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  1. #1

    Exclamation A Review of AtomicVPS Virtual Private Server Web Hosting

    Recently I conducted a 6-month trial of AtomicVPS' hosting.

    Actually, it was never intended to be a trial.

    It began by being a customer of AtomicVPS' parent company, HostNexus, for close to 10 years. And when I switched from HostNexus to the AtomicVPS offering, I had no intention of ever going anywhere else.


    I started hosting some web sites back in the early 00's. At that time, I set out to look for a solid, reliable hosting company with good customer support. After reading people's reviews and experiences -- including reviews here, I'm pretty sure -- I chose HostNexus.

    I became a reseller of their shared hosting, and close to 9 years went by with few problems. The ones that did develop, were fixed. I was a happy customer.

    But then a particular customer whose email was important to his business began to report problems with emails going through.

    Every time I reported an issue, it was fixed. But they kept recurring. And my customer started to get frustrated.

    Now in retrospect, perhaps I should've known that my reseller hosting setup wasn't appropriate for his needs, and that removing the server IP from email blacklists was never going to last, because it was all on a shared server.

    But as I recall, several of my sites, including his, were on what Plesk called a "dedicated" IP. So I had the impression that their email was already going through a dedicated IP address. Therefore, it had seemed to me that delisting it from the blacklists ought to take care of the problem. I didn't realize at first that even though the web site was on a dedicated IP address, the email wasn't.

    Of course, I eventually came to understand that shared hosting is fine, just as long as you don't need reliable domain email. Which, in my book, makes it pretty useless, unless you pay to host the email somewhere else.

    A VPS was what I needed.

    And HostNexus had a VPS wing, called AtomicVPS, that could provide that.

    Laurence, the head honcho of HostNexus, assured me that moving over would be easy and painless, with no downtime.

    It was a fully managed setup, with 24-hour-a-day support. Well, that's good. On the whole, I had been happy with the support at HostNexus, and it was the same team at AtomicVPS.

    So I told 'em to move my account. It was a no-brainer.


    I started on AtomicVPS in mid-2013, about a year after they launched the business. And the problems began immediately.

    Over the next 6 months, I experienced the following problems that were mission-critical -- for hosting, for email on at least one domain, or for my entire account:

    1. Multiple web sites not working after the transfer: "Forbidden: PHP engine is disable."

    2. Ecommerce site down: It could not connect to its database.

    3. Ecommerce site scaring buyers away because the SSL certificate hadn't been transferred over.

    4. Email down, with message: "Can't connect to server."

    5. All web sites down.

    6. I couldn't log in to my control panel: "The reseller account was suspended."

    7. All web sites down.

    8. Main account "suspended" again, once more for no good reason.

    9. Account not suspended any more, but I still couldn't log in.

    10. All web sites down.

    11. Web store not working.

    12. Web store administration not working.

    13: Multiple sites broken again, giving the error message "Forbidden: PHP engine is disable."

    14: Email bouncing with message "blocked for abuse." (What? I moved to the VPS to get away from that.)

    15: More bouncing email.

    16: Multiple web sites down after a hardware upgrade.

    17: Email down again after supposedly being fixed.

    18: Multiple web sites screwed up after supposedly being fixed.

    19: All web sites down. Again.

    20: SSL certificate not working for web store.

    21: All web sites down. At least one receiving no email, either. Probably all of them.

    22: Inbound email worked, but outbound email didn't. This affected all customers using domain email.

    23: Outbound email for all sites suddenly down again, 3 weeks after the last incident.

    24: I discovered that the databases for one of my domains had never been transferred from the shared hosting.

    25: Couldn't log into webmail on any domain that I tried.

    As far as I can tell after reviewing things in detail, none of the issues listed above were caused by me; all of them were caused by some action or inaction of the hosting company. Of course they did transfer my sites over to the VPS, so that I didn't have to. But they left a couple of things out along the way.

    All but the last two problems were things that I asked them to fix. The failure to transfer the databases was on an inactive domain, and I had a copy of the one database I cared about. By the time of the last issue, I was on my way out, so I just worked around it by using POP & IMAP.

    In total, over 6 months, I opened 16 mission-critical tickets, as well as a few less important ones. Obviously, some of the tickets involved multiple issues. At least a few of the issues listed were caused in the middle of a ticket, as a result of attempted fixes on earlier issues that I had reported.

    So in terms of reliability: For the entire 6 months that I was with them, I experienced an average of very close to 1 mission-critical failure per week. True, a few more were at the beginning. But not many. Over 6 months, the incidence really did not decrease that much.


    So how was the support, when things did fail? Well, to try and answer that question, I compiled some stats on response to the issues above.

    Average replies required by me before a ticket was completed (often involving troubleshooting/ testing on my part): 4.

