Pressable Struggles to Retain Customers Following Recent Outages


Customers who have been following the Pressable Status blog received no reassurance this week regarding the current outage. The Pressable team is currently working around the clock to resolve the issues causing customer websites to go down. The status blog states: “We do not currently have and will not likely provide an ETA in this situation. The best thing to do is to keep checking the current status at the bottom of this post.”

The current outage comes on the heels of last week’s outage, for which CEO Vid Luther apologized on the company’s blog. Some customers reported 24+ hours of downtime. Pressable has been flooded with help desk requests, angry tweets, and emails. For the past two weeks the company has been hemorrhaging customers faster than it can repair the servers.

What’s Happening at Pressable?

Recent communications on the Pressable blog have left customers confused about the root of the incidents. The status post cites a litany of compounding problems, i.e. issues with caching servers, internal bandwidth limitations on database servers, limitations on the rates at which servers can be added, an isolated cluster that was causing trouble for the others, etc.

I spoke with Vid Luther to get a better understanding of what is happening behind the scenes at Pressable. From the outside, it appears that the company has a lack of infrastructure to accommodate the current customer load, but Luther said it’s much more than that:

The answer to this is complicated, it depends on your understanding of technology, business, and the WordPress eco-system. We are not lacking in terms of hardware or network capacity; we are short on the number of employees we have in comparison to the number of customers we have. Our entire team consists of 5 people, most people are usually amazed to learn about what we’ve accomplished as such a small team. But, when you have such a disparity in terms of employee to customer ratio, communication in a time of crisis like this suffers.

Over the past several weeks, the company has had all hands on deck to fix the problems, but customers have commented on the lack of transparency and Luther’s silence during the incidents.

“I would like to apologize for not having a better communication strategy. Hopefully, others can learn from this, and plan for it accordingly,” Luther told the Tavern.

“But, having a great communication plan doesn’t work for very long, eventually, you have to fix the problem for good,” he said. “That is what we’ve been working on. Over the past 12 months, we’ve had issues, and we’re tired of apologizing. I thought it would be best for us to deliver the solution instead of saying sorry once again.”

A Long-Standing Problem with Infrastructure

Customers have pointed out that while their websites have gone down, the Pressable site remains in tact. “This is because our website along with several thousand others, are already in our new infrastructure,” Luther explained.

“The new infrastructure has much better underpinnings, not just from a raw horse power perspective, but it’s been designed with situations like this in mind. I would say it’s probably one of the more advanced configurations out in the WordPress hosting market.”

In Luther’s post to the company blog regarding the previous outage, he mentions that the company anticipated this kind of problem last summer.

Fortunately, this is something that wasn’t completely unanticipated, we had identified this as a potential issue last summer, and had been working on upgrading our systems over the next two months.

What happened to halt the migration to the new infrastructure? Luther attributes it to an error in judgment.

The current situation is one of several scenarios we identified last summer, and then we ranked them in order of impact to customers, and probability of it actually happening. But, as you know Murphy’s law applies to all situations and people, and it applies here. We anticipated an event like this, and we designed a solution to address it, we were so busy building the new solution, we didn’t think about putting some safe guards on the old infrastructure. This was an error in judgement. I am to blame for it.

The root of the issue here is that our old infrastructure had a very large impact radius, and we didn’t migrate people fast enough after we had identified it.

Luther recognizes that the recent outages have had an impact on the business, as many customers are looking for alternative hosting solutions. He said that the team has ideas to help mitigate the losses once the situation is stable, but they aren’t ready to share those at this time.

“First we want to make the current system stable again, then we’ll work with the affected customers and do what’s right by them,” he said.

The five-person Pressable team is currently stretched thin and working overtime. Luther encourages customers to remember that there are human beings working tirelessly behind the servers and technology.

We’re exhausted, we’ve got pregnant wives, parents who’ve suffered multiple strokes, and some of us are still reeling from a divorce, we’re human, we’re juggling too many things at once, and we know we shouldn’t be, but we don’t know how to just stop. The tweets, the comments, and general treatment by customers and competitors has been a brutal reminder of what it is to be a human. Could we have done things diferently? Absolutely.

