Why I Left Lunarpages Web Hosting

I really don’t want to be negative toward Lunarpages, but I felt that people need to know what’s going on with Lunarpages to save them from future agony at the hands of a company with poor customer service and that has little respect toward its customers.

I have been a customer since 2003. I left my previous host because I didn’t like having to email someone when I wanted to make changes to my account. Lunarpages used cPanel, which gave me a lot more control over my site. I was really satisfied with them and they were the first paid host I stayed with after leaving two other hosts.

The following year, I discovered and joined their support forum, Lunarforums.com. That was the beginning of a very long and prolific involvement with the community. I enjoyed helping out other users, learning from them, and participating in off-the-wall sometimes inane chats. Their support staff were great, too, with quick response times and competent handling of issues or requests.

Then in the past couple of years, support quality made a noticeable turn for the worse. When I submitted a ticket, I got a request for verification although I had included it in my initial request. The careless reading of the message resulting in me having to go through the queue again. That’s annoying but not horrible. What was horrible was when I requested them to change MX records so I can have my email handled elsewhere and they somehow messed up the settings. That resulted in my email going into a blackhole during the hours after they made the change and before I discovered it. Fortunately, I was able to get quick help from someone outside of the official support system. So that was just one of many examples of why I became hesitant to ever ask for support from their technical support staff. This has been going on for over a year, but it wasn’t enough for me to think about leaving.

A few months ago, they changed their affiliate policy so that people got paid after three sales. (I was going to link to the thread discussing this change in the forums but they either deleted it or moved it to the moderator-only forum). Yes, I was an affiliate since I had really believed in the company and was happy to refer them to others. It didn’t hurt to recoup some money to help pay for hosting. The thing was that I made one sale a year. That would have meant I wouldn’t get paid for three years after the first one went through. It felt like a slap in the face toward people who had been their biggest fans. A lot of people complained about this. Lunarpages refused to listen to feedback. I decided that I wasn’t going to help them make money while I might get a delayed payment or maybe never get it. The incident also reminded me about their declining support quality and I could not in good conscience refer people to them any longer.

The last straw was when it was discovered that Lunarpages had changed the server settings so sites that did not have a custom 404 would display spammy advertisements. Fortunately, I had custom error pages already so this change didn’t affect my site. It did affect me in that I lost trust in Lunarpages. Unlike other big changes they made, there was no announcement. The worse part was that the spammy pages included the domain’s name, as well as a section called the domain’s Favorites which linked to sites like online dating. There was no link for the lost visitor to return to the site. They would only get whisked away to other sites that had nothing to do with the site owner.

In the forum thread that started in response to this change, there was a lot of customer outrage. The reason why people got paid hosting is so we don’t have to put up with advertisements or the host’s intrusion into the site. Lunarpages’ justification for the spam pages was that their free hosting for US K-12 schools was getting expensive so that they wanted to use the money made from customers’ error pages to help pay for costs of the charity program. If one can believe that explanation, it can’t be argued that it’s not noble of them. However, it wasn’t enough to calm down all upset customers. Lunarpages did this behind customers’ backs, and not all customers would have chosen this particular cause, especially those outside the US. I’m for helping to improve the US education system but honestly, is web hosting the answer to helping schools when there are so many other things that could be improved?

Lunarpages started to censor forum posts that questioned what they did. News of this spread around and Lunarpages customers went elsewhere to vent their frustrations since their voices were being silenced by Lunarpages. They even banned longtime and beloved members of the forum.

Web Hosting Forum: Lunarpages client’s 404 error pages issue. The discussion went on for 16 pages. It was closed by a moderator after Lunarpages scrapped the program. It was pretty sketchy to lock the thread. It made it appear as if WHF was either in bed with LP, or in its pocket.

Merlin’s Minute: When a Web Host Goes Bad. Particularly, check out a comment written by a Lunarpages employee, a.ka. LP Fan. It’s not an official proclamation from the company, but it gives insight into the disregard and hostility directed toward their customers possessed by staff.

Unofficial DreamHost Blog: Free Hosting to Lunarpages Refugees. This includes some more details on the fiasco, as well as a screenshot of one of the pages, which had a lot of templates.

