I’m Done with Network Solutions

webhosting

Usually when I write a post here it’s generally a positive review of a product or service. I figure most people would rather spend their time reading about products and services that they should buy instead of the countless ones that they should avoid. However, every now and then a product or service rubs me so hard the wrong way that I have to tell others about my experience (my old DirecTV post comes to mind). This time it’s with the web hosting company that I’ve used for over a decade. I’m done with Network Solutions. This actually isn’t something that is new. I’ve been slowly moving my websites and content away from them for a few years now. However, it was a month ago (October 1st 2014) that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Before we talk about the latest incident (the one that sent me over the edge), let me give you some background on my years of service with them:

 

It started with My websites being hacked

I have about a half dozen websites including the one you’re viewing right now, all of which used to be hosted with Network Solutions. Some are WordPress blogs and the rest are standard HTML sites. In this day and age it’s pretty common to hear about websites getting hacked. The hacking of my websites with Network Solutions took place back in 2010. My sites were hacked with malware and other ads. Again, this isn’t something new and even back then it wasn’t unheard of. However, the problem back then was that Network Solutions couldn’t seem to close the breach fast enough. As soon as I would get everything cleaned up, the sites would be hacked again and again and again, even to the point that their execs were communicating with me and apologizing. I couldn’t take it anymore and moved my WordPress blogs away from them over to Godaddy (frying pan to the fire). However, since my other, less trafficked  websites weren’t getting hit I left them with Network Solutions along with my email. Eventually they closed their security breaches, but for me the damage and lack of faith was already done.

 

The Costs were Rising

networksolutions-renewal
Note that they processed my “auto renew” on 9/25 for domains that didn’t expire until 11/24

I had one of their top hosting packages and several domains registered with them. Everything I had with them was on auto renewal. One day I noticed that my credit card was getting charged by Network Solutions and I was thinking in the back of my head that there wasn’t anything due right now. I logged in and noticed that they charged me to renew several domains (hundreds of dollars) that weren’t due to expire for months. This “cash flow” tactic punishes you for having auto renew turned on. If a domain registration doesn’t expire until 8/30 why are you charging me for it in June or July? Of course this prompted me to turn off auto renew!

 

My Hosting Package Expired  <- the beginning of the end

Last October I started getting notices that my hosting package renewal was due. So I went online to pay it. I used the PayPal option, paid the over $400 (yes I was overpaying for hosting) that was due and noticed that my account didn’t reflect the payment nor was the money taken out of my PayPal account. I waited a few minutes and no updates on either end, so I foolishly tried again. I got the exact same results. My account showed no payment and the money wasn’t taken out of my PayPal. Figuring that something was wrong I called Network Solutions and did the payment over the phone with a debit card. I went on with my day and you can probably guess what happened next….

Yep, the original two PayPal transactions went through and now I had paid Network Solutions over $1,200. Thinking that this would be no big deal, I called them to get the two accidental payments refunded. This is when I started to become unglued. I was told “we don’t give refunds.” What? Huh? Are you kidding me? I explained to the rep that this wasn’t something I bought and decided I didn’t like it, you were paid 3 times for a 1 year renewal. Can you not see this?

networksolutions-norefunds

After going round and round with them I was assured it would be credited only to receive an email later that day to tell me that “we don’t give refunds.” I called again and again and again. Finally I filed a dispute with PayPal and was eventually credited the over $800 back to my PayPal account. You would think it would have ended there, but oh no. Now Network Solutions was harassing me via email for, get this: not paying my bill! As far as their systems were concerned my payment had been “rejected” and I now owed them this money! This went on for months and they finally put a lock on my account (here it comes), that prevented me from (you’ll laugh) renewing my domains! Yep, they wouldn’t take any more of my money until I called to solve the issue with my account. When I called about this they informed me it was because a payment had been rejected. I explained to the rep on the phone the whole situation from last year and he eventually removed the lock.

 

I started moving my domains away from Network Solutions

Network Solutions charges more than any other provider I know for domain registrations. They charge $37.99. In 2014 that’s unheard of! The funny thing was that once I started the process of moving my 1st domain away from them I got this popup during the process:

NetSol-domainrenewal

So if I understand you correctly Network Solutions, as long as I’m on auto renew you’ll happily charge me $37.99/year. However, if I’m moving my domain away from you, you can all of a sudden renew it for only $10.00? Uhhh, NO! Sorry. I’m gone! Too late!

 

A Year Later My Hosting Package Expired <- the last straw!

After fighting the above for a year, it was time for my hosting package to be renewed again. However, I had no idea that it was due. Why? Every time I looked at my account it said that my hosting package was paid through 10/1/2015. Knowing that I would be GONE before then, I never worried about it. Around 10/3/2014 one of my users contacted me and said that they couldn’t get into their webmail. Not thinking anything could be wrong on my end, I submitted a trouble ticket through their website. 24 hours went by with no response to the trouble ticket and now more users complaining they couldn’t get in. I called support. I asked about my email accounts and they said “we don’t see any email boxes on your account.” Wait! What? Sure enough they had deleted my hosting package. No I don’t mean they turned it off. They deleted it! It was gone! My email boxes gone. My websites (the ones I had left with them) gone! Everything was gone! Their support people were scratching their heads. Apparently my hosting package did expire on 10/1/2014. I accept that. However, I got NO RENEWAL notices. No notice after the fact. No warning that if I don’t pay they would delete everything. Nothing! Nada! One day after it expired, they simply deleted all my content without warning or notice!

After being forced into buying one more year of their lowest package (I had to to get my content back), spending hours on the phone with support and several days later my email accounts and web folders were restored. As with any service I get that if you don’t pay you’ll be turned off. That wasn’t the problem here! I wasn’t given any notice that I owed anything. I wasn’t given any warning that my content was going to be deleted. They just deleted it!

 

Moved on to Bluehost.com

Once you lose my business it’s nearly impossible to get it back again. While Network Solutions was able to extort one more year of hosting out of me, I have vowed to never give them another dime. As of 11/1 I have moved the remaining email accounts and websites off of them over to my new hosting company, bluehost.com. Bluehost has been a dream to work with and to date no problems. They pride themselves on good service, affordable prices and US based 24/7 phone support. As each domain nears its expiration date I start the transfer process to bluehost.

I’m done with Network Solutions!

 

I went with Bluehost.com for all my web hosting needs

hosting

I haven’t been happy with my web hosting for a long time now. Let me give you a little history of  the sites I have and the various hosting providers I’ve been through. I currently manage:

terrywhite.com

terrywhitephotography.com

bestappsite.com

macgroup.org

creativecloudtv.com

and a site for my family reunion/tree.

When I first started doing web hosting I had it all under one roof (except creativecloudtv.com because it’s hosted by my podcast hosting company libsyn.com). I was using Network Solutions for all of it including email. While Network Solutions did all I needed technically, they were more expensive than other providers. I was even willing to overlook the higher cost because the service was good. Then one day my sites all got hacked. Malware, spam and just tons of stuff to clean up. Once the clean up happened, the attacks continued to the point that I ran from Network Solutions as fast I could because I couldn’t handle the daily hacks. I ended up moving terrywhite.com, bestappsite.com and macgroup.org to Godaddy. I know, I know, but I didn’t know at the time. Anyway, yes Godaddy. The price was right and everything seemed to work at the time. However, of the three sites I moved over, two of them were always having issues. terrywhite.com got hacked there too. Not as often, but it happened. Bestappsite.com got hacked too. Then it seems like Godaddy has too many sites on the same shared servers. Bestappsite.com was constantly having performance issues. It was like throwing the dice on whether or not the site would load or it would just be a blank white page. I called support and got the usual, “everything seems fine on our end, try reducing the number of plug-ins on your wordpress site. You seem to running out of memory.” Next I moved terrywhite.com to VPS.net. They came highly recommended and my site hadn’t been there for a week and their servers went down. I couldn’t believe it! Their data center had a “power outage”. Really? No backup power? No rollover to another data center. My site was down for hours. Ok stuff happens. If you run an internet service of any kind, it will go down at some point. However, my site was down again within a few weeks after that and again for hours. I complained and they moved my site to another data center. Things got better for a few months and next thing you know my site was down again. It wasn’t down for long, but it was down! Internet providers usually aim towards a 99% up time. I can’t say that I experienced that rate with VPS.net. Also I was paying the MOST with my plan with VPS.net.

Time to move on!

bluehost-05

I had some time out of my busy schedule and decided it was time to get my sites under control again. Bluehost.com came highly recommended. However, this time I did a little research before simply moving over. Bluehost.com is HIGHLY rated and one of the top ranked hosting providers for wordpress. Their prices for regular hosting and WordPress managed hosting was very reasonable and less than VPS.net. Cost wise it was a no brainer. Once I did my research and signed up, then it was time to move over. I moved over my photography site first. It was still at Network Solutions and not having any issues, but again I was trying to consolidate. Then I moved my family reunion site over and everything was working perfectly. Now it was time to move over my three wordpress sites: terrywhite.com, macgroup.org/blog and bestappsite.com. For this I needed the help of my web guy, Erik Bernskiold. Erik did all the backend magic of backing up and transferring my databases over from VPS.net and Godaddy.

Everything just works!

Now that I’m on Bluehost.com, (knock on wood) I haven’t had a single issue. The sites that weren’t working well on Godaddy are working fine now. Same database, same content and same plugins. I’m using Bluehost’s Managed WordPress hosting and so far it’s been GREAT! I did have a couple of initial questions and Bluehost prides themselves on having 100% of their tech support based here in the U.S. The techs knew their stuff.

You can check out Bluehost’s services here.



My Websites are Responsive and More Mobile Friendly

TW_all-screens

In case you haven’t noticed this site was updated with a “responsive” design a couple of weeks ago by the very talented web designer Erik Bernskiold. With the use of custom CSS he has made it so that the same site/content is displayed nicely no matter what screen you’re viewing it on. If you’re looking at this post on your computer go ahead and give it a try by simply resizing the window to be more narrow from the right. The page will respond and the content will scale or readjust as needed all the way down to a smartphone size. The same goes for my BestAppSite.com While I have the good fortune of Erik working on my terrywhite.com and bestappsite.com sites, I have other sites that I maintain myself. My Terry White Photography.com site is also now responsive thanks to an update to the The Turning Gate Lightroom Plug-ins that I use to generate my photography site. At last my photography site also looks even better on desktops, tablets and smartphones. The fun doesn’t stop there. I use Adobe Muse to author my MacGroup.org site and using Adobe Muse I was able to add both Tablet and Smartphone layouts to that site. Adobe Muse doesn’t currently offer responsive design, but it does offer the ability to create tablet and smartphone friendly layouts. There are pros and cons to both and here’s a great article that weighs in on the Responsive vs. Mobile Layout Debate. With that said, the MacNews blog (blog for MacGroup-Detroit) is now Responsive thanks to a template update by Page Lines.

twp_iPad

Like I said, I have Erik to work on my major sites that don’t require as much day to day design updating as my other sites and thanks to Adobe Muse, 3rd party WordPress plug-ins and The Turning Gate I can have a good mobile experience on all my other sites. I’m in no way a “professional” web designer/developer, but I do have websites to maintain. If you’re wanting to make your site Responsive and you don’t have an “Erik” you should check out the new Adobe Edge Reflow tool. If you want to build your own sites with mobile layouts, check out Adobe Muse.

Slickr Flickr Pro for WordPress

[slickr-flickr tag=”Australia” type=”slideshow” delay=”6″ items=”33″ size=”large” width=”650″ height=”488″ border=”on”]

I'm still trying out different methods of posting multiple images to my blog. Last week I showed you the extremely cool LR/Blog plug-in for Lightroom that allows you to post images directly from Lightroom to your WordPress blog. While the LR/Blog plug-in does exactly what I want it to do when I have a few images here or there to post, I was looking for another solution to post a "gallery" of images. Ideally I wanted to take the photos that I post to Flickr.com and have them displayed on my blog. This would make my life even easier since I can post to Flickr directly from Lightroom 3 anyway.

 

Flickr already does this

If you have a Flickr account you can set it up so that you can post a photoset directly from Flickr to your Blog! See an example here. However, there really isn't much control over it and it's IMMEDIATE! The minute I clicked "Post", it made a new blog post and released it without any warning. Again, there is nothing wrong with this and for many this simple solution will be just fine. As a matter of fact I could so see doing this while on the go or when returning from a photowalk and just letting the image rip! However, if I'm writing a more detailed post and I then want to include the images in that post then I require a little more control over layout, delivery and timing.

 

WordPress Plug-ins for Flickr

I started looking a few different WordPress plug-ins. Sadly almost all of them disappointed me in one way or another. Either they didn't allow me to simply choose a photoset (Flickr's term for a gallery) or they looked like crap in terms of display. I settled on Slickr Flickr Pro (at least for now). This plug-in offered the closest set of features to what I was looking for. While it oddly doesn't allow you to specify a particular photoset, it does allow you to select images via Tags. If you want to include a selection of images in a post, just tag them all with the same Tag and Slickr Flickr will use those images. 

You can display the images as a gallery (like my Australia Post) or you can make a self running slideshow like my images above. The Pro version allows you to go past the image count limit as well as it offers more customization features and better support. This is not the end all be all solution, but it works for now.

 

Yes I am actually in Australia

I took the photos above the last time I was here in 2007. I haven't had many photo ops on this visit, but I am looking forward to seeing you in Melbourne, tomorrow!

CS5 Evolution Tour

Add Images from Lightroom to your WordPress Blog Automatically

Although I really like WordPress as a blogging engine, I find the process of uploading and adding images to a post to be a bit archaic. You can style your blog just about any way you want using CSS. You can add video pretty easily from a variety of different sources. However, when it comes to adding images the process is still pretty painful and the one thing I dislike the most when it comes to writing a post. While you can upload multiple images at once using the built-in Flash based uploader, laying the images out one-by-one is tedious. You have to bring up the Import dialog each time. I found the Faster Image Insert WordPress Plugin and that has been a great productivity booster, but alas the process still requires that you prep the images first manually before you even bring up the uploader in the first place. That's where the LR/Blog plugin comes in.

 

LR/Blog is a Lightroom Plugin for Bloggers

With the LR/Blog Plug-in I can EASILY upload multiple images from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to my blog so that they are ready to insert into my post, directly from Lightroom. Once you install the (Lightroom) plug-in and configure it for your blog (including image dimensions, quality settings, etc.) you can then upload any images from any catalog directly to your blog. If the original images are in RAW/DNG, which most of mine are, the plug-in will do the temporary export to JPG first and upload the JPGs. This is MUCH FASTER than exporting out the JPGs first, then going to the browser and choosing them to upload. Of course it can also use your custom watermarks to watermark the images. Since it's an full fledged Export plug-in you can create one or more Export presets so that you can have a variety of different image export options at a click. Perhaps you like to upload both a thumbnail size and a larger size for people to click on. The plug-in even gives you the option of creating a post at the same time you do the export. With this option the images are not only uploaded, but they are also laid out via your custom HTML template into your post at the same time. Another option in this mode is the ability to insert captions under (or above) your photos from your metadata that you inserted while in Lightroom. 

While I don't always have the images that are going into my post in Lightroom, when I do I always use this plug-in to get them to my blog.

You can check out the LR/Blog plug-in here. It's donationware, which I happily donated to the developer!