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Thursday, September 21, 2006

On Podcasting: GoDaddy.com - Web hosts that don't host

* Update 10:26 pm: According to Adam at MacCast, his site at GoDaddy has been restored. See his post for more information.

* See bottom of this post for update -- Douglas

Late last night, I noticed that my podcast subscription to the MacCast (http://maccast.com) was reporting an error. Whenever I see these errors I always drop an email or instant message to the producer, so they can check their systems and resolve the problem.

This morning, I found out that MacCast had been shut down by their web hosting company, GoDaddy. According to Adam Christianson, producer and host of MacCast, there was no prior notification before the shutdown and it caught him entirely by surprise. Christianson had purposely purchased large amounts of bandwidth (the amount of data his web site sends out to listeners) and disk space (for storage of his web pages and podcast files) to avoid the usual issues that podcasters experience.

On his temporary MacCast web site, Christianson explains,

"Suprisingly, MacCast was not shut down for bandwith issues. I had made sure to purchase plenty of bandwidth (2TB) and plenty of storage (200GB) with my GoDaddy shared hosting account. This is why I was so shocked when the site was cut off. I monitor my bandwidth useage and my storage very closely and I was using about 1.5GB of bandwith and 1.5GB of storage, so I was nowhere near my limits. So, like me, you are probably asking, "So what's the problem"? The answer is what I now know to be the dirty little secret of low cost shared hosting plans. They will sell you as much cheap bandwidth and storage as you want, but if you run a reasonably popular site using modern web applications, then good luck tying to acutally use that bandwidth or storage. I was shut down becasue I was using, according to GoDaddy, more than my fair share of the processor cycles on the server. Essentially you can have bandwith, you can have storage, but don't use the server too much or we'll spank you." (Continues)

To my mind, the most egregious failure in this situation is the lack of notification. Simply taking a server offline can deeply damage the revenue and reputation of a business and might even be legally actionable. I am not a lawyer, but I would equate this to a landlord padlocking the doors of a restaurant for no other reason than it is too busy and the traffic bothered the other businesses renting nearby. No laws were broken, no payments withheld. There is simply no basis for shutting down this site without some attempt to resolve the issue.

It seems that GoDaddy either needs to stop selling services they cannot provide or honor the contracts they have made with their customers. Selling a product that they cannot deliver, and then terminating their contract without any prior notice, is not only bad business, it is being a bad member of the online community.

Any decent web hosting company has checks and balances in place to prevent one web site from monopolizing all the processing of a shared server. Once GoDaddy has made a contract with the podcasters, it is their duty to load balance their systems properly. They have sold a service and signed a contract with their client. It us up to them to fulfill that contract.

This sets a dangerous precedent in the podcasting world, even though it has happened to other, smaller podcasters previously. If a podcast with nearly 10,000 listeners can be taken "off the air" on the whim of its hosting provider, then podcasting as an "industry" is at risk. The very grassroots nature of podcasting is threatened if web hosting companies begin acting like the existing television and radio networks. Through their "power of the pipe", web hosting companies can dictate to podcasters what they can and cannot say and do on their podcasts. As podcasters, we cannot allow our web hosts to wield unlimited power. We enter into business contracts with these providers and expect those contracts to be upheld.

A Call to Address the Issues of Web Hosting and Podcasting

Finally, this situation, less than 2 weeks before the Podcast and Portable Media Expo, gives all podcasters an opportunity to address the issues of web hosting and podcasting, which are almost guaranteed to worsen. The web hosting industry and podcasters, as a group, need to sit down and address these issues before they become any worse. Web hosting companies that continue to provide poor service should be held up to the light and suffer the consequences of their behavior. Podcasters require and deserve reliable web hosting that doesn't leave them at the mercy of their web hosts.

** Update (02:12pm PDT: The GoDaddy's Office of the President has just responded with the following message:

Dear Mr. Welch,

Thank you for the email.

We appreciate you bringing this to our attention. Our company is currently working directly with the customer regarding this matter. At this time we are not at liberty to discuss specific account related information without verification of the account for security purposes. Please know we will continue to work directly with the customer in order to find a resolution. Thank you for your understanding. If the office can assist you with further comments or concerns, let us know.

Best regards,

Melanie Schmitt
Office of the President

Previous On Podcasting entries:

On Podcasting: 2 years ago in podcasting history...
On Podcasting: It's just a hobby, right?
On Podcasting: Money, money, money
On Podcasting: Freedom
On Podcasting: Talking to the "old" media


At 11:06 PM, Blogger Douglas said...

mmesier.com has some good thoughts and comments on the MacCast situation and links over to this post, as well.


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