I'm really happy with Render's support and will be recommending them for people to consider
Thanks to Render’s support team, 3 hours of scheduled downtime turned into less than 30 minutes. Render appear to be bucking the trend for scaling or automating away their support and it is highly appreciated.
The one sentence summary of this entire article is; Render’s support team are really good and having really good support is such an important consideration when choosing a hosting provider.
The specifics of the problem they solved aren’t really that important, but I think it helps to paint the picture.
I’ve been helping Niice out with some of their infrastructure improvements over the last couple of years, and we’d been meaning to move their main production database away from their old provider and onto Render.
There were a couple of reasons for this move, funny enough, for the context of this article, one of the things I didn’t personally like about the company we were moving from was their support. They had a tendency to ignore what you asked and answer based on keywords or assumptions.
Niice’s database is big, without going into a sales pitch, Niice is a really impressive tool used by a tonne of amazing companies to handle brand guidelines and asset management.
We knew there was going to be downtime as we moved the databases about, but we want to keep this to a minimum. Given they have paying clients across the globe, we knew that turning things off would impact someone.
When moving stuff across the internet, internal traffic is going to be faster than external. So if you’re moving a database, it would be really nice if the move was happening on the same network as the database.
When I had looked before, it didn’t appear to me that there was a way you could access Render’s internal network to do anything like that, so we had resigned ourselves to not doing that.
We had a plan, which was essentially turn stuff of, copy the database, restore the database to Render, repoint things and turn stuff back on. It was a little more nuanced than this. (by the by, luckily I keep my notes offline so they didn’t get lost when Notion decided to not work for me during this bit of work!).
We tested this several times and had our timings down so we could estimate how much downtime we should plan for. It was about 2 hours, so we planned for 3.
I decided to email Render’s support, sharing the plan and asking if they had any feedback. Crucially, I didn’t mention internal networks (this was my mistake, I should have).
Based on previous experience with other hosting providers I didn’t have high hopes that I would get anything useful back, but instead I got a thoughtful reply which confirmed the plan was solid and shared a way we could do it within their network to speed things up.
Doing it within their network was huge, and as I said at the start, reduced our downtime by over 1.5-2.5 hours!
You might be thinking, Toby, you’ve written just over 400 words to say to do something you already knew you should do, what is the point in this article?
Well, first of all, thank you for reading this far! Here is the point.
Without naming names, my almost universal experience with support across several hosting companies can be summed up with this list;
- Read the docs (and an unrelated link)
- We can’t offer specific advice
- Literally no reply or one several weeks too late
- A canned support reply based on some keywords I mentioned in the first email
The support team at Render had clearly read my email, had enough technical understanding to know what we needed and suggested an improvement, which they backed up with a links to specific guidance that would help me achieve that.
Furthermore, they suggested things outside of their service which would help (in this case, using tmux to ensure nothing goes to sleep).
It would have been so easy for them to reply saying “yup, looks good” or to link to their docs all about databases.
I feel like they matched the technical tone of my question and provided exactly the answer I needed to help me better serve my client.
Big thank you to Render’s support
This isn’t the first time I’ve contacted them about something, each time I feel like they’ve asked appropriate questions and given useful, human, advice.
There are lots of things to consider when picking a hosting provider, and I think many people don’t consider support when drawing up comparisons. In my experience, support matters a lot. To the point where I’m going to start recommend Render to my clients, and potentially move some of my own projects across to there.
In this case it was the difference between people experiencing 30 minutes of downtime or 2 hours.
If anyone from Render is reading this, please keep up the great work!