DigitalOcean solved the problem and made life good again. We achieved understanding of the specifics of my need and that it is a valid one. Their preferred solution will require changes to their system that might be made in the future. In the meantime, they have agreed that I can have more than one account. That means that I can use DigitalOcean in the way that suits my needs.
Almost more importantly, it means that I can love DigitalOcean again. I told the guy that I feel silly because I actually had hurt feelings and was sad at the prospect of not feeling the DigitalOcean love. I guess I feel even sillier at my elation at having them not only satisfy my need but actually exert the effort to go through conflict to a happy resolution.
The title of this post has been changed from "Rough Experience" to "Awesome Experience with DigitalOcean".
I heard from a different Digital Ocean guy this morning. He was incredibly nice, clearly had read and paid attention to what was said last night and made suggestions for ways to solve my problem. I don't know what the resolution will be but, I'm leaving this post up both so he can read it to understand what I'm trying to do and so that the rest of the world can know that these guys are not only trying to provide an awesome service but are willing to reverse course when they see that they are injuring a customer relationship. I think that might even be more important than getting it right the first time.
Digital Ocean kicked me out last night when I tried to start a new client account using my own credit card. They told me that they are "not comfortable" with me using my credit card for more than two accounts (I have another client I put there already). Huh? Not comfortable using my 100% valid credit card to pay for multiple accounts?
It turns out that there are lots of people who want a minimal website and have no way of getting it. When a friend or family member knows one of those people, I sometimes end up making a small website for them. For years, I've just hosted the site on one of my servers. They never have any real traffic so it doesn't cost me anything.
But, I hate it. I have some sites that have been in my life for years and, if I want to change servers, I know I have to move those sites, too. What I really want is to be able to quickly fire up the site and then hand it off to the person. Most of them are happy to pay a few bucks to keep it alive. (I don't take the money because I don't want to do the paperwork.) I'm happy to help again if they need it, but I really would like to have it be their responsibility.
I've thought about just pushing them to a shared host, but, I've not seen one that didn't require a whole other learning curve. More importantly, I manage my software with git and no command line is a problem. And, I put parameters in my virtual host file to drive my software. Putting these sites a virtual host that would support how I want to work is too expensive for them.
Enter Digital Ocean.
These guys offer a very straightforward system to generate a virtual private server on the web. Their smallest instance comes out to about $5.00 a month. I can have a website based on my software up and running there in about twenty minutes.
Aha! A solution to my problem. I can quickly generate the new, tiny site. Because it's cheap, I can afford to host it as a gift for awhile or I can pass the account on to the person or I can invoice them and manage it myself. In all cases, if the client wants to use some other web guy, I can just hand over the password. Or, if I don't want to mess with it any more, I can just hand over the password. Or, as is the case with one more substantial client, I can fire them – and just send them the password.
The point is that I can, in an email, give the site to the client and be done with it. I do not have to do a whole project to change their DNS, initialize a server, blah blah blah. Send the password. Be done.
This notion came to me this summer. Having my own Digital Ocean account, I fired up a new account for a new client and started to work. This one is a little larger than the main use case but, the principal of being able to turn the whole thing over to them when appropriate still applies. Then a friend asked me if I could help out one of her friends.
Sure!, says I. I have this awesome new service available. I'll fire it up tonight. He can send me sixty bucks for this first year of service and Bingo!, we will have his little site working before sunup.
So, I hit Digital Ocean and create the account. I enter my credit card and, Bam!, the site tells me their fraud detector has found me wanting. The messages are all nice and unthreatening. Almost immediately, I get an email asking why I made more than one account with the same credit card. I think, "oh! I can understand that", and explain my situation.
Imagine my surprise when that's not enough. (No! You can't buy three things from me using the same credit card.)
I engage with some customer service guy. He tells me that they have "standard procedures". He asks how we should resolve this. Thinking, "Really, your standard procedures say, 'don't let TQ give you an extra five bucks a month?"
Instead, I tell him that it makes sense to have his software detect my anomalous behavior but, having investigated me and found me to be a real person, it seems like the 'standard procedure' should be to green light my account and let me get to work.
"We are not comfortable"
But, he ignores what I wrote (It's weird. when I reviewed the emails this morning, it's like I was talking to an automated system. He never actually responded anything I said.) and, after asking me to repeat my earlier explanation (was he really paying that little attention?), tells me that they are "not comfortable moving forward" with more than two accounts.
Where I come from, "not comfortable" is the same as "we don't feel like it." He offers no real reason. In my ire, I assume that he doesn't really care how I feel about, at least not enough to tell me the real reason – or, more likely, there isn't one. It really is that they value their procedures over my business.
I told him that I was bummed out about his discomfort and that he could delete the account I made but won't be able to use. He told me that he wasn't going to do the deleting. I have to do it. He explained the procedure I should go through.
I believe the real meaning of that was, "I just told you we are not going to work with you because we don't feel like it. What makes you think we are going to do anything for you. Now, you go clean up our server."
I have come to really value companies that want to have a good, supportive relationship with me. I send email to the Bare Bones software (make of bbedit, my code editor) and get a response from the principal guy. My main server host, Server Grove, tries to help me out when I contact them. Their main guy sometimes gets involved. There have been occasions when he actually did stuff that I know he didn't have to do to help me. I feel good about those companies and tell everyone how much I like them.
Digital Ocean has such a nice website and a good service. I thought I had found another company to solve a problem that has been bugging me forever.