Since I host various sites for my customers, I use various hosting companies, just so I don’t have all my eggs in one basket. One in particular (name withheld) is where I host a few customer sites, all of our corporate sites and some personal sites. I’ve been with them for many years, and they are the most expensive hosting company I deal with. But the service is weak. They also don’t show up as one of the web’s top hosting companies. Wanna know why? I’ll tell you.

We’ve had an ongoing problem that’s actually two separate problems, but both have to do with email. My wife and I fetch mail every ten minutes throughout the day. We have cron jobs set up to do this. Since both of us have email with various email addresses, the job checks one host at a time and reports back to us if there’s a failure with any of them. Since this hosting company hosts all my corporate sites, it is also the one via which I get the majority of my email. But the mail server there seems flaky. For some years now, it periodically can’t be reached because of DNS issues, or, once you do connect to it, the connection just times out without any activity on the part of the server.

Recently, I contacted tech support at this hosting company to complain about the situation. The conversation was by email, and sooner or later, one of the techs asked me what DNS servers I was using. Turns out I was using the original two DNS servers they had given me when I first signed on with them years ago, ns1 and ns2. The reply back boggled my mind. It was on the order of: “Oh, those are old. You shouldn’t be using them. One of them doesn’t even work anymore. Use these instead”.

Okay, let’s think this thought through. DNS servers are set at the registrar for your domain. They’re set up there so that if anyone wants to surf to your site, the registrar (and DNS system) can point you to those nameservers (which are authoritative for your domain) and find your site. Hosting companies rarely if ever send out a notice telling you to switch up your DNS servers at the registrar, because they’re “old” or “not working anymore”. It just doesn’t happen. You don’t ask hosting customers to do that. Instead, you fix your DNS servers and keep them up to date. Well, apparently not these guys. But because one of my DNS servers is defunct, some portion of my customers or prospective customers have been unable to find my site. And of course, part of the time, I’m unable to connect to the mail server at the hosting company for the same reason. And did they tell me when that one nameserver became defunct? Nope. And the other nameserver is “old”? What the heck is that supposed to mean? You can’t update its zone tables anymore? Seriously?

They gave me a new set of nameservers to use, and I went to the registrar and changed the nameservers out for our main domain. I suppose the other domains which share those old nameservers will have to suffer. (Actually not. I plan to move everyone off of that hosting company.) Since that time, I haven’t had any problems connecting to the mail server. Of course, I’m still having time-out issues with the server. For whatever reason, periodically when you connect to it, it executes the preliminary dialog. But when you finally ask it for any emails, it just sits there and apparently stares at its navel.

The techs there even had the audacity to ask me if I had ever considered using IMAP (instead of POP3). I just thought, are you serious? If I wanted IMAP I would have opted for it already. And (here’s the real issue), that’s beside the point. Asking me a question like that just tells me you don’t really know what’s wrong, and you’re trying to work around it. I have to wonder if their techs only work there part time, and the rest of their day is spent at Best Buy or Radio Shack.

This kind of crisp, professional attitude is probably one of the reasons this particular hosting company doesn’t show up in the top 10 on surveys of hosting company customers.