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Old 05-16-2007, 02:30 PM   #1
iamback
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Default Dazed... or the demise of a good service

I just had a narrow scrape -- and nearly lost a domain I've had for a very long time. All's well, domain alive again, but I want to tell the story.

Most of my sites are hosted with "Digital Daze" (part of Daze Networks) - a hosting service that's a Verio reseller. They made me an offer way back in 1998 (or was it 1997?) that couldn't refuse, offering me VPS hosting at a vastly reduced and fixed price as long as the sites hosted would not be commercial. They kept their end of the deal (as I did mine), never increased the hosting price while increasing the service level along with everyone else on the same plan. So far so good -- except the originally excellent and dependable service had begun to deteriorate.

In 2000, Daze Networks started a new service, DNS Central, for domain registration, as a Tucows reseller; they notified me, and encouraged me to transfer from InterNIC/Network Solutions since they could offer domains at a 50% discount. During 2000 and 2001 I transferred the domains I had then to them, and service was excellent: fast and responsive. They also set up (somewhat later) a self-service website for domain registration and management. When domains came up for renewal, I received a notification 2 months in advance, later even twice, once 90 days and once 60 days in advance. Usually I renewed immediately, and for several years at a time: no worries that way, and the renewal mails were dependable.

The last of those happened in June 2005, for a parked domain I have only vague plans for. Meanwhile I'd heard of Go Daddy - which had (by then) much lower rates than DNS Central - and as a trial balloon, instead of renewing with DNS Central, I transferred it to Go Daddy. That went smoothly, though I didn't care for their cluttered website and "dense" emails. But their self-service domain management was much more powerful than that of DNS Central, and the prices were highly competitive. So, some new domains also went to Go Daddy. Occasional queries for help were dealt with courteously, speedily, and to the point. With that in mind, I don't mind the clutter so much - you get used to that...

Meanwhile, ICANN, which oversees domain registrations, had some new rules - and I started to receive automatic emails from DNS Central:
Quote:
ICANN, the organization overseeing domain name registration, requires
that the following notice be sent to all domain registrants annually.

ICANN requires that each domain name registrant be given the opportunity to
review and correct any inaccurate contact data (WHOIS data) associated with
a domain name registration.

...
One problem: I got vaguely worried when I noted they stopped coming for the domains registered with DNS Central: last I had was on 14 July last year, and I should have had new ones in December last year, as well as in March this year. But I had many other things on my mind ... so this slipped from my mind.

Then, in April, I went to Yemen. When I'm travelling, I update my travel blog via email, which for security reasons is sent each time to one of a collection of special mail aliases. All went well until one of the last days, when my post (seemingly) didn't arrive; I tried resending, to a different address - no difference. When I got home there were several other odd things: problems with email for my hshelp.com domain, and notifications that the webring code on my site was incorrect (huh?). It took some digging before the reason became clear: the hshelp.com domain had expired on 22 April! And been assinged to a different domain server and IP address. Doh.

But why hadn't I had an email announcing it had come up for renewal? (My admin contact email is not with any of the hosted domains, but with my access provider.)

I hurriedly went to the DNS Central self-service site and renewed for three years -- it was still amply within the normal 45-day "grace period". Seemingly renewed: nothing changed, I got no notification of anything, the site continued to show "Waiting Request: None". So I sent an email asking what the status was, and why I hadn't received an advance notice that the domain was coming up for renewal. Apart from a challenge-response anti-spam hurdle and the assignment of a trouble ticket, there was no reaction. When I called both phone numbers listed on the site, I got what I expected by now: an answering machine. Humans seemed to have disappeared at DNS Central.

I'd had enough, went to Go Daddy and started the procedure to transfer the domain along with two related (parked) domains. Hoping the request from their end to DNS Central to release them would at least prod them. when something seemed to go wrong I sent a mail to Go Daddy support - no stupid challenge-response anti-spam hurdles here, not even a form letter, but a polite and to-the-point reply, even volunteering information I hadn't asked for but which reassured me somewhat: I was afraid by now I'd lose my domain. The thing is: you cannot officially transfer a domain while it's up for renewal during the grace period - and DNS Central seemed to have disappeared, leaving behind only a site and some automated processes... A second urgent email to DNS Central got no reply either.

