SSH Access & Heart Internet, oh my …

ssh access heartinternetSSH, or Secure Shell is something any web developer will have come across. Personally, every single website I deploy involves SSH where I’ll upload and extract a single compressed archive. This is simply good practice and most importantly, much faster than normal FTP. There are a plethora of further benefits in having SSH access – I won’t go into these here though. However, as common a feature as SSH access is, gaining SSH Access on a Heart Internet hosting account surprisingly, turns out to be pretty darn hard to get.

Moving on, I’m at the point in a project whereby transferring a rather a large WordPress (Eurgh!) based website to Heart Internet is required. I quickly jump on the Heart’s take on Cpanel, ala “eXtend” and look for SSH access. I am greeted with:

SSH server access allows you to log directly into the server your website is hosted on. You can manipulate your website files using Linux commands. SSH access is for advanced users.

If you would like to enable SSH access on your account please click here to download our SSH access request form which will need to be returned to us by fax or email.

All true of course – yes, only a web developer type of person (or similar) would require SSH and there is scope to make large changes to your hosting by typing in some tiny commands. Clicking on the link will take you a PDF, the contents of which are, in my opinion, frankly insane. In summary:

  • You will fully indemnify us against any damage caused to the server by yourself or anyone who logs in using your credentials
  • My full name, postal address, email and driver’s license or utility bill
  • To enable SSH access it will take 72 hours (!?!??!?!?!?!)

Heart Internet also go on to say that to enable SSH access I agree not to:

  • You will not leave your home directory
  • You will not attempt to view or edit other users files
  • You will not attempt to run permanent server side processes
  • You will not attempt to gain extended user privileges on the server
  • You will use your SSH server access purely for managing the website hosted on that account
  • You will not start server processes.

Personally, if SSH access is setup correctly, I shouldn’t able to do things like leave my own directory or edit other user files. That’s up to Heart Internet in my eyes. I know when I’m logged into SSH with say tsohost.co.uk I can’t access directories other than my own.

You’re most likely thinking why not just sign the document and be done with it. There are a few reasons.

The account is not my own, my client has decided to use Heart Internet for hosting – I (well, the company who employ me) should not have to agree to criteria thatΒ indemnifies Heart Internet if anything messes up. Secondly, I don’t fancy giving them personal details (my photo card driver’s license – wtf Heart Internet?). Thirdly, 72 hours is a long time. I’m aware Heart Internet have internal processes they have to follow, but enabling a feature on a hosting account should take so long.

I did inform my client that they’d need to sign their life away to Heart Internet. Of course, they aren’t overly keen on that either. No surprises there.

SSH Access is something very common and in my dealings with a lot of web hosts, Heart Internet have definitely made it particularly painful to get. When I compare this to one of my preferred hosts, tsohost.co.uk whereby I click a button titled “enable SSH access”, wait 10 minutes (yes, that 10 minutes, not 72 hours – usually SSH is enabled within a couple of minutes) Heart Internet’s take on SSH seems even more odd.

SSH Access is something VERY common and something every web developer will require at some point. I fully appreciate Heart Internet are saying with SSH you can cause damage or even delete all files/databases within a few keys strokes. However, most people who require SSH know what damage SSH could potentially cause and so do tend to read about the topic i.e. act responsibly. Hell, SSH access is pretty much a must now for and Lavael 4 based website as it’s all composer orientated.

Granted, in this instance and the stance I’m sure Heart Internet will take, is that FTP access if fine for now. Which it most definitely is – for small websites. However, the site is question has thousands of files and is ~ 3.7 GB in size. Downloaded and uploading that amount of data on an 11 Meg ADSL connection will take a serious amount of time. I’d go as far to say that for sites this large, SSH access is required. Hell, I personally wouldn’t like to even attempt to upload a Magento website without SSH, it would simply take too long to complete.

However, amongst the latter, having to fill in such paperwork simply drags out a normally quick/simple process into one that can take days to complete. This annoys me more than anything – like all developers, I have far too much to do and appreciate when jobs can be completed.

Finally, why isn’t something like this automated in such a large company, especially and Internet related company? I pity the poor soul having to wade through SSH access request forms. Talk about monotonous!

