Against my better judgement, we ended up trying out Rackspace’s hosting offering a few months ago.
We had some fairly logical reasons for doing so, and I don’t regret our decision for trying them. You don’t know the full picture until you give it a shot!
I guess I was hoping that our experience with them would go better than my first encounter, but unfortunately it didn’t.
We signed up for a dedicated server at a whopping £635 a month with fanatical support. We even spoke with a Magento ‘Expert’ prior to signing up so that we could be sure that these guys would really take care of us.
For comparison, similar spec machines from other hosting companies would be around £250-£350 with management and Magento expertise. Unmanaged boxes would be around half that, or even less.
So, essentially we were paying anywhere between £300-550 a month for fanatical support – the full, untainted, hardcore Rackspace experience.
£300-£550 a month that was largely wasted!
Our primary reason for trying Rackspace was their product. They offer some technical products that are not commonly available (meeting all our other criteria such as UK based, managed etc).
On that side of things, it went pretty well. We didn’t really find any major issues with the hardware aspect of the product.
We were told before signing up that a server build can take up to 10 working days. I found that pretty ridiculous given the circumstances. A company of that size could do it in a matter of hours – if they were really anal about testing, a day or two max.
You can imagine therefore that I was somewhat disjointed when after 10 working days (14 days total), we still had no server. I proceeded to make some enquiries and was told that Rackspace is a 24 hour business, so the 10th day could be anytime that day.
By the 15th day, I called again and got someone who told me my server had been online since 11am the day before, but my account manager hadn’t ‘activated it’. This would be very same account manager that emailed me the day before at 13:08 telling me it could be any time that day!
It was later explained that although the server was ready, the firewall wasn’t and that had caused the additional delay.
I just double checked my emails and don’t see a record of anyone apologising for the delay.
Overall we found that the quality of support was very mixed.
On the one occasion our server went down, I called them and our issue was dealt with very well. However, I realised some time after, that their monitoring systems didn’t alert me about the issue until after I called them, and it took me approx 15 mins to actually call them after the issue was picked up by our lowly monitoring systems. Upon investigation, the issue started a whole 8 hours before the crash and could have easily been avoided with some pro-active monitoring (which of course isn’t supported).
We’ve also had a number of support ticket interactions with them, and although it wasn’t me that was dealing with them, I’m reliably informed that the level of support was very mixed – some were handled well, others pretty badly.
I guess that is likely to be the case with any large organisation. If you get the guy that’s super helpful and switched on, you get great service, if you get the guy that’s not… you suffer.
We quickly learned that their Magento Expert is really probably only 1 or 2 people, in a large, large support team. So your chance of getting any kind of support from someone with knowledge of the application is pretty tiny. We also learned that in essence the Rackspace methodology if you want to do anything that is not on the server as standard is pretty much “we don’t support that, if you want to try it – go ahead”.
I’m reading a book at the moment about characteristics of great managers and how to build great teams. The section I just read talks about setting goals for service, rather than checklists. IE you can’t script great service, you need to set a goal of what you want your service provider to achieve. They outline 4 levels of great service: accuracy, availability, partnership and advice.
Those are in order of importance. Level 1 is accuracy. If you’re going to provide a product or service, you need to provide the product or service you said you would – you gotta give the customer what they asked for. As a business owner, I know how important that is. If you can’t do that fundamental first step, you’re going to fail.
However, it is slightly wider reaching than just the product or service. You also need to ensure that the ancillary products/services are also delivered accurately. Other than the actual product or service, I think that the billing and invoicing of that product/service is pretty high on the list of things to get right.
With all that in mind, working with the company that can’t stop tooting their own horn about how great their service is, I really expected the fundamentals to be done right.
You can imagine then that I was somewhat surprised when my first invoice on the account was generated with 2 mis-spellings in my name! Furgus Macdonals! I confirmed shortly afterwards that it was spelt correctly on all documents prior to that invoice. Naturally when this was brought to my attention, I mentioned it in a support ticket.
It’s somewhat unbelievable that a company providing ‘fanatical support’ can leave a support ticket open and unanswered for 14 days after I make an update clearly stating I’m unhappy.
In fact, correction – it’s not unbelievable – it’s pretty simple. Rackspace do not provide fanatical support. They provide mediocre support at best. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s appalling.
Overall, I feel that we’ve been sold a donkey and told it is a champion racehorse. Don’t get me wrong, donkeys are great – but they can’t win the grand national.
Providing fanatical support is about surpassing expectation, not failing to provide basic services. If Rackspace can’t get the basics right – how can they ever justify the whopping price tag?
Alas, I trust that when I tweet about this and @ Rackspace in the tweet, some keen-eyed and wholly switched on professional that really cares about me as a customer and ultimately as a person, will aim to right all wrongs and reassure me that they’re really not so bad. I can’t wait!