In the end, the transfer actually did go through; I changed the DNS server back to what it was, and suddenly my mail (and the site) started working again: apparently, when the domain expired, it had only been moved to a special domain server, without touching the records on the original one.

Phew!

I have two more domains with DNS Central - so my next step will be to transfer those to Go Daddy as well. Bye bye DNS Central, thanks for great service - while it lasted. Which is not recently. And kudos to Go Daddy for a smooth process, with email alerts for every change and excellent customer service.

And then, urgently, I will need to find a new VPS hoster for a resonable price. I'd been looking around already, not jumped. Moving hosters is a hassle, and I don't want to make a habit of it. But I'm not sure there are any humans left at Digital Daze either...

   
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Old 05-16-2007, 02:37 PM   #2
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Wow! What a discouraging story.

I once had a host that was sloppy about sending reminders and I just left. (They even forgot to bill sometimes, which was unsettling.)

Say this for GoDaddy: Obnoxious advertising, but decent, understandable service. Not such a bad bargain, all in all.

Do keep us posted on what you discover.

   
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Old 05-16-2007, 04:20 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamback View Post
I just had a narrow scrape -- and nearly lost a domain I've had for a very long time. All's well, domain alive again, but I want to tell the story.
Wow!

I understand the worry. Just last month on 16 April my email started acting a little funky, but nothing weird enough to make me really concerned — I received some and had no problem sending out. Then just five days later — on a Saturday, of course — email that I knew was to arrive didn't and I was under a very tight press deadline. I never use webmail unless I'm clearing out my spam folder, but I thought I'd go look there in case what I was expecting got trapped by Spam Assassin. Nope and in fact there were just two spam message since four days previous and I usually get 50-60 per day. !!

Immediately went to my web site to see if anything looked odd there and got not my site, but some weird generic page welcoming me with strange pictures of unknown people and links to some dictionary, thesaurus, "real estate" and other goofy crud!

Got hold of my current and previous hosting companies and they both checked and confirmed my domain had expired! I'd received no notice at all and neither had my old host, although they did have one for another domain I'd registered when with them. They were as baffled as I was. Got it fixed pronto, though, when they jumped on line and renewed the domain for me, then confirmed that my site was once again displaying properly for them. Took about ten more minutes for the change to show up here, but email started working again within a couple of minutes.

They suggested I switch all three of my domains (two parked) to GoDaddy and that's what I'm about to do. I'm glad to hear another vote of confidence for them. The domains had been registered (through my old host) originally through Bulk Register, which I guess got bought out last year by something called ENOM. Apparently my renewal notices fell through the cracks in that transition.

Oh, and I did make deadline, but boy was it stressfull for a while that Saturday! I do not want to go through that again!!

   
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Old 05-17-2007, 12:20 AM   #4
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... boy was it stressfull for a while that Saturday! I do not want to go through that again!!
Stressful is the word all right! (Relieved though I am, I'm still wondering why the transfer was allowed to go through - does Tucows know something I don't?)

But compliments to both your present and previous hoster for helping resolve this so quickly for you!

   
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Old 05-17-2007, 01:54 AM   #5
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To my utter amazement, I just received another of those ICANN "please review your data" letters from DNS Central (the ones missing still are). Did I stir up something?

Meanwhile I've completed the Go Daddy end of the transfer of the last two domains -- now waiting for the Tucows (openSRS) end to go through; going by the previous transfers that will take two days or so; DNS Central does not seem to be involved in this step.

   
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Old 05-17-2007, 02:11 AM   #6
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GoDaddy have been my non .au web host and registrar for around three years, and while I cringe at their web pages, they do offer a swift route through to checkout, and provide excellent and knowledgeable support.

I don't use them to host forum-based sites, but then I'm not spectacularly happy with the hosting support I'm getting for a vBulletin site that I'm paying three times as much for.

As a registrar, they provide excellent service; all domain renewals are advised 90 days in advance, and they also provide a range of renewal options that ensure all but the terminally recalcitrant keep their domains. Any fees payable to ICANN are clearly shown. I can log into my account and view the status of all domains any time, and change settings with a couple of clicks.