    Average time until a mission-critical ticket was complete (usually with active participation on my part): 13.6 hours.

    Or, if you divide it up into average time per mission-critical failure (24 such in 16 tickets), that would be 9 hours.

    So it took 9 hours, on average, to fix a failure that was in some way mission-critical for me, or for my customers.

    And this was with very active participation on my part to help the techs do their job. I usually watched the tickets about as closely as I could, and replied to questions as quickly and accurately and helpfully as I could.

    To put it another way: Over 6 months, I waited the time equivalent of about 27 8-hour work days for AtomicVPS technicians to fix mission-critical problems. That's about like spending 2 months a year waiting for your serious web hosting issues to be fixed.

    Except, again, I wasn't entirely just waiting. Most of the time, I was doing whatever bit I could do to help them fix the issues.

    At least 7 times in 6 months, I stayed up very late at night; sometimes, literally all night, interacting with tech support trying to get a fix for a critical issue.


    There were 2 instances in which the tech seemed to have given the ticket only a cursory glance before replying --

    Or, in other words, he didn't seem to have really even read the ticket.

    On one instance, the tech apparently didn't bother even to check the site, when the problem was obvious.

    3 times, a tech told me a problem was fixed when it wasn't.

    In one memorable instance, the tech told me I needed to personally fix a problem that they had created. (And it was clear that they had created it.)

    On another occasion the tech said, "Hello, I have called the script now. Please check if it is working."

    But I had made clear from the information in the ticket that the problem had never been a failure of the script to execute.

    On another, the tech asked me for information that I had already given earlier in the ticket.

    On another, the tech told me, "Please let me know the exact steps to recreate the error from my end," when I had already given him all the information that I as the customer could POSSIBLY give him.

    Finally, there was a memorable (and somewhat amusing) incident in which the tech was setting a cron job because the control panel was broken and I couldn't configure it myself. At one point I asked if he could set it to execute an hour later for me, and he informed me he couldn't... because the server was on a different time zone than the one I was in. He had earlier set it to execute at 9PM US Central time/ 10 PM Eastern time. But he informed me that he couldn't set it to execute at 10 PM US CENTRAL time, because the server was in New York.

    My reply to the above was a simple: "It doesn't matter what time zone the server is in. You can always set the cron job to take place an hour later. Right? Or - to spell it out for you - 10 pm US Central time is 11 pm EDT time."

    At that point, I was beyond getting frustrated or angry any more.

    By the way, if anyone doubts anything, I saved the full documentation, including all of the many long conversations between myself and tech support.

    The record time to fix a problem was 5 days, 1.5 hours, after 11 replies on my part, for a low priority ticket. (I didn't include that particular ticket in the list of major issues above, or in the time statistics.)

    So how was the support? Well, any adjective is subjective and a personal opinion. The support was there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And, they did respond.

    However, in my personal opinion as the person who experienced it: The support sucked.

    In fact, when I began getting email reminders from them to pay the bill, I was briefly tempted to send back a series of email messages in response to their invoices that would characterize the kind of support I felt I'd received over the past 6 months. Like this:

    * (Without making the payment)"This is all paid now. Please let me know if you have any more issues."

    * "Hi. I got the receipt from you, thanks."

    * "I am not able to pay this at the moment. You can go and pay this yourself by logging in to paypal and entering a payment to (address)"

    * "I called your bank and made sure they're still in business. So everything should be fine."

    * "Please let me know the amount and the payment information, so that I can get you paid."

    * "I don't see the problem from here. Please let me know the exact steps I can take to see that you haven't been paid."

    * "I'd like to pay you, but you're based in the UK. Unfortunately, I'm only able to pay in US dollars."

    I didn't, of course. But for a moment, I was tempted.


    * I appreciate the 8 or 9 good years. And they WERE good years. But the past year significantly eroded the good will that was built up.

    * I think Laurence is well-intentioned.

    * If you only need shared hosting, HostNexus may still work for you.

    * AtomicVPS, a year after its launch, does not appear to me to be ready for prime time.

    The gap is in its customer support, and in what they're doing to run the business.

    Things break with no provocation. Things that (from the customer point of view) should never have broken in the first place. In my experience, they broke ALL THE TIME. And it takes way too long, and way too much customer interaction, to get them working again.

    From my point of view, the problems seem massive. Do Laurence and his team have the commitment it will take to fix them? I don't know. From the outside, I seriously doubt it. But that's only my opinion, and I could certainly be wrong. Laurence frequents this forum, so I'm sure he will see this post. I will leave it all to him and his team.

    I don't have any ill will for them, although I would say at this point that the bad memories outweigh the good.