Having an account with Heart Internet used to manage and register roughly 70 domain names (domain registration only, I’ve never really liked their hosting personally) for a a few years ago. I will make use of Heart Internet’s “feedback” section to raise this issue with them – to be fair to them, I’d prefer feedback that way. I’ll update this post if I receive a response.

Interestingly, on their main web hosting features page there is a tiny popup that says:

SSH server access allows you to login directly to the server hosting your Website. You can manipulate your Website files using Linux commands. This feature is for advanced users.

Really, this text should have “…and is initially disabled. You’ll need to sign an insane agreement and enabling SSH will take several days” πŸ™‚

Has anyone else had a similar experience with SSH access requests with Heart Internet?

Published by

Rob Allport

Web Developer based in Stoke-on-Trent Staffordshire Google+ - Twitter

26 thoughts on “SSH Access & Heart Internet, oh my …”

  1. Eurgh, Heart Internet! I have tried to use them before for hosting and got particularly stuck and frustrated when trying to get SSH access like yourself. I was sorta laughing to myself when reading this post as it seems Heart Internet have not changed at all since last year when I attempted to get access. I told my own customer that I’m not signing such an agreement. It is something for them to sign, not me lol! The site still hasn’t been uploaded to this day haha :] I use vidahost now where getting ssh priveledges is easy – no silly forms involved! :]]] In all seriousness though, I do feel your pain when I read this post and hope Heart don’t make things too difficult for you.

    1. Glad to see this post made someone happy, it certainly didn’t help my situation – I’m still at loggerheads with my, now annoyed client and the infamous agreement form. Ta for the comment though πŸ™‚

  2. For [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] sake! Why do large web hosting companies like Heart Internet have to make things like this so bloody involved? I hate being a developer sometimes. Suggestion to Heart Internet – if you’d like to keep customers, stop making simple things very hard. I’d love to know Hearts exact reasoning behind this because I’m yet to come across another hosting company that does this. Heart Internet, care to comment?

  3. Hello friend. I too have nightmares about secure shell access with heart internet. I would like to know why they don’t make it easy like other web hosting companies do. There are security concerns, yes we all know. But the common practice found amongst all the hosts I have come across is to turn access on and off when required. I think turning access on and off is much more secure than leaving it on all the time after you have requested ssh access be enabled when you fill in the form. On my host, if I need ssh access I request it. In less than 1 hour later I have the access I need. I then disbale the access and move on. I never have to sign forms. I’ve advise anyone with Heart Internet web hosting move to [EDIT: removed link (whilst this is a good host, please don;t post affiliate links here :/]

    1. Purely out of interest and because I’m nosey, I would too like to know Heart Internet’s reasoning behind SSH access. I imagine they’ll quote security reasons though – if so, why are they the only host that does this? πŸ™‚

  4. Getting a reply from heart Internet on this blog would be nice, if not extremely surprising. I’ve read a lot of similar type posts about their services online and I’ve never seen them personally comment on particular blog posts – which is shame. It might be worth tweeting them this post? If they do reply, update your post.

    John

    1. Whilst that’s a particularly nice company website you’ve linked to using some SEO anchor text, I’ve removed the link. It looks a little on the spammy side to be honest.

      I agree getting a formal reply from Heart Internet would be good, but I don’t see it happeneing. Large companies rarely reply to posts like this – even if it would be a good idea in my opinion. Anyway, if I get any sort of reply or response from heart I’ll update the post.

  5. Thankfully i’ve managed to migrate a large portion of my clients away from Heart Internet after they screwed up big time on a few different things. SSH access being so difficult has resulted in at least 5 of these migrations and i personally wouldn’t recommend them to any one for various reasons which include the SSH as well as the way they treat customers.

    We’ve actually blocked them from advertising on thewebdesignforum.co.uk completely, it’s just not worth advertising this sort of company, no matter what revenue those ads may pull in.

    Great little write up Rob.

