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The Opposite of Competitive

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The “Weekly Rant” column was featured in the PC Mechanic Newsletter since 2005. Topics relate to some aspect of technology, which include opinions on hardware, software, new technology, technology companies, and computing standards.

I’m currently coordinating with a client and his friend on developing a new website for him.  The friend runs a modest web hosting service, so naturally, we’re planning on making use of his services.  For the sake of simplicity, we’ll just call him “John”.

Now, the company that houses John’s servers in a server farm runs standard LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) webservers and manages them.  He’s been using them for years for his webservers, so to make any sort of adjustments or additions hasn’t been a problem up until now.

We needed to verify that a certain plug-in was installed for Apache (mod_rewrite), which is primarily used to rewrite URLs into human-readable formats (like you see on PCMech), or redirect old addresses to new ones.  Anyway, this wasn’t a problem since most hosts install it anyway, but since John hadn’t utilized it before, it doesn’t hurt to double check since not *all* hosts install it.

When asking about mod_rewrite, the hosting company rep then mentioned that any extra services (and some of the existing services) would be subject to additional costs “in order to remain competitive”.  Support for SSL, and various other common server-side technologies, were going to be subject to additional fees (most of which require little effort to maintain after the initial configuration).  My question is, how can this be called “competitive”?  Usually to stay competitive, a company offers more features at a lower price.  This hosting company is offering just the opposite.  At this point, you can imagine how puzzled we were.

The second thing we needed to check on was to see if they ran Tomcat to support Java JSP pages and Servlets (this is the equivalent of PHP or ASP technologies, but in the Java language), and if it was subject to this new “extra cost” plan they had developed.  Their response was surprising.

“We do not offer support for JSP because it is a security risk.”

Not to dismiss their left-fielded reply out of hand, but like Apache (or any webserver software), if it’s set up incorrectly, sure, you may end up with security holes.  But, if you’re in charge of managing web servers, you should know how to set up and maintain the servers and be knowledgeable in most of the commonly employed technologies.

So, I’m going to have to say “baloney” on this one.  If they didn’t support Tomcat because it was a technology the weren’t familiar with, I would have accepted an answer along those lines, but most certainly not the answer they provided, and especially after their “competitive business plan” line earlier.

My best guess is that there has been a change in management, or there was some other source of inner turmoil, because from what John says, this company used to be very accommodating and helpful, which was a far cry to what was happening now.

The result?  John is now planning on leaving this server host that he’s had a relationship with for several years and taking his business elsewhere.  There’s a thing or two to be said about the way a company handles itself, especially with a dependable, long-term customer.  My best guess is that if this company tries to get any more “competitive”, they’re going to “compete” themselves out of business.

(Originally published in the pcmech.com newsletter)