    But if he, and they, are capable of learning from customer experience, then maybe the whole thing will turn out to be a positive for them in the end.

    As for me, I'm gone. I have moved on to other hosting. I won't name my new company; I will only say that once again I did my research and tried to aim for a company that had the best reputation when it came to customer service. I haven't been disappointed. So far, the service at the new company has been awesome.

    Hopefully it'll stay that way, and I won't need to move again.

  2. #2

    It's been a month or two now since I started moving my accounts to the new hosting. I switched platforms from Plesk to WHM/cPanel, and I like the new platform much, much better. It gives me much more control over my VPS.

    It's a trade-off. AtomicVPS pretty well managed everything for me. In so doing, they saved me from having to know a lot of things and do a lot of things. It would've been great if it had worked really well. It just didn't.

    Again, the main issue is that things would break without any provocation on my part, continually, and they took a long time to fix.

    I spent pretty much every available moment of my life for an entire month transferring stuff, rebuilding stuff, adjusting stuff, learning the new platform, and most recently, learning quite a bit about administering my own VPS, security and so forth. I now know enough that if I had a need to do so, I think I would feel fairly confident setting up and configuring my own server.

    So the cost of the move has been huge. It hasn't been entirely without problems and issues, either. At one point, the new VPS crashed, due to the fact that malware on a customer's PC compromised his email accounts, and spammers logged in and flooded the email server with tens of thousands of outgoing spam emails. Since then I've learned a LOT about Linux server security. I've really beefed up the server security, and now at last things seems stable and peaceful.

    In fact, it's starting to get almost boring. This is good!

    The first month or so, I opened 14 support tickets, which is almost as many as the 16 support tickets over 6 months that I found intolerable at AtomicVPS. But I feel entirely different about those 14 tickets.

    Why? Well, about 12 of those were related to getting things set up. 3 were simply questions. That drops us down to about 2.

    I went through a total of 6 critical issues during the first month. At least 4 of these were related to configuration, setup, and my efforts to harden security after the spam incident. Yeah, a few were of my own creation. Learning curve.

    One was the spammer breakin itself (which created massive problems that were mostly fixed very quickly, and completely fixed by 6.25 hours).

    Another was an issue of ftp simply not working like it should. Don't know why, but it didn't. They promptly fixed it.

    The 6 critical issues took an average of 2 hours, 8 minutes from first reporting to completion of the fix.

    2 hours, instead of 9. That's an HUGE difference.

    And really, most of the critical issues have been of my own creation. In close to 2 months, the only things I can point to offhand that went wrong that maybe shouldn't have were the spammer breakin (which I attribute to the fact that their VPS is less-managed and I needed to proactively learn and implement security) and the transient FTP failure.

    So. Has it been worth the enormous investment of time and effort? For me, I would say yes. I now have a well-secured VPS, and I know exactly how it was secured, because I did it. I also think I have a good idea of most of the nuts and bolts of VPS admin. I've had to learn and know much more than I did with AtomicVPS. But I also feel like I now have a good team behind me for the stuff I don't know.

    So my new platform is a less-managed VPS with really great support, after the AtomicVPS fully-managed VPS with less-than-stellar support.

    If you're serious about hosting, I'd say it's worth it.

  3. #3

    Unhappy Amen (unfortunately)

    VPS Man,

    Thanks for taking the time to detail your experience with Atomic VPS. Hard to believe, but your experience was even more dissatisfying than mine.

    Won't detail my experience, and don't want to appear to pile on, but we experienced very much the same problems:

    - unexplained issues and downtime which should've been avoided if more care and planning were involved
    - spotty technical support, long ticket completion times, general frustration, despite trying to assist as much as possible (as an experienced web developer)

    My needs weren't nearly as demanding as yours, and despite repeatedly bringing issues to the attention of the ownership, things didn't improve.

    Found the company through WHT as well, and really wanted things to work out since the people seemed nice (initially, at least), but my confidence dropped so low, I couldn't in good conscience bring more clients to this operation and now am in the process of moving on as well.

    Wish them the best, and hope they right the ship. They owe it to their clients, and to themselves.

    Would like to know who you were considering but can't seem to PM you.
    Last edited by Postbox; 12-10-2013 at 06:59 AM.

  4. #4
    I think it would be great if they righted the ship, as you put it, because Laurence, whom I earlier referred to as the head honcho, seems like a decent guy. I do think they're trying. Sure doesn't seem to me like they're keeping up, though.

    So I have these mixed feelings. I have feelings of wishing them well, but at the same time, I can't think of anything even halfway reasonable that they could do at this point that would ever lure me back.

    One of the things I thought about in writing the review above was: To what degree had I fit their typical customer profile?

