My Day In Tech Support Hell: Remember When You Could Just Restart?

I spent my day on the phone with tech support. This is not the way you want to spend a day. Believe me. Good tech support representatives, especially those working in a  ”pre-sales” capacity should ask plenty of questions to make sure they understand what the customer thinks he wants to do. Assumptions or hastiness make for a bad experience for the customer. That’s me. 

I have several domains. You are likely reading this from one of them right now. A domain is the part of a web address before the ”dot”. Technically, the domain also includes the part after the ”dot”. 

All my domains are hosted by GoDaddy. Hosting means what it sounds like. GoDaddy servers (internet linked computers) are where my domains ”live”. GoDaddy is also the ”registrar” of all my domains. They are the frontend business from whom I purchased the domain names, and they handle all of the backend registration details which links the ownership of those domain names to me. 

I have created websites for some, but not all of my domains. Those websites are all WordPress.org websites. They use Content Management Software (CMS) by WordPress. A huge percentage of websites on the internet are WordPress sites. It is flexible, scalable, modular, and user-friendly. You do not have to be able to code in HTML or pHp, or python, or any other computer language. This is a huge boon. The low threshold to entry means anyone, even you, can become a web designer (with a lot of help from the developers at WordPress and their free pre-designed themes, and simple block editors).

Reading can sometimes lead to borrowed trouble

Anyway, I read too much, and this has a tendency to get me into trouble. I read a really cool article advising separating your domain registrar from your website hosting service. I had also read several articles like this one about the benefits of WordPress Managed hosting for performance and security upgrades for WordPress websites. A search of the best hosting services for WordPress Managed Hosting led to this article, which revealed bluehost.com as an excellent provider of this service.

So, over the last couple of days, I was nine-tenths decided that I would leave my domains registered with GoDaddy, purchase and create a managed WordPress account with bluehost, switch my websites over to the new server and hosting service, then decide what to do about my associated domain specific email accounts, that also are managed by GoDaddy. I learned bluehost had the same type email services, was a little cheaper, and could migrate all my accounts over. 

The last one-tenth I needed to be comfortable and confident pulling the trigger was to speak to a human at bluehost to make sure I could do what I wanted to do. So I did. At least I thought I had. I got a friendly tech on the phone after the obligatory verbal dance with an automated voice, and I told her my situation. She listened as I explained that I had several domains, and that they all were registered with GoDaddy where I planned to keep them. I told her that my current GoDaddy hosting plan was of the common ”shared” variety. I explained that the plan allowed me to have a main, default domain and under that domain, to create separate, distinct websites as ”sub-domains” that would each show up under their own domain name when typed into a browser address bar.

What makes for good tech support? Questions before answers.

She followed along and understood the structure I described. I asked her if it was possible to migrate the entire directory structure using a protocol called ftp from the server at GoDaddy to a new WordPress managed server plan at bluehost. 

I told her that I understood that the new managed plan would only allow me to utilize the premium resources of a managed plan for one and only one of my domains, the one I planned to be my main blog, where I create and post content, and which I want to load fast for my visitor’s sakes. Yes, she agreed, that’s how a WordPress managed plan would work. I then asked the crucial question: If I copy over the entire directory structure and make all the necessary database configuration adjustments to the ”config” files, will the other websites still work and be accessible even if they aren’t as fast, or as secure as the one I designate to be the ”main” domain for the main benefits.

”Of course,” she said. It will work exactly like you described it. This was great to hear, and it confirmed the same answer I had gotten yesterday via online chat with a bluehost representative when I had laid out the same scenario and the same question about website functionality. Great, I thought. I was set to go. 

But, a good tech support representatives, especially those working in a  ”pre-sales” capacity should ask plenty of questions to make sure they understand what the customer thinks he wants to do. Being friendly is not enough. Telling the customer what he wants to hear is even worse. Create the correct expectations on the front end. If you aren’t sure, say so. If you cannot provide what the customer wants, tell him.

The process begins – I got this

Believing I’d been understood, and mistaking friendly for competent, I got a fresh cup of coffee. Then I opened this migration guide and followed it step by step. 

