If you encounter a problem, we want to help. To do that, we need information.
When requesting help, please answer all these questions:
- What exact service or services we provide are involved?
- What were you (or someone else) attempting to do when the problem occurred?
- What results did you expect?
- What were the actual results, including any error messages?
- How do the actual results differ from your expectations?
- When did the problem (begin to) occur?
Be clear, complete and as specific as possible. All of these questions have simple, obvious, useless answers. Avoid them; they won't help solve your problem. Make the problem obvious with answers that lay it out for someone who isn't you to understand.
If we don't have all this information, then our initial response will probably be limited to requesting it (often by sending you a link to this FAQ entry) so we can help you.
Details on each item above:
- Name each site (including a specific URL if applicable), domain, database, service, functionality, or email address you're having a problem with and how it pertains to us. E.g. "The site example which is hosted here."
- A description of what happens (or happened) may or may not be specific to you. E.g. "I was trying to upload images to the 'content' directory of the example site with SFTP." Or "All visitors to https://www.example.com/some/page started getting an error."
- Be as specific as you can; it's important. E.g. "I expected the files I uploaded to appear on the site" might suggest a very different problem than "I expected to connect to the SFTP server."
- Describe the problem. Never omit or paraphrase error messages. They are crucial diagnostics. Many of the error messages produced by our system are customized to include specific explanations or lists of things to check when they occur. Paraphrasing or omitting an error may hide an easy and immediate solution. Copy and paste text if you can, but take screen shots if you have to. Include anything else that provides context: output messages, configuration data, log entries, etc.
- Provide a simple test an idiot could perform to tell the difference.* that others may not. E.g. "The error page says 'Error' in small black letters and the correct page says 'Example.Com 24x7 Internet Plumbing: We flush the tubes!' across the top in blue."
- Be as precise as possible about times, and always include the time zone. (Good: "about 7pm Eastern last night," better: "at 7:13pm Eastern last night," best: "2020-10-01 11:13:41 UTC.") If a problem reoccurs continuously, state whether you're giving the time when it first occurred or, if you don't know, when you first detected it. If the problem is intermittent, please also provide a list of times, the more recent the better. If this is covered by timestamps in log files you're providing, that's perfect.
Other general tips:
- If you're asking about an error on your site, make sure you have your site's error log enabled. Then check it. There is a good chance that it will tell you exactly what the problem is. It's disabled by default to save space, but it's an invaluable tool for identifying and resolving many types of problems.
- Use the Site Troubleshooting Wizard on sites we host. It can identify a lot of weird domain and DNS related issues related to sites hosted here, so it'll help us to know if you've tried that and what the result was.
- If you think the problem is something we need to fix, outline the evidence supporting that. We control only a small portion of the Internet; ISPs control part, backbone carriers control others, and you control the stuff on your end. Making it clear why you think the weak link is in our portion of the chain saves time and identifies your issue as one we need to act directly on.
- Describe anything you've already done to troubleshoot the problem, and what the result was. This will also help clarify the problem, and will help you get faster help, because people won't have to retrace your steps.
*If you guessed that by "idiot" we meant "computer," you win 50 Internet points.**
**Internet points have no cash value.