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  1. #1

    LunarPages = false advertising?

    There are many good reviews here about this host. A few not so good, including one I've wrote yesterday.

    Here's the situation.

    According to their published plans a Shuttle plan worth $8/mth, is offering a lot of features, including blog hosting, forums, MySql/PHP, unlimited DBs, etc., etc. Sounds too good to be true? Maybe not, maybe yes!
    http://www.lunarpages.com/plan.php

    And here's my situation: a web site which has about 1,400 uniques/day, some 12k impressions/day, an average of 5.5 pages/visit, 1 phpBB forum updated to the latest version with some 1,300 users but with about 5-10messages/day using about 25Mb of one DB, 1 DB for generating pages in the site, 1 installed blog MovableType with 4 users who write small pieces about 1-2times/week, nothing to download besides text and photos, DB designed and optimized by 2 advanced users, etc.

    Two months prior to our annual renewal received a message about "using excessive resources" and the possibility of suspension. Here's what they reported:
    Top Process %CPU 47.0 [mt.cgi ]
    Top Process %CPU 14.0 /usr/bin/php
    Top Process %CPU 12.0 [php ]

    This happened in August, during a peak in our traffic. Here's what this "plan" is supposed to allow:
    "Currently, your plan allows for no greater than 10% top processes and 1% average CPU usage. Also, we do not allow the use of movable type on our servers because it is often a high resource item. Currently, your site is not suitable for a shared hosting environment. "

    Good, we've talked about it a little, traffic went down after 1 week or so, and here is what they suggested:

    "You may upgrade your package to the Enterprise Plan. The Enterprise Plan is a larger package designed for current customers who have outgrown our published shared hosting packages. For more information on the features and pricing, please see http://helpdesk.lunarpages.com/faq.php?do=article&articleid=202
    You may upgrade your package to our Dedicated hosting plan. For more information on the features and pricing, please see http://helpdesk.lunarpages.com/faq.php?do=article&articleid=334
    [if applicable]You may take steps to correct the problem. This must be done before the seven (7) days are up. You will need to let the technician know the steps you took to correct the issue and get approval before being returned to a production server.
    You may look for a dedicated server or other hosting solution. Please remember that propagation takes up to seventy two (72) hours so if you decide on changing hosts you should allow enough time for propagation. "

    Since my site is almost non-profit, a jump from $8/mth to $50, or even $100, is out of question. Not only that, but:

    "Please note that the usage for the first and the last days of the mentioned period is even that beyond allowed on Enterprise plans. The ranges there are CPU and Memory % averages of 1.5-2.0% with TOP processes of 25-40%, while the account has a high CPU % average about 4% and its Memory usage is lofty too - 3%. Thus, account can be upgraded to Enterpise only if the resource usage spikes do not occur again."

    Are these parameters presented to a potential customer at the time of purchase? Of course not! And since the TOS clearly states that LP [or other hosts for that matter] can "suspend" an account pretty much whenever they find it necessary, and a customer doesn't have any access to these type of reports unless provided by the host, any potential customers can be easily fooled by their "published" plans. And then pushed to either upgrade to a much more expensive plan, ori simply have their site desactivated w/o any additional notice! Which happened yesterday to my site.

    Is this "bait and switch"? Could be.

    However I decided to cancel my account immediately.

    And now, just for kicks.
    After all this incident, I've contacted their sales dept. pretending to want to host a site with them. Here's my message:

    "I have a site with some 50k visitors/month, 400k impressions and need
    to use php to publish pages and use a forum with some 1,000 users
    with limited activity. Inside I want to implement a blog with 3-4
    users. What are my options with LP, and what forum+blog scripts do
    you support/recommend?
    Is phpBB and MovableType supported?
    Would such a site be supported by one of your shared plans like
    Shuttle or Voyager?"

    Promptly comes their sales dept reply:

    "You should be able to run a site like you describe using our Shuttle plan. If you find you need more bandwidth or storage for your site, you can upgrade to Voyager at any time.

    We provide the following scripts for forums and blogs:

    blogs
    -Nucleus
    -pMachine Free
    -WordPress

    forums
    -SMF

    However, you can install phpBB and MovableType if you prefer those."

    Should I sign-up with them again?

    Lessons to be learned from this story that I hope the moderator here will not delete:

    - what's advertised by a hosting co. it's not the "whole truth" about their plans
    - have a good conversation with their tech/sales dept before you sign up with a host and ask all the "good" questions taking in consideration your growth needs
    - don't be fooled by hosts' "user reviews"! Most likely they filter the bad ones
    - always have an alternative host available on short notice
    - backup your files daily so that you can switch quickly when your site is "suspended"

    ... and many more.

  2. #2
    Well Rovis,

    Thanks for this first-hand account. It's true that there may be some descrepencies with what the website shows and with what some employees say. It happens sometimes.

    They however did not pull a bait & switch on you. They definitely had some reason to pull your account and your usage was going above the TOS's description.

