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Old 05-16-2007, 02:30 PM   #1
iamback
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Location: Amsterdam, NL
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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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