    As far as the AtomicVPS end of things was concerned, it's just a guess, but I would think that a pretty good percentage of their customers would have similar size and needs. Overall, I felt like there had to be other customers out there, and likely quite a few, who were going through the same things I went through.
    Last edited by Postbox; 12-10-2013 at 07:00 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with them. Anyway good and detailed review and I really liked your "tempted replies" mentioned

    Good luck with your new hosting company anyway!

  6. #6
    I also felt like other customers probably didn't have to be similar in profile to myself in order to experience the same issues. In other words, if I was having problems, probably the people with the more expensive accounts were as well.

    I was just looking at their web site. They've raised prices considerably since I signed on 6 months ago. I'm guessing they decided they couldn't provide the full management at the prices they were offering things.

    Or maybe they've been offering things at a lower price just to get some customers and some experience, and the price hike has been a long-planned thing.

    Don't know. I don't have any kind of inside line.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by nixtree View Post
    Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with them. Anyway good and detailed review and I really liked your "tempted replies" mentioned

    Good luck with your new hosting company anyway!
    Thanks, nixtree!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Sorting Office
    Quote Originally Posted by pseudonymo View Post
    Would like to know who you were considering but can't seem to PM you.
    Why not discuss that within this thread so that others may benefit?
    There's no such thing as an unmanaged server - It's actually self-managed. Worth remembering next time you're looking for someone to complain to.
    DATA VALUATION SERVICE: Your data's value is linked directly to your backup strategy. If YOU don't have your own backups then YOU value your data at ZERO. So why should anyone else care when you lose it?

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by VPS Man View Post
    One of the things I thought about in writing the review above was: To what degree had I fit their typical customer profile?

    As far as the AtomicVPS end of things was concerned, it's just a guess, but I would think that a pretty good percentage of their customers would have similar size and needs. Overall, I felt like there had to be other customers out there, and likely quite a few, who were going through the same things I went through.
    Quote Originally Posted by VPS Man View Post
    I also felt like other customers probably didn't have to be similar in profile to myself in order to experience the same issues. In other words, if I was having problems, probably the people with the more expensive accounts were as well.
    Interesting points, and very insightful. As mentioned earlier, my needs were pretty straightforward, no VPS, just shared hosting. Things weren't smooth at the simpler end of the spectrum of the services they offer, and based on your experience, obviously weren't at the more complex end of the spectrum either.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    US; UK/EU; Asia/Australia
    Ah, it is such a shame when you read such an extensive review and it is about bad service.
    I wish you good luck with your new provider, hopefully you will be writing a positive one next time

  11. #11
    Yes. And I may well write that review. :-)

    In the meantime, I've written a bunch more comments on my changeover, which I've posted over here.

  12. #12
    After 2 years with Atomic I have decided that I have given them way too much of my time. My experience with them basically matches the OP. In fact, it was so bad from May till Sept, they agreed not to charge me for those months. Atomic has had so many problems, I have lost 3 important clients in the last couple weeks. Basically, clients just could not longer take the constant downtime and the incredible slow response times to tickets.

    Several times I was told issues were fixed, when they were not.

    Atomic recently made a huge change to their platform. When all of my sites went down, I was told that it was my fault because I had lines in my HTACCESS file that were not supported and that I should have spoken to them prior to making changes. When I explained that those lines were actually inserted at their direction over a year ago, they did not even bother responding. A simple sorry would have be nice.

    I had a site down since Monday, that was finally fixed and brought back up today (3 days later). When this first occurred, all of my sites were redirecting to the CPANEL. I realize that it was New Years, but they advertise 365 X 24 X 7 support. It took over 11 hours after the original ticket was submitted on New Years Eve to get a response saying the sites was back up, but not all of them were. It was finally fixed this afternoon, but not before all my other sites went down again, this time due to a network issue with the database server. Still have not been told what the explanation was for the original problem of all of the sites being redirected to the CPANEL login.

    Techs seem to glance over tickets and not actually read them. They pick and choose what questions to answer and ignore others. When you ask for an explanation as to what happened, it is like pulling teeth to get any kind of answer at all. When you do get an answer it is either your fault or the fault of some vendor that shipped them bad equipment. They never take any responsibility of their own.

    I have been using hosting companies since the mid 1990's and I have to say this is by far the worst experience I have had with any hosting company.

    Now I need to look for a new host and get my remaining client sites to a new provider before I lose them all.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    VPS Man,

    Appears you are writing my story......exactly in same shoes, only difference I have been with HN for even longer time. Migrated to AtomicVPS (not by my choice), and not liking it at all. Need to research alternative, even ready to run away from Plesk.

  14. #14
    I've adjusted to WHM/ cPanel now, and definitely like it better.

    Hope you find a good home, jpaul! You too, kstruck!

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