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They Used to be Good, But Now Brinkster Sucks
Date 5/21/2008    Tags Web    (0)

When I moved beyond simple HTML and started doing some serious database driven web development, I did some searching online for what hosting all the kids were using. The one that came the most highly rated (and offered free personal site hosting so I could try it out) was

Back then I was doing classic ASP development and simply using an Access database was sufficient. I was quite happy with Brinkster, the site was stable, the features offered were plentiful, and the price was reasonable. Later they added mySQL support (they had SQL Server support too, but it cost extra)... while it was hard to find examples of people using mySQL with ASP, I managed to make it work.

I used Brinkster for several years without any real complaints. I'm guessing Brinkster was pretty popular back then, any discussion of good ASP hosting seemed to include them (you'll notice that is no longer the case). Ultimately I think they may have been a victim of their own success, deploying applications that weren't fully tested, expanding into areas they didn't fully understand, straining their web servers, having an inadequate amount of support personal per customer, and being run by those merely interested in profit.

The first major complaint I had with them came with the release of a new file manager tool on their site. I was in college then and often did work on my sites from the computer lab and just used their online editor. Now you would think that a company who specialized in ASP web development would make compatibility with ASP files high on their priority list, but the new editor was buggy at best when working with ASP files. Often times, you would open one file, an error would occur, and the only way to get the file to close would be by clearing your temporary Internet files and restarting the browser. Sometimes the file would save, sometimes half the file would save, sometimes the file would save as the filename of a different file (their file manager had a tabbed interface), and other times nothing would save. Not saving was actually the best case scenario because it meant you only lost your recent changes, on some instances I lost a whole day's work because the wrong file overwrote mine and Brinkster had no way to restore my file. I spent a few hours working with Brinkster trying to resolve these issues, but ultimately they just instructed me that it wouldn't work and I should use the old file manager. None of this was a huge deal though, as the old file manager was still available, but it seemed to mark the beginning of the end for the once proud web host.

Brinkster began dropping prices of their hosting services and adding new things like Linux hosting (whereas they were previously Windows only). It seemed that after this, reliability went way down. Brinkster is shared hosting, so some hiccups here and there are to be expected, but I'm not kidding when I say some combination of the web server and/or database went down daily (sometimes multiple times). Typically outages were short, 5-10 minutes, but when you run a popular website you can miss a lot of traffic in that time. When I would contact support, they would either tell me that it was up or say they'd check into it and return five minutes later telling me that it was up again after a reboot. There were occasions where my site would have been down for an hour or more and I would contact them and they had no idea the site was even down. Again a reboot was often the solution.

In other instances they'd make changes to settings on the web server that would affect web applications without any mention of doing so. For example, for years the

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