Trust is a Terrible Thing to Lose

I’ve had some email problems lately.

It once seemed that a business I was attempting to communicate with, Business Catalyst, was simply failing to respond to my messages. Then it seemed that their email system was misconfigured for spam prevention and was blocking my messages. Once Business Catalyst learned of the problem, they were very quick and proactive to work with me on a resolution.

But it turns out that the problem wasn’t theirs at all.

In fact, the problem was with my now-former email provider, 01.com, and it was preventing me from communicating with more than just one business. It turns out to have been quite a large problem that broke my primary line of communication with many clients, colleagues, family, and friends for weeks on end.

I wouldn’t even have learned of this except that, on April 1, I started receiving responses to messages that I’d sent weeks before. Some messages just bounced back to me that were inexplicably undeliverable. Then I began to receive incredulous and sometimes perturbed responses from contacts to problems and questions that had long ago been resolved.