For several years, I received emails from Godaddy – the company that hosts my online material — announcing my websites and blogs (then hosted on a Linux server) would be migrated to a newer server with a cPanel administration system.
Allegedly this move would prove more efficient and offer faster access to my site (access has long been dismally slow). I wouldn’t have to do anything, just let Godaddy work. However, despite numerous emails promising the migration, nothing was done for those years until overnight on Nov. 18, 2021. On Nov. 19 I received an email saying the site had been migrated and was up and running, and I didn’t have to do anything.
In NONE of these emails was there any information that I would have to change any files or do anything to facilitate the migration. That was untrue.
When the site was migrated, I found out only late last month, the wp-config files in my blogs were NOT changed to update the location of the new database. Instead, they continued to point to the OLD server database. They SHOULD have been changed from a name to simply read localhost, but it was not done by GoDaddy, and I was not informed to do it myself. NO ONE TOLD ME to change anything and the migration team didn’t change it when they should have. So I continued to write and work on it.
The blog worked fine until late on Dec. 26, 2021. I had been posting on my Scripturient blog from Nov. 19, adding about a dozen pieces of several thousand words, I uploaded media, made editing changes, updated the plugins and theme, tweaked content, had received numerous comments, and kept my almost 1,100 subscribed informed. Hundreds of hours of work were put into the blog since Nov. 19.
On the morning of Dec. 27, 2021, when I tried to access the blog, I received an “error establishing database connection.” Assuming it was a crashed database server (it’s happened before) I went to Godaddy’s online support chat. That was when it got worse.
A Failure to Communicate
Customers can reach Godaddy by either online chat or by phone; both methods appear designed to annoy and frustrate customers through lengthy wait times. Online you have to reply to a bot survey that asks generic questions allegedly to direct the chat to the right person but none of which questions offered the problem I needed to solve. And even when you answer them all, you have to wait for a human to come online.
You can also try phoning; an exercise in pushing numerous keypad buttons while listening to an irritatingly chirpy female voice tell you how much the company LOVES to do something for you, then inevitably you get placed in the hold queue listening to some of the worst canned music designed to drive all but the staunchest away. “Your estimated wait time is… 22 minutes…”
I went online first, but regardless of your method, there only seems to be three kinds of people you will deal with:
- The first responders. These are the Smurfs who are your first contact. On the phone at least they sound happy and eager, but in my experience, they have the technical knowledge of a chipmunk and you should never, ever ask them to touch, let alone fix anything in your site. They will probably break something (as they did). They are, I suppose, hired for their buoyant attitude, but as far as I can tell, they don’t have the knowledge or the authority to do much more than utter bromides, so after explaining your problem in great detail, you will inevitably be handed over to…
- A technician, who cannot be reached except through the Smurfs. The technician will require you to repeat everything you just told the Smurf. Technicians have actual knowledge, but most appear to have the personality of a grumpy African honey badger and your call sometimes feels like an imposition on their valuable time. They know what to do, and how to do it, but for many situations, before they can do it, they need the approval of the next person in the feeding chain:
- A manager, who requires you to again repeat everything you told the Smurf and the honey badger without actually understanding what you say. This is a person who has the authority to get things done, but apparently combines the tech skills of the Smurfs with the customer service attitude of the honey badgers. They may order something done, but not necessarily what you wanted fixed.
The Smurfs Attack
So here I was, in the online chat box, trying to explain to the agent about my broken database connection. He (I assume, but you can’t tell online) suggested the problem was in the WordPress config file. This is where the WordPress program (aka my blog) stores information about all sorts of necessary functions like the location of the database it uses to store all the information and posts. Because it had worked for six weeks since the migration without problems and had not been changed since then, I was hesitant to find fault with its settings. I didn’t want the agent to change anything, just to pass me along to the technician.
But the agent was, apparently, keen to be more than a mere Smurf: he went ahead and made a change to the blog’s wp-config file (changing the location of the database from the server to “localhost” which the migration team SHOULD have done six weeks ago; apparently the migration team left it pointing to the old database server). And then my blog came back – but only showed content up to the Nov. 18 date when the migration occurred.
I complained to the agent that it was missing all the work, comments, media uploads, and theme modifications made since then. So then he changed something — he didn’t specify what he changed, but the blog went haywire. It popped up with a theme that I had replaced many, many months ago, was still missing content, and apparently had other material missing.
(I later found out by examining the blog’s settings that he had disabled all plugins and changed the theme without either asking permission or explaining what he did. Plugins are the smaller apps that make WordPress do specific things like count page views, display recent comments, control spam, and so on. The theme is what makes it look good on the screen and requires considerable work to style it.)
I begged the agent to restore what he (she?) had just done, but the agent ignored me. Actual customer service suddenly didn’t seem to be in his job description. Now not only was the content missing, but the site looked like shit. I checked the uploads folder online in the WP directory and its showed that the media content I had posted was there, but the database was not updated to include anything past Nov. 18. Hundreds of hours of writing, formatting, modifying and updating the theme and plugins were lost in one thoughtless act.