    My suggestion is to probably start putting some advertisements from google or another company to generate some revenue. With a site with that much traffic, I wouldn't be surprised if you could make a few bucks a day.

    Good luck with everything!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Posts
    1,715
    MovableType is one ugly lumbering beast. It sounds like their sales staff needs to be updated about what scripts are not recommended or allowed. I don't think the discrepancy is intentional, though.
    Game Servers are the next hot market!
    Slim margins, heavy support, fickle customers, and moronic suppliers!
    Start your own today!

  4. #4
    There are too many issues here that make me think about "bait and swtch" to give them the benefit of doubt!
    First, they advertise offers that are not true to reality in terms of usage. I guess in their imagination somebody with a personal site would sing up and use just a fraction of their offer on paper. Otherwise, any site with minimum of traffic, probably to the level of 1/4 of ours, would soon run into this "upgrade" plan.

    Trying to edit my reply, I ran out of the 15' allocated for editing! There are usage limits on this forum as well I see!

  5. #5
    I can think and previously wrote about 6 issues with this kind of service, starting with the initial purchase 1 year ago, when traffic was already high by their measures, and finishing with the way they still insist to aquire customers!
    To me at least this sounds like an atempt to oversell something. This type of practice should be stopped. It's not only LP, we've had the same experience at least twice with other well known hosts in the past 5 years.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    EU - east side
    Posts
    21,913
    It's not only LP, we've had the same experience at least twice with other well known hosts in the past 5 years.
    With the direction a part of the hosting market is headed, we'll see more and more of these issues. The imbalance between the data transfer allocations and the "server resources" associated with that data transfer is growing almost exponentially as the time goes by.

    Then there's also the need for webmasters to realise that at some point, sticking to shared hosting is only doing themselves a disservice.
    Last edited by ldcdc; 12-08-2005 at 11:21 AM.

  7. #7
    <translated> And what is that direction Mr. Lemnaru?
    If these are issues that some customers understand and can willingly solve them BEFORE implementing a site with hundreds of pages and intensive resource usage, why doesn't the host detail in their offers these issues? And chooses to hide behind a so-called TOS that gives them full rights and as a user you can't check or control in time?
    From my initial message you can easily separate facts from speculation: it's a fact that they, and others, continue to advertise heavily features that are for some users unreasonable. And when a user specifically asks about them and you still get a sales pitch that is obviously out of place... what kind of company is that?
    Yes, could be that they didn't try to force an upgrade, and that's speculation from my part. But, when you hear similar stories from different people, it starts to sound more like a fact than speculation!
    From a hosting co. pov, or any business that sells services, you can aquire customers by offering some bottom prices. That's volume, but after a while when the usage increases and you need to invest in equipment, personel, etc. your costs increase and your revenue/profit decreases. Then what do you do? You go to your customer base and try to "upgrade" them using your TOS as a leverage tool. That's simple business logic.
    We offered them an open door to increase their fee by a reasonable amount. But to jump from $100/year to $1,200/year... it's a long, long way!
    If they are inflexible, than we can't afford to host with such a company. So we've found a reasonable offer at double the current amount, with similar plans. We'll see how long this lasts!
    Last edited by ldcdc; 12-08-2005 at 12:06 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    EU - east side
    Posts
    21,913
    And what is that direction Mr. Lemnaru?
    I've stated it in my previous post. It all becomes a numbers' game, which, like you, I don't like much.

    When you are a host, statistics often show a less bleak picture though, with probably some 99% of websites using very little, and not posing any threat to the stability of the servers.

    The remaining 1% are easily seen as a reasonable level of "unfit" sites -- unfit for their shared hosting environment.

    http://hosthideout.com/showthread.php?t=19947 can be a nice read if one wants to see the dilemmas a host can face and the solutions it must find. Once you position yourself as a budget hosting provider, you must keep pace with the other budget hosting providers, or you'll fast lose your clients, because they're part of the crowd that's always looking for a "better deal". Fighting the price war is an exhausting endeavor.

    If they are inflexible, than we can't afford to host with such a company. So we've found a reasonable offer at double the current amount, with similar plans. We'll see how long this lasts!
    I wish you a happy experience with your new provider.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    756
    One of the problems is that the trend to huge numbers (space & b/w) in marketing is happening at the same time as the trend to dynamic CMS/BB/blog etc sites, heavy in CPU, mysql & RAM usage. It is difficult for anyone excep the host to get a grip on that & so it is never mentioned in marketing, but has a profound effect on a host. Hosts should probably have specific plans for sites that are likely to be relatively heavy users of these resources.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    EU - east side
    Posts
    21,913
    One of the problems is that the trend to huge numbers (space & b/w) in marketing is happening at the same time as the trend to dynamic CMS/BB/blog etc sites, heavy in CPU, mysql & RAM usage.
    Very well noted. I've never looked at it that way, but you're right. With the hosts themselves promoting Fantastico and other such gizmos, more and more people start to make use scripts and databases.

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