The hosting business and the technology and infrastructure behind it are complex. Last year, WP Engine, a much larger company that received $15 million in funding in 2014, had to address critics following a damaging exposé of its customer support. Eventually, every successful host will encounter the challenge of keeping pace with its own growth. Engineering customer happiness following unreliable service is an equally challenging endeavor.

Pressable is cooking up strategies for regaining consumer confidence following the recent incidents, but the first order of business is to resolve the issues surrounding the current outage. This morning the company opened up a room on its Hipchat account to add another line of communication. For now, customers have no choice but to ride out the storm and watch the Pressable Status blog for updates.


19 responses to “Pressable Struggles to Retain Customers Following Recent Outages”

  1. It’s unfortunate that it’s escalated to this level. This is every startup’s worst nightmare and unexpected from a company that has been one of the first to offer managed hosting.

    A few of our clients were hit with this outage and we had no choice but to move them. I wish them the best and hope they can recover from this.

  2. I can’t imagine what they are dealing with. Hopefully they are learning through this process and will share that experience openly, it will be to their benefit if they do.
    We have clients with their own hosting on Pressable as well and are crossing our fingers that things look up for them soon.

  3. I think the challenge here is that a company like WPEngine has over 250 employees, Pressable has five. At some point if the business is growing and generating more revenue they should add more people to the team or get more funding to grow the business.

    I feel terrible for Vid and the team, all are great people who I know are working hard. Still it sounds like they should have 10 people not five so if the revenue is growing with an increase in clients some of that should go back into the company so they can continue to support all the new clients they have.

    At the end of the day we’re all human and we all face problems like this in our lives, it is how we deal with them that matters.

  4. I admire their dedication and commitment to their customers, and I hope this will not happen in the future. Also, some compensation for the affected customers is definitely needed. Last time when my hosting company had a server outage for about 24 hours, and all affected customers were automatically issued 2-month credits.

  5. Pressable’s reliability issues surfaced late last spring and I gave up on them in August. It’s too bad because they had been rock solid and I feel for the team. But, like them, I run a business and they were costing me time and lost ad revenue due to the regular issues. Since migrating, I’m paying less at Media Temple with way better reliability (without a resource cap). I’m sure they’ll have their issues too and maybe my site loads probably slower, but uptime has been way better with less stress and effort.

    • By the by, I would have gone with WPEngine if the $100/mo plan was more generous with the traffic allotment as several of my peers have been quite happy there. But the jump from $100/mo (100k/pv) -> $250 /mo (400k/pv) is too much to swallow.

  6. I used zippykid/pressable for over 4 years. At first, when it was a small company, it was great – I even had the CEO’s cell phone number and he told me to call anytime with issues. Any issues I had were taken care of promptly, and service was great.

    After a couple years, they got larger and disabled all phone support. My credit card expired, and my account was shut down without a call – apparently they had sent 2 emails, and their policy was to shut down any account 30 days past due. It took numerous emails, tweets, and threatenings to get them to restore my data. Now I am in a fight with them to stop charging my card.

    I set up my site originally with a partner – he had the main login, and I had a collaborator login, but the hosting charges were to my card. We went our separate ways, I had the site transferred to another much better host (higher uptime, similar page load time, and phone support 24/7) that cost less, and contacted them that the account was to be closed. They said it wasn’t possible since I was not the main account holder.

    I offered to prove that I owned the credit card, and let them know that I no longer authorized any charges. They said they could do that. I got an email shortly after saying “Your Ticket #52*** – Close account – has been closed.” and I skimming it assumed that my account was closed. It was not – just the ticket was closed I have still been getting charged.

    I have contacted my credit card to refuse all further charges from them, and strongly suggest that you look at other hosting companies instead of this one.

  7. I finally have moved my site off Pressable to a WPEngine/Amazon S3 combo. I am so happy. It’s a big photography site so I liked their fixed cost for storage, but they have been awful in terms of downtime. Even worse, when I complained about some issue … I remember times where I would posting and site would just revert back to the way it had been ten minutes prior and other really weird stuff, they basically got snotty and said maybe they weren’t right for me. The attitude struck me as very cult-like. In terms of admin time, creating posts, WPEngine is WAY faster. With Pressable, I get a “500” error msg most of the time when I publish a picture and have to reload the screen. Pressable has never been ready for primetime.


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