SmartyHost responds to customer backlash

Web hosting provider SmartyHost has admitted mistakes in a botched data centre migration that has infuriated customers and left their Web sites inaccessible. On Tuesday night, SmartyHost migrated several thousand sites from Primus to its new hosting provider, Optus.

Web hosting provider SmartyHost has admitted mistakes in a botched data centre migration that has infuriated customers and left their Web sites inaccessible.

On Tuesday night, SmartyHost migrated several thousand sites from Primus to its new hosting provider, Optus. However a number of sites subsequently stayed offline for an extended period of time, causing the hosting company's customers to complain bitterly to ZDNet Australia over the migration.

The injured parties rejected comments by SmartyHost managing director Anoosh Manzoori that customers were at least partially to blame and raised issues with the timing and wording of an advisory issued by SmartyHost prior to the Tuesday migration.

SmartyHost today admitted the migration could have been better handled.

"We made a number of announcements prior to the migration, and have now learned that they were not comprehensive and personal enough. Also, the scale of the migration was too ambitious, we should have broken it down into more manageable chunks and we have learned many valuable lessons from this," Manzoori told ZDNet Australia today via e-mail.

"In retrospect the planning, management and implementation of this project could have been much better and we completely recognise this."

Responding to one customers' claim he did not receive an e-mail notification shortly before the migration, Manzoori said he was "absolutely sure" SmartyHost distributed the message to all customers affected by the change.

Another customer was critical of the fact that both primary and secondary domain name servers were shifted at the same time, "thus removing all visibility of domains registered on [SmartyHost's] name servers".

"We had to change both as they point to the same server," said Manzoori.

"If we changed one then we have the issue of a domain pointing to two completely different servers and configrations at the same time.

"We are upgrading from a single server model to an enterprise EMC [Storage Area Network] on clustered Dell blade servers in Optus' data centre, which has a completely different architecture. Due to the scale of our migration, this is not as simple as some may think it is."

Manzoori also addressed concerns that customer passwords were changed and databases accessed without permission during the migration.

"SmartyHost has an obligation to ensure its system is watertight at all times to prevent security risks. Operating in a shared hosting environment, the security of one customer can become an issue for others. For a variety of operational reasons it was necessary to alter the details of some accounts," he said.

"Throughout this process SmartyHost operated within the privacy guidelines set at a federal level and no customer's privacy was compromised at any time."

He conceded though that the e-mail account details of one customer, inactive at the time, were accidentally sent to some other customers.

"SmartyHost staff were alerted to the mistake immediately and rectified the situation," he said.

"The company has now put a new system in place to ensure this is never repeated in the future."

SmartyHost has also flagged plans to offer compensation to those affected by the botched migration.

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