How to get help from Hosting Support Desks

Credit: http://www.emailgoodies.faketrix.com/

Every so often, our firm advocates on behalf of clients with their hosting companies.  Its not that the hosting companies are doing anything wrong or unfair; its that the clients just aren’t getting anywhere no matter what they say or do.  And its genuinely frustrating to feel as though your concerns are being dismissed!  So here are some tips to getting the answers you need from a web hosting company support person.

Be clear about the problem

State clearly what the problem is.  “My site is down” is not nearly clear enough.  You need to give the support desk more details.

Be clear about:

  •  your site address,
  • any error messages,
  • and what you were doing
  • how long you’ve been seeing the error

Example:

My site was down when I logged on this afternoon.  I don’t know how long its been down for.  I, nor any of my administration team was logged on at the time.  The last time it was working fine that I know of was last night when I went to bed at 11PM EST.  When I try to go to my site, www.mysite.com, this is the error that I get:  “500 cannot connect to database”.  

 

Describe your software and general use

When you have a website, you install files onto the server to show to the world – that is known as your website.  And there are hundreds of programs that put files on servers.  Some programs reside on the servers themselves, while other programs reside on your computer at home.  It will be immensely helpful when speaking to your host’s support person if you describe what software your website uses.

For us, it is WordPress, with a theme, and various plugins.

It is also helpful to tell them how your site is used.

Examples:

I get roughly 2,000 unique visitors a day.  I have an e-commerce site from which I make my living.  It is imperative that it be up and running soon.  

My site is a simple brochure site which gets 1000 plus visitors per day.  I have a conference coming this weekend, and I MUST have that site back up and running immediately!  

My site is on a VPS and I get 7,000+ visitors a day.  I have mostly text, some images, and I post a video every day on the blog.  It is my full-time income and every moment its down, means I’m loosing money.

Help yourself

Have you ever contacted support, and been told to refresh your screen?  Unfortunately there’s a very good reason for this.  Most of the requests for support can be avoided by making a few simple checks before you call:

  • have you tried another browser
  • refreshed your screen
  • waited 2 minutes and refreshed
  • cleared the browser cache
  • Checked a site like: http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com/
  • checked your internet connection – can you get to a friend’s website?  Check your email?
  • rebooted your computer

Make sure to let the host support person know what you’ve already done to try and solve the problem on your own.

More relevant details

It is really important to include any and all other relevant details in your first contact – let them know you are serious about solving this and have done everything you can first.  Other things to include in your support request:

  • have you installed any new software, plugins, themes recently? (this includes advertising widgets or other javascripts)
  • recently changed anything about your site at all
  • is your software up to date
  • are your plugins up to date
  • has the traffic or use of your site changed

Approach with caution

Remember, Support Desk personnel spend all day answering support requests.  If you want yours to get attention quickly, state why it is urgent and be polite!  They deal with cranky people all day long.  Be the one that is reasonable and polite and curious.  You will find a resolution faster if you are working together instead of at odds.