Yes, I hate the ads. The e-mails arrive several times a week, but that's a lot better than several times a day. And sometimes I get a bargain new domain registratiion. The base service is exactly what I need, and I have never lost a domain yet while working through GoDaddy.

If GoDaddy needs to support its service levels with those ads, then I can cope with them.

   
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Old 05-17-2007, 02:28 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by iamback View Post
Stressful is the word all right! (Relieved though I am, I'm still wondering why the transfer was allowed to go through - does Tucows know something I don't?)

But compliments to both your present and previous hoster for helping resolve this so quickly for you!
Yes, help came mostly on the part of my previous hosting company. It was because they had originally put a transfer lock on all my domains that what all happened to you didn't happen to me, but still the expiration happened without their ever receiving renewal notices. Shame on ENOM!

When I go to do the transfer of the domains my old host said to give a shout so they can remove the transfer lock immediately before. If I don't the transfer will simply wait until they get the request from GoDaddy and then turn off the lock.

   
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Old 05-17-2007, 10:03 PM   #8
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Yes, help came mostly on the part of my previous hosting company. It was because they had originally put a transfer lock on all my domains that what all happened to you didn't happen to me, but still the expiration happened without their ever receiving renewal notices. Shame on ENOM!
Shame on ENOM for sure - but I had a transfer lock on all my domains, too: that is not something that prevents it from expiring though, it just cannot be transferred to another registrar unless it's unlocked first (something DNS Central allows you to do on their self-service page - this still works, at least). When it is transferred Go Daddy, it's automatically locked, but their UI also allows you to unlock should you want to do a transfer.

   
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Old 05-18-2007, 07:19 AM   #9
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but I had a transfer lock on all my domains, too: that is not something that prevents it from expiring though,
Right, but I thought your domain got transferred without your permission, no? Guess I misunderstood what happened to you beyond the expiration and lack of renewal notices.

Quote:
it just cannot be transferred to another registrar unless it's unlocked first (something DNS Central allows you to do on their self-service page - this still works, at least). When it is transferred Go Daddy, it's automatically locked, but their UI also allows you to unlock should you want to do a transfer.
That's reassuring to know they give you such easy access and control. Might just go ahead and register a couple of other domains I've been toying with -- as if I think I have time to actually do something with new domains when I have two sitting parked already!

   
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Old 05-18-2007, 11:23 PM   #10
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Right, but I thought your domain got transferred without your permission, no? Guess I misunderstood what happened to you beyond the expiration and lack of renewal notices.
No, the domain wasn't transferred (to another registrar) but what did happen is that they "moved" it to another DNS server -- with the result that the domain was no longer pingable, the website could not be reached, and email could not be retrieved. All of this without any prior (or other) notice. Effectively, it suddenly became a "parked" domain.

Once the transfer was complete, I used GoDaddy's UI to change the DNS server back to the one used for my website/email, and everything started working again.

Quote:
That's reassuring to know they give you such easy access and control. Might just go ahead and register a couple of other domains I've been toying with -- as if I think I have time to actually do something with new domains when I have two sitting parked already!
It's all pretty straightforward, but it helps if you've been through the whole process before. I'd suggest you do what I did, and start with registering or transferring just one domain. Just read everything carefully, there's no need to hurry through the steps; don't choose (or leave selected) any "extras" you don't want (but see below). And if you need help with it just holler to Go Daddy.

At Go Daddy I've also chosen to make all my domain registrations "private" - that costs extra, but people can't see your personal details (including administrative contact email) when querying the whois database. Since such data can be a definite source of spam (and is, in my case: I have a single email alias I use exclusively for domain registration), that's worth something to me. Now that everything (except one .to domain which is also private, automatically) is with godaddy, I'm going to make a new email alias and remove the old one -- so at least one source of spam will dry up. (If you want this option, you get the choice after going to the checkout; then it's just a matter of changing one radio button.)

Meanwhile... The transfer of my last two domains away from DNS Central to Go Daddy was just completed! Still looking for a new hoster, but making progress with that - more news about that later, when I know something more definite.

   
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