DreamHost Web Hosting Blog: Robbing Your Customers. DreamHost offered to give free hosting for a year for Lunarpages refugees. Too bad for me that I had signed up the day before this promo was announced, but I had already saved money from one of their affiliates. As many commenters in the blog post bashed Lunarpages, someone representing LP finally added this:

ok, so here’s the deal. what was well intentioned turned out to be ill thought out. if ANYONE thinks it is sleazy, we want no part of it. It was meant to come out of testing tomorrow and go live with announcements on Friday.The 404 error program has been scraped.

That was good news for customers who were still with LP. However, it’s still a BS answer. We had already told them in the forums that what they did was unethical. It took public shaming outside of their bubble to finally back down. They had never told us that it was a test. Why would they not say that if it were? Since then, there has been no announcement in lunarforums nor the company blog to let people know what they did and to apologize for it. It’s kind of hard to apologize for something when a lot of customers weren’t informed about it.

After all this badness, it worked out well in the end. It made me look around for another host, which turned out to be so much better. With its control panel that was built in-house, I could do even more at DreamHost without having to contact support. Speaking of which, here’s the exchange when I requested LP unlock my domain in order for me to change the nameservers to DreamHost.

From me:

Hello,

Could you please unlock my domain: takethu.com ?

Verification:
{snipped}

Thank you.

Support:

Hello,

Are you trying to transfer your domain, it seems that takethu.com is resolving for me, please shed some light to your query.

Thank you for your time and patience.

Me:

Hello,

I don’t have any issues with the domain. I would like to make a change that requires the domain to be unlocked. I’m sorry, but I don’t see why I need to explain the reason for my request when unlocking a domain is something I can easily do with any other registrar.

Thank you.

Doesn’t that show a quota system that results in people responding with unhelpful replies in order to inflate their numbers? Finally, a veteran staff member unlocked my domain, no questions asked. Despite my unhappiness with current state of Lunarpages support, I still respect the veteran staff members, whose names I am always happy to see in my support tickets because I know they will do things competently.

Whew! I think this is one of the longest posts I’ve written, if not the longest.

BTW, you’ll probably see my DreamHost ads in the sidebar and maybe question my credibility or motives. I didn’t post this to make any sales. I provided information on how to get an even better deal from DreamHost’s promo. :)

20 thoughts on “Why I Left Lunarpages Web Hosting”

  1. Congrats Thu on the well-thought out and accurate post. You’ve made very good points and I hope that a lot of folks will make good use of it. It’s sad indeed that things had to come to this but like I said once before: “Enough is enough!”

    Too bad LP won’t “man up” to their mistake and apologize to the customers they banned and/or censored. It’s not like they don’t have a way to contact them. ;)

  2. I think the loss of trust is the biggest thing that hurts Lunarpages in this whole fiasco. In my opinion, they essentially hijacked the domains of paying customers who had not setup a custom 404 error page in an effort to make more money. Sure, the money was supposedly going towards a cause I might support, but the way in which they did it seems a bit underhanded. They were basically praying on their customers who either didn’t know it was possible to setup a custom 404 page or didn’t know how to do it. The only way customers found out about this was when it became public in the forum because a customer thought it was “odd’ and asked about it. We don’t know how long it was really “in testing” before that post was made, nor was there ever any mention that it was a “test”. Since this was apparently done on most (if not all)l of their shared servers, impacting thousands of domains, it was a rather large scale unannounced “test”. I almost wonder if the “test” was just to see if anyone noticed or not. It became obvious very quickly that customers who found out about it were outraged by this move, so why not end the “test” at that point rather than leaving it running for almost a week.

    And why bother changing their TOS during this “test”? Yes, that’s right. After it came to light what they did, they changed their TOS to include a clause granting LP limited usage rights of customer domain names. And since they also have a clause that changes in the TOS go into effect immediately upon being posted, several customers were suddenly “stuck” with something they never agreed to. When the “test” ended, the limited use rights to the domain name clause was taken out.

    Now I’m just worried what their next change to the TOS will be and how long it will take before someone brings it to light… So, like others, I’m now in the process of moving my site away from Lunarpages.

    (NOTE: Be sure to look for information about when changes in the TOS go into effect before signing up with a web host. Dreamhost, for example, states that changes in the TOS do not go into effect until renewal.)

    And I think this is the longest comment I’ve ever posted :) Though others about this issue might come close.

