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Brandon Bohling

ExpressionEngine, AN Hosting, and Customer Support

Most often I am willing to pay a premium for a product or service that has excellent customer support. This is one (of many) reasons I buy Apple products. On a couple of occasions I have had a small issue with one of their products, I walk into a store, and they have immediately replaced it with a brand new product…it doesn’t get any better than that does it?

For the last several months I have been working on this web site as well as switching hosting providers. As I mentioned in, How We Got Here, I decided to use ExpressionEngine (EE) as the software that runs this site. Yes, there are plenty of free content management systems (CMS) out there and there is even a free version of EE, all which would have been capable of the task. However, I opted to pay the $99 for the personal license of EE.

Why in the world would I pay for something when I could get it for free? Well, I knew as easy as it was to use ExpressionEngine I would have the occasional question that I would rather ask someone about than to take the limited time I had to figure it out myself. This decision has most certainly paid for itself. I have already asked dozens of questions on EE’s support forum and have received prompt responses. Just yesterday one of the EE staff members took time out of his lunch break to log into my site and fix a problem because my hosting provider refused to help.

Which brings me to my rant about poor customer support. First a little background. I have been using WebHost4Life (WH4L) as my provider for years; first for all of my custom .NET web sites and then more recently a second (Linux) account for my PHP-based sites. My Microsoft account has always been top-notch: very little downtime, full control of my domains, and great customer support. However, my Linux account (which I believe they outsource) is absolutely horrible. Hours and hours and hours of downtime and urgent support tickets that go DAYS without being responded to…that is just inexcusable. Hence, the need for change. After reading this blog post and doing some quick research I chose AN Hosting. Granted, I didn’t do my normal, insane amount of research due to the fact that I wanted to get in on the Black Friday deal they had going. While AN Hosting is still light years ahead of WH4L’s Linux hosting, I still have a gripe. On day one of the transition I could not get my .htaccess rewrites to work…nothing complex, simply removing the unnecessary index.php from our URLs, which worked on WH4L. After many days of email exchanges they finally told me that their servers were configured differently than WH4L’s and that they were unable to assist customers with any software issues (including .htaccess). Even after explaining that THEY had the knowledge of their server configs and I did not, so how in the world was I suppose to fix the problem…they essentially said, tough. OK, maybe that is a bit harsh. There was one guy that did expend a BIT of effort, but got me no where. Again, it took someone from ExpressionEngine to say, “hey, I feel for you man…let me help you over my lunch hour”…and blam within minutes my nagging issue was solved.

It just so happens that EllisLab (parent company of EE) provide a hosting service as well, EngineHosting. I did look at it briefly before going with AN Hosting, but I decided NOT to pay the premium for their service…needless to say I won’t make that mistake again. After my contract is up with AN Hosting you can bet that I will be switching to EngineHosting. And why? SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SUPPORT!

Note: In full disclosure the links to WebHost4Life and AN Hosting are linked to my affiliate account as some less demanding people will probably find their services just find and why not get a little something in return? Is that wrong?