I’ve never formally written about NearlyFreeSpeech.net until now, even though I’ve always had good things to say. Even after some extended downtime I’m excited to say I’m still on the bandwagon. The reason is their transparency. I’ve worked with many hosts before, and none are as honest or transparent. Even the Rackspace Cloud gave glossed over responses to their problems. A few of my NFS sites went down just about all of yesterday because of a server failure. I logged into the control panel (proprietary, but I actually prefer it over cPanel or hsphere) and looked at the sticky support note left for all customers.
I half-expected to see “teh service is dwn!! were trying to fix it! sry lol!” as with most hosts. Instead, there was page after page of updates with details and explanation. After this, I was able to rest easy, because I had a good idea of how long it would take to get everything back up. Whenever it didn’t go as planned, they’d post another update.
I cannot stress how awesome this was. Yes, they made my downtime awesome by treating me and the other customers as if we were techs in the server room. I didn’t really care about my sites being down, because I knew they were working really hard on it and probably wouldn’t go to bed until it was fixed.
This brings up another point though: transparency makes your customers wet. I know it’s been discussed time after time, but it really is true. People don’t like “Our apologies, our service went down,” as much as they like “Our service went down from 6:30-8:30 UTC today when lightning struck main Big-IP load-balancer, and our failover didn’t switch the backup on.”
What’s a Big-IP? What’s “failover?” It doesn’t matter…treating your customers as equals and letting them decide if information is relevant or not will make them wet.
In my three years experience with NFS, this is the first downtime I’ve experienced. Their support was amazing enough to update every customer with detailed information about the problems they were experiencing and how they were fixing it. I cannot recommend them more. For larger sites that require custom services running, you’re out of luck. For blogs, informational sites, paypal-driven shopping carts (no SSL, yet), etc this is the best shared host I’ve dealt with, ever. They’re dirt cheap, and the only host I know of who won’t disable your site without a court order or copyright violation.