The process started by downloading every file from GoDaddy to my local computer using a ftp manager app. (The details are beyond the scope of this story). This was pretty straightforward and since it was a download, it took maybe an hour for all of the files to be safely on my iMac hard drive. 

Then, I used phpMyAdmin to export the unique databases from my existing sites to my hard drive. 

Next, I created a MySQL database, user, and user account on the new server using the cPanel tools. 

Then, I imported the existing database files into the new databases I had created.

Then I modified the wp-config file so it would recognize the new database name and new database user name on the new server. 

So far so good. 

Next, I created a FTP user account and login credentials on the new host and connected to it via my ftp file manager. I got connected and uploaded the entire directory structure from my computer to the new site. I was doing in reverse the first step I’d accomplished about an hour before. But because it was now an upload of files, it was waaaaayyyy slower. It took 4 hours to finish. But when it was done, it was done. All the files were there, the file structure was duplicated and in place. I made sure the modified wp-config file was in place an accurate and went to the last step.

The last step was to modify the DNS records to point web requests for my domain urls from GoDaddy’s servers to those of bluehost. GoDaddy has user-friendly tools enabling me to change the DNS records as a bulk/batch change. All good so far.

Trouble strikes

Then trouble struck. At the point I went to the new site to designate one and only one of my domains as the main, default domain for may WordPress managed hosting plan, everything broke. 

First, I couldn’t validate my login credentials because the email bluehost was trying to send a validation token to was no longer working. (When I changed the DNS nameservers, the email accounts associated with those domains and GoDaddy nameservers stopped working because I hadn’t purchased, set up, and migrated the email accounts to bluehost yet). Then, I couldn’t get the primary url assigned because I had purchased it too recently from GoDaddy. It was going to take two-months to transfer the DNS records for the main domain that I wanted for my primary blog website. Ugh!

I tried next to get one of my existing sites working and again, No Joy! It was only then that I began to feel frustrated. My solution, more coffee, and another call to bluehost tech support. No worries.

I wish.

The next bluehost support person was as friendly as the first, listened to my situation, listened to what I was trying to do, and about two-thirds into describing trying to get several domains linked and working under my new plans, she promptly stopped me.

”Huh-uh,” she said, ”that’s not gonna work at all on a managed plan.”

After a few minutes of grief on my part, and profuse apologies on hers, she explained that the managed plan was one, and only one website. And that if I wanted to use it with my newly obtained domain, it would take two months for the DNS to transfer (absorbing virtually all of my promotional period). She suggested that I open a shared hosting account for the other, non-primary accounts. 

The sunk-cost fallacy is still a fallacy

And, sunk-cost fallacy hard at work, I did it. I freaking did it! I got an additional, separate hosting plan. My rationale was that I would at least still be able to separate the hosting from the domain registrar. After I clicked ”buy”, the helpful tech stayed on the phone for me to set up my login for this hosting account. I asked if this would simply append as a new service to my existing bluehost account. She apologetically said that it would not. She said each of the hosting services required their own sign on credentials.

I explained that I had created an account login, an ftp user and login, and a MySQL user and login for the one domain already. I said, ”Ma’am, that’s 4 logins for one domain. Are you telling me I will need to create that many for every one of my domains?” When she said that I would have to create at least one more set for the new shared plan, I woke up.

My smartest move was my saving grace. That and good tech support

The smartest thing I did today was something I didn’t do. I didn’t cancel my GoDaddy services. I got one of their techs on the phone. He was very understanding, very conciliatory, and very good natured not to ridicule me too badly. He told me to cancel the plans with bluehost, get them to release the DNS records, and instructed me how to redirect them back to the GoDaddy nameservers. 

Which I did. He listened to me. He asked me questions. A good representative, he asked plenty of questions to make sure he understood what I wanted to do. Only then, did he suggest some options. But he didn’t try to upsell me a thing. He simply helped me complete the circuit that I had begun at 7:45 am, close the loop, and arrive back at ground zero, status quo. 

He sent me an email with his contact info and some recovery instructions. Once you get back to where you started, and get a full refund, send me an email, he suggested. We’ll set up a time for me to walk you through what it is you’re wanting to do. That’s a good tech support rep. And that’s where things stand. 

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