  3. I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what the issue is, moof. I reviewed the ToS before I signed up and saw the relevant portion pertaining to non-website storage:

    The customer agrees to make use of DreamHost Web Hosting servers primarily for the purpose of hosting a website, and associated email functions. Data uploaded must be primarily for this purpose.. DreamHost Web Hosting servers are not intended as a data backup or archiving service. DreamHost Web Hosting reserves the right to negotiate additional charges with the Customer and/or the discontinuation of the backups/archives at their discretion. If you exceed your allocated transfer bandwidth for a month, you will be billed at the rate of $1 per additional 10GB.

    I understood that the storage space is meant for my website, not for backup storage. I even pointed out the ToS when someone in the DH discussion board asked about using webhost storage for personal files. This was without seeing the blog post you referenced.

    This restriction is not unique to DreamHost. For the amount that we pay for web hosting, it’s a lot to expect to use the space for unrelated files. Think about it this way, when servers fill up, they need to move things around. For regular storage services, that’s probably not a big deal. For web host servers, it could result in downtime for web sites on the server.

  4. @ moof: I believe the TOS is something that should be looked at closely as well. However, when a company does what’s been described here and elsewhere: (http://merlinsminute.com/2007/10/05/when-a-web-host-goes-bad/) and then alters their TOS to cover themselves only after, I might add, they’ve been discovered by their customers? Now that’s just not right and most certainly loses the trust of the customer.

    I’d also like to point out that only after LP conceded defeat did they re-alter their TOS, pulling out the inserted piece about the custom error pages.

    So, how would you react to a company you hired to host your website when they conducted business like this?

  5. I’m sorry I never read this before. I subscribed over at Lunarpages a little less than a year.

    I already had several issues, but with perseverance and tenacity, I solved most of them. I’m always afraid to see another mail from the support telling me my website had been moved because of excessive use resources.

    I wanted to go to Dreamhost, but I have a big screenscaps gallery (made by me) and some of my friends were kicked out from there because of that :(

    I bookmarked your link, and will refer to it in the futur.

    Sam

  6. I really enjoyed reading your review. I have recently had a support issue with Lunarpages. I was reading several forums and came across your post about lunarpages. I have to agree that the latest support is not what it once was. I used to love this host–support was quick and accurate. In the last year the support has come slower but things were still resolved.

    The latest issue is clearly an issue that support needs to resolve (in the forum someone else had the same problem and were told to contact support). Unfortunately support keeps giving me really bizarre answers that have nothing to do with anything.

    It’s obviously time to go. It’s too bad. At one time LP was a reliable company and I really liked them.

  7. I am trying to upload a new site for a client. I use a Mac and had a hard time uploading to Lunar (whom my client uses). I called support who flatly said they don’t support Mac. So I moved (or attempted to move) the domain name to a mac friendly host. Now I can’t even get into the account at all!! It’s like they see I’m trying to move the client/account and they’re not going to let it happen! Weird! Anyone know who I can report this to?

  8. So where do you go for an adequate hosting ?

    I’m with LunarPeges now and have run into the same problems you describe, including having my posts deleted from their forum and being blacklisted.

  9. @Becky: This doesn’t surprise me one bit. Mac or PC makes no difference. All you may have had was an issue with FTP’ing to your client’s site and LP’s support made an issue out of it because you used a Mac? Ridiculous! I hope you’ve been able to work this out since.

    @Peter: Give InMotion Hosting, Hostgator or DreamHost a try. They have decent reputations as shared server hosts. Run a search on Google for each and you’ll find plenty of info about them.

    Sorry you’re getting LP’s “cold shoulder” treatment. It’s obvious that they still treat any criticism as bad publicity. They still haven’t grown up yet.

  10. Hi

    Yes for me Lunarpages have a bad customer services, and If you have hosting many sites, with high traffic and use, I dont recommend. The site of my client was offline, and the company only said me: YOUR SITE HAS BEEN SUSPENDED.

    I have many sites hosting in my site, and have problem with all my clients, because one client have a high use of CPU. But, the problem of one application, have a perjuice for the other sites. I’m not recommend this hosting for small or medium companys. For personal site is very good..

  11. I found lunar good ..Their staff is friendly and also their billing department is good ..
    They do the work ..For me i did a domain transfer since some comapnies which are local wanted local servers..
    So i had to move .. But they did provide proper support.I had no issues with them. .Felt bad to leave them but as soon as my things are settled i am going back to them
    What i found good in lunar is email support ..Their email support is very fast..

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