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UK webhosts in champagne throwing cat fight

Down goes RapidSwitch

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Updated Get your popcorn. It's time for the UK webhost cat fight to end all UK webhost cat fights.

Earlier this week, according to the forum dwellers at WebHosting Talk, the UK hosting outfit PoundHost sent a routine marketing email to a group of its customers - and forgot to hide their addresses in the BCC field. At which point, one of outfit's biggest competitors - RapidSwitch - snagged the addresses and sent each exposed PoundHostee a note urging them to jump ship:

Dear Poundhost Customer,

Switch your dedicated hosting to RapidSwitch, and we'll give 6 months hosting free, migration assistance, and a 100% service level agreement. As if this isn't enough, we'll even send you a bottle of champagne* to celebrate! Whether you have one server or a cluster of 100s, you can benefit from moving to RapidSwitch.

And the footnote looks like this:

* Don't worry if champagne's not your thing, we will send you a non-alcoholic hamper instead

Then, just days later, at about 11pm UK time on Thursday evening, RapidSwitch took its Maidenhead data center offline to repair a network failure - and many customers were left without service for the better part of a day. And counting. "We've got ten servers over there," one Reg reader told us very late Friday evening. "All [have] been up and [down] more than a pair of whores knickers [today]."

Countless other posts to the WebHosting Talk forums say much the same thing.

According to a widely-circulated note from RapidSwitch, it took the data center offline to update some Cisco routing software that was slowing performance in its network core. "We need to perform some emergency network [sic] as soon as possible," read the note, sent to customers at around 4pm UK time on Thursday.

"The maintenance is to perform an emergency upgrade of Cisco software. We are using a Cisco VSS-1440 as part of our network core, and we have been experiencing some reduced performance with it today. There is no cause within our network configuration and set up of this, and it started to have a detrimental effect on some clients today."

Some customers say they did not receive this email, but in a note to The Reg, RapidSwitch's Ed Butler insisted it was sent to "all customers with a service."

In describing the situation with the Maidenhead data center, Butler told us the company "performed some scheduled maintenance as requested by Cisco Technical Advistory Center. This maintenance extended for 3.25 hour past deadline." But according to customers, outages extended for much longer.

It appears that the maintenance began at about 11pm on Thursday. The company's original note said the changes would take about 45 minutes, but the customer quoted above tells us that as of 11pm on Friday, his servers were still down. And like others on the WebHosting Talk forum, he says he did not receive the maintenance email from the company. He was able to view the note only after briefly gaining access to the company's support portal - which he says has also been up and down all day. According to Butler, the portal has not had "such instability."

The customer was also unable to reach the company by phone, claiming that the RapidSwitch office uses a VOIP system that runs on the company's own network.

And of course, countless RapidSwitch customers are getting grief from their customers. "i think no matter how much compensation RS pay out, or waive for this months bill, they will lose 30%+ of their business as people have no choice but to spread the servers they have with other people," says one net poster. "Considering what i have with RS 80% of it will move over the next 6 months to other providers for no other reason that I do not want to take much more of the customer angst I have [been] receiving ever again."

Indeed, that Reg reader says he intends to move his ten servers to another provider. And you can probably guess who he has in mind.

Friday morning, PoundHost took to the WebHosting Talk forums, posting an open letter to all RapidSwitch customers: "Rapidly Switch from your current provider and get 2 months free on any server!" it reads. ®

Update: This story has been updated with comments from RapidSwitch's Ed Butler. Though some customers say they did not receive an email from the company about the maintenance and one customer tells The Reg that the RapidSwitch portal has been up and down for the past 24 hours, Butler says that neither is the case.

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

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