    1. Hey dude – just seen you retweet on this post, cheers for that πŸ™‚

      Yer, in all honestly, a migration away from heart Internet for my client here is looking increasingly more likely at the moment. I received an email from my client jusy yesterday and they asked me why the process is so time consuming. As they want to host their own website (fair enough) I directed to them to tsohost.co.uk where I know things are painless. I have about 70 odd domain registestered with Heart Internet that I still need to get around to transferring away – I have no complaints re the domain hosting, just their support. I find it veru rigid with no flexibility at all. I sometimes get the impression that if a support enquiory doesn’t fit in with a flowchart they have for a particular process then that’s it for me a customer. When I constrast this to my favourite host, tsohost.co.uk, for whom I could write a book on how insanely good their support is the difference is huge.

  6. Why do companies like heart internet make it so hard to For is to perform simple tasks? I’d anything there’re making our jobs harder. Honestly, I just left and went to 34sp, never looked back.

  7. I’ve just got ssh access from Heart INternet after loads of messing. I’m trying to do a simple mysldump and get:

    Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/var/lib/mysql/mysql.sock' (2)

    Well done Heart Internet

  8. Aha, that could be the reason, that’s why my development team force me to opt for god-ddy instead of Heart guys. I didn’t know that. I am not a technical person but now i can understand why my developers were afraid of Hearts.. πŸ™‚

      1. Well Rob, I think you must have a strong argument for Hearts, but i can’t understand these technicalities. As for my site is working fine, i wont bother Heats or Godaddy, but if anything happens to my site i will gonna get my developers for that πŸ˜›

        1. Yer πŸ™‚ For small websites I’ve had no issues with heart at all. I only run into problems when I need to “do extra things”. Heart have their rules I guess as they are a large company.

  9. Wow, you all have horror stories to tell. I can only speak for myself, obviously, but I’ve found Heart Internet’s support and hosting to be really good. Yes, there are learning curves to go through and admittedly, some of the eXtend options could be better named and easier to find, but honestly I’ve had no trouble with them. I find the customer service guys very helpful.

    Having said that!

    I’m just looking into how to install SSH – a Google search brought me here, so…

    1. I’m in the same boat tbh. I have about 60 domains hosted with Heart Internet and their support has always been on the whole, ok. This SSH access is insane really imo. Surely they should have their servers setup so I can;t for example bugger up another website or cause any damage like that. Granted, get me to agree to something in their terms saying if I foolishing delete my site using SSH then it’s up to me to resolve. i.e. I can’t moan at Heart for soemthing like that. For the hosts I use I keep coming across the folloowing term “secure chroot jail”. This seems to be for good reason because after a quick Google, seems to be a damage limitation process and not allowing access to the whole server – http://blog.securestate.com/increasing-security-with-chroot-jails/ explains this.

      Whilst people may read this and think just “sign the form noob”, it really isn’t as simple as that and yet another piece of redtape I could do without in all honesty πŸ™‚

  10. Thanks for the informative article, Rob. We have a client who had recently moved to Heart Internet, and my first concern was SSH access. We’ll have to see how we’re gong to move forward.

    As a side note, please add to your articles the publish date – I had to check the comments to see whether this article was still relevant or not (a rambling point regarding tech articles for me) πŸ™‚

  11. The ssh page currently reads:

    “SSH server access allows you to log directly into the server your website is hosted on. You can manipulate your website files using Linux commands. SSH server access is for advanced users.

    If you would like to enable SSH on your account please contact technical support.”

    Guess we’ll see if I get told to fill in an insane form…

    1. I was trying to get across that as developer I do not have time to be filling in extra forms and sending over copies of my passport, to hosting companies πŸ™‚

  12. Yuck @ Heart Internet! I’m with 34sp at the moment and can get shell access to my account in minutes. Not sure why Heart are being so silly about it.

  13. From the looks of it, migrating a Magento store with gigs of data is going to be a real pain.
    I think I need to tell the client to cancel heart internet and take some hurdle free SSH enabled hosting service.
    The worst thing is that you get to know there is no SSH only after you make your first payment.
    Also there is no IP based access to the site so that means you have to have a parked domain to even see any thing on the screen. No ssh means no fast deployments and irate customer.
    Heart Internet = Bad choice.

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