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