But the agent ignored every text I sent asking him to undo what he did. He finally came back and, rather than addressing my concerns, he told me I could order a $149 USD reclamation service from the company to fix what he had just broken. Old as I am, I can still smell a scam. I demanded he call a manager or technician.
Finally, after numerous such requests, someone I assumed was a manager came online (by this point I had been in online chat for more than 90 minutes). I had to explain again (via typing) what I had explained to the Smurf, and then what had happened, what he did, and requested my site be restored. The manager asked for time to review the notes.
I assume this also means a chance to go get a chai and chat with friends and family while the customer gives up in frustration. It didn’t change anything on my site.
The Simple Solution
Meanwhile, as I waited, I used the phone to call GoDaddy, and after the usual annoying phone messages, the endless series of pressed buttons, the banal hold-time music, and the explaining to the Smurf, I reached a technician to whom I had to explain the problem for the fifth time that morning. He grumpily responded, but quickly assessed the situation: I needed a backup from the previous database server.
Quick techie note aside: this is a file (called an SQL file) that I normally backup every week on my blog, but somehow in the migration, my backup settings were altered so the database was not backed up while plugins and themes were (nothing I changed). The SQL file can easily be exported from one database and imported into another and its size is not very great since it’s just a text file. Simple, right?
But before I could pass this along to the online conversation, the manager took action and did, as expected, the wrong thing. This is what I copied from his chat:
Restore request successfully queued ticket ID: 46376889.
We are going to waive hosting restore expert service product and raise restoration ticket where our team will restore content on date :- 26/12/2021.
Hope 26/12/2021 date restoration is fine for you?
I have raised ticket for restoration our team, with in 24-72 hours content will be restored.
Once a ticket is opened, apparently nothing more can be done. But I DIDN’T ask for one, and certainly didn’t want the whole site restored, and I DIDN’T need him to waive the fee for what his Smurf tried to con out of me (and I would never pay anyway). What I needed him to do was to undo the changes the Smurf had made, then get an SQL file from the older database. I could even import it myself. I sent a text message outlining the need to get the older database file. But nope, that was just too damned easy. He ignored it.
Nothing Gets Fixed
On Dec. 28 I received an email from Godaddy that said “Update for Incident ID: 46376889 – Managed Services – ianchadwick.com: cPanel Restore Request.” It noted that “We were able to recover the file content that was in place on 2021-12-26” and indicated the folder where the files were placed.
This was not, of course, a recovery, merely a duplication. The problems were NOT fixed. I was not looking to restore or recover deleted files: I wanted to recover the SQL database from the old server where the updates since Nov. 18 were made and put it into the current server so I did not lose thousands of words, and hundreds of hours of work and effort.
The database had NOT been restored, the theme had NOT been restored, the media library had NOT been restored, the plugins had NOT been restored. Posts, comments, and plugins that were intact on Dec. 26 were still missing. Clearly, the “simple” solution was way too complicated for the manager or the recovery team.
Try, Try Again… Same Result
So I called Godaddy again that day, explained everything to the Smurf and did so again to another technician who promised to look into it, but after an extremely long time during which I was put on hold while listening to the World’s Most Annoying Phone Music Played in an Never-Ending Loop to Punish Customers, the call was cut off (not by me). Later in the day, I got an email from him stating,
Thank you for calling hosting support.
It seems our call was cut short. In looking into your database issue, we found that the last backup attempt for your database on the old server was in August and was unsuccessful. Your database size was 4.91G. Our Universal Terms of Service states that MySQL databases over 1GB may have complications as they require much more resources to process requests. Due to this reason the database on the old server was not able to be backed up before the old server was removed.
If you have any questions, please feel free and contact our 24/7 award-winning support team at (480)505-8877.
He didn’t ask me to contact him to discuss further this issue or offer any actual solutions. He never mentioned the SQL file that would be around 500-600 MB. I suspect this email was merely an excuse not to do his job.
I was not surprised to learn Godaddy failed to notify me that anything was wrong with a previous backup, or that my site size was bigger than their minuscule allowance, and that a backup had failed. Once again Godaddy did not communicate crucial information to a customer who could have potentially fixed any problems. Godaddy let its customers work in a failed environment. But they are great communicators when it comes to selling you stuff. What awful customer service!
I waited a week to see if the company would actually do what they were required to do to fix the problem they caused. And, as expected, they did nothing. So now I’m struggling to recover posts. Some I have in draft format written in Word, others, however, are lost and may never be restored. And the drafts I was working on in WordPress are also gone. I have to re-upload media files, too. It’s a lot of work, but I will do what I can.
I apologize to readers for the mess, and ask that, if you copied or printed (to PDF) any posts since Nov 18, please contact me or send them to me to help the recovery process. Thanks for any help you can offer. And yes, I will be looking for a new host server, one with technical competence and actual customer service skills. If anyone has recommendations as to a better, more reliable server that can host WordPress blogs, please let me know.