hours later but orders were still coming in for sold items and silver coins priced 50% below melt value. Out of fairness to my customers, I filled all orders other than the ones for items which had been sold. There was still no word from the website host later that day and I had no access to either website but I did still have access to the shopping cart system, which is run by a separate company. I quickly disabled the shopping cart so that no more orders could be placed. That was the source of the error message that many of you emailed me about over the last few weeks as you were unable to add anything to the shopping cart.
By the way, thanks to all of you who did write about the malfunctioning shopping cart. While I was already aware of this situation since I was the one who disabled the cart, it is often times a note from one of my customers that first alerts me that some part of the website is not working correctly.
Disabling the shopping cart prevented any more orders from coming in from the outdated version of the website but did nothing to help get the site running again. A week passed and I submitted several more urgent trouble tickets to 1 Plan Host but they all went unanswered. A second week, a few more urgent trouble tickets, and still no response. By the third week, I had been doing internet searches and finding message boards filled with other 1 Plan Host customers who were all experiencing the same sort of problems as I was, and getting no response from the company to their trouble tickets. It was on the message boards that I found out that this was not really a server upgrade, but in fact 1 Plan Host had been sold to another company called Web Host Plus! It did not take much research at all to discover that Web Host Plus had a very poor reputation and received consistently poor reviews from their customers.
The message boards showed that 1 Plan Host customers were furious about the sale of the company and that none had been informed about the sale in advance. Over three weeks had passed and still nobody had access to their website. Former 1 Plan Host customers were jumping ship from Web Host Plus as fast as possible, and I decided that it was time for me to do the same. Somebody who was familiar with the 1 Plan Host / Web Host Plus fiasco posted a message about a new web hosting company that provided support for the Cart 32 shopping cart system that I use as one of the features of their web hosting package. The benefit to this situation is two fold: First, the Cart 32 shopping cart system is by far the best I have ever found, and second is simply that switching to a different shopping cart system would involve modifying hundreds of thousands of lines of html code. Therefore, even though it was only Sheer Web Host's second day of providing website hosting service, I decided to give them a try. I signed up for one of the websites, Alaska Coin Exchange, on May 9th.
Four weeks after I first lost access to the websites, an automated system from Web Host Plus closed all my (and everybody else's) trouble tickets with a form message that if we were still having trouble we would need to submit a new ticket. Too little, too late. I did not bother submitting any new tickets - just a cancellation of service request since I am now with a new web hosting company, Sheer Web Host. 1 Plan Host is required to send a refund for the unused portion of my web hosting payment as well as for the month that the websites were inoperative, but I really hold little hope of ever receiving the refund that they owe me. I may be able to at least recover a $200 credit that I have with them, as that payment was made through Paypal, and I disputed that payment based on their fraudulent advertising.
For anybody out there who is searching for a website host, I very strongly recommend that you do not sign up with 1 Plan Host, Web Host Plus, WebWeavers Internet Service (owners of TnSites.com and former owners of 1 Plan Host), or any website hosting company that is in any way associated with these companies. It may take careful research on your part to figure out if a prospective hosting company is affiliated with any of these organizations as they will likely create new hosting companies with different names in an effort to avoid the extremely poor reputations that they have earned and deserve. Also avoid any hosting company operated by somebody by the name of Darrell Williams, the former owner of 1 Plan Host. His next enterprise will be to provide web hosting for churches. He provides good hosting service but will certainly stab his customers in the back for a dollar! If you happen to be a customer of one of these web hosting companies, I strongly recommend that you consider beginning the process of switching to a different, unaffiliated hosting company. You may be getting decent service now, but when these guys go bad, they really go bad!
I was with 1 Plan Host for three years and got great service from them and was a very satisfied customer. But things went bad, very bad, when they were unexpectedly sold, without any notification to their customers, to Web Host Plus. Myself, along with 1 Plan Host's 7000 other customers, got royally raked over the coals by 1 Plan Host and Web Host Plus. Be very careful out there when searching for a website host! Do your research, including message boards and any reviews you can find, though the message boards seem to have much more accurate and up to date information.
A big thanks to all my customers who stuck with me through the five weeks of downtime! While it was not my fault that the website was down, I still feel bad about it. Hopefully this will be the last time anything like this will ever happen. Sheer Web Host is doing a great job so far, so I am encouraged about the future. Now that the web hosting fiasco is finally over I can get back to doing what I do best - keeping the websites updated daily, including adding more content, along with shipping all orders within 24 hours of receipt.
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Questions, comments, or suggestions? Mail to: Mike@alaskacoinexchange.com