Industry Trends

On the WordPress Outage

When I walked into the office today, my various RSS feeds, Twitter apps, and news aggregators were lit up with news of WordPress.com’s outage.

Now, we’ve made our position on the viability of free platforms known before. They’re great if you’re just goofing around, but they’re not so great if you’re trying to make a living. WordPress.com hosts millions of blogs, the vast majority of them being relatively simple “Here’s what I’m having for lunch” fare, and that’s absolutely fine.

However, they host lots of popular blogs and they have a VIP program with some pretty big names including TechCrunch, GigaOM, and a couple of CNN’s blogs. Those are sites that have a lot of users counting on them and WordPress made them look really bad today. With almost no outward communication other than a cheeky 404 page, a lot of businesses were in the dark about why their sites were down.

Outages happen, we get that, and we certainly don’t fault WordPress.com or Matt (Mullenweg, WordPress founder) for what happened without knowing more details. We love WordPress at ServInt – we use WordPress software right here on this blog – and we truly appreciate their contributions to open source. WordPress does not, to my knowledge, have any sort of issue with recurring outages. By and large, they have been extraordinarily successful, historically stable, and until last night their millions of users were probably 100% happy.

But, this outage is yet another example of the danger small businesses have when they rely purely on free services, and it’s also further proof that many of these services simply don’t understand the need for urgency in keeping their users informed. I understand not wanting to jump the gun and announce speculative or preliminary information, but the fact that really nothing was said is troubling.

I know this is going to sound incredibly cheesy but it’s true; ServInt has nothing but VIP clients.

Because we’re accountable to each and every one of our customers, and because we have an exchange of goods and an associated Service Level Agreement, we have a vested personal and financial interest in ensuring that you stay up as close to 100% of the time as is physically possible. As a result, our VPS and SuperVPS platform has an average of five 9’s of uptime (99.999%). We’re not perfect – those five 9’s aren’t a 1 and two zero’s – but we do everything we can to get as close to perfection as possible.

ServInt already hosts incredibly popular blogs like Android and Me, Sports by Brooks, and The Mac Observer, just to name a few, so rest assured that this is an apples to apples comparison. This isn’t so much a criticism of WordPress as a company; after all they make a great product and are a tremendous benefit to the internet as a community. This is a larger critique of companies that treat hosting as little more than cheap, forgettable infrastructure. It’s like building a mansion on clay instead of concrete; you learn – quickly – that skimming costs off of your foundation is a bad idea.

People come to us so they can start small and grow. We’re a service company that manages the foundational infrastructure of the web. Because we do what we do so well, incredibly powerful and complex sites can grow and thrive, make lots of money, and spawn even more terrific sites. When a foundation is solid, success is contagious, WordPress as a platform is a great example of that. Their hosting infrastructure and communication, however, has room for improvement.

I don’t want this to sound vindictive, nor is my aim to “poach” customers or do some sort of “rescue” pitch to angry WordPress clients. Events like this make our industry look bad as a whole, and I’m saddened whenever a company as stellar as WordPress drops the ball.

When real hosts – people who know this business – have a catastrophic outage, they’re communicative, responsive, and as transparent as possible. Companies that take their hosting customers for granted quickly prove they have a lot to learn.

Photo by Tim Patterson

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Comments
  1. Funny reading this after yesterdays 2 hour failure at Servint. There's a lot to be said for and against WordPress as a self-hosted or on WordPress.com ... but this post is just flat out disinformative, uncalled for and disappointing.
  2. I host a few wordpress on different platforms. It is still the best to host your own wordpress than free hosting. Limitation is the hurdle to further customise the functions. Network Bandwidth speed are throttled on free hosting too.
    VPS Hosting @ SGWhois /
  3. I realise it sounds like I just contradicted myself there, Wordpress the software is a great product seemingly supported by commercial revenue, the free hosting side of it was what I was referring to when discussing not being able to rely on free :) There were many free pieces of forum software that have gone commercial only (ipb spring to mind) and I expect wordpress may, in which case its well worth the money. I'd actually prefer them to charge, its a great product but it needs a reliable cashflow to keep improving. Money has to come from somewhere !
  4. We use wordpress as a vital part of keeping our site current. It allows techie and non techie staff to quickly be able to put out news work together on posts and when you get a plugin for lightroom it makes uploading galleries a few minutes work not 45 minutes. I tried wordpress first on our vps then on the hosted solution, the hosted solution via wordpress themselves was understandably limited, but its was completely crippled beyond use for us. There wasnt the room to customise so it just made sense to use our vps here at servint. Its really easy to install, easy to configure (plugins are a dream and there are plugins for everything!) and reliable. The software itself is amazing, I'd of happily paid for it. I guess wordpress has premium hosting but theres no sense in paying for that when I already have a vps at servint. It is sad to see them stumbling, free is a tough way to make money. Whilst I am really tight with money, especially the companies money, I understand the value of paying for what you rely on. I'd pay for wordpress, I do pay for lightroom, photoshop, servint, ms office etc because I need to be able to rely on it and have someone accountable. I could easily use open office and any of the myriad of free image editing packages (xnview gimp etc) but theres no way even with an army of talented enthusiasts coding away they come close to the paid packages in my experience YMMV plus the paid products have an incentive to keep getting better and fix problems, if they dont, they go bankrupt. I respect free software, it has its place, sometimes even in industry, but there needs to be a confidence in it. I know my vps uses free software, but I'm paying for servint to keep it working. 100% uptime doesn't exist as we have seen recently with other premium providers, what really makes a great provider is how they react. I remember Robert Marsh(?) getting off a plane when his DC went down, I remember Reed getting onsite to a fiber cut and servint keeping us up to date (including pictures). All in servint has shown a respect to its users when something does go wrong and they have always reacted to and learnt from the very rare mishaps. Now if only someone could explain why I am still watching kids tv when theyre napping or out ??!?! The life of a parent.
  5. Finally...someone who gets it and isn't afraid to speak the truth (besides me, and who listens to me?)! Will you have my baby?
    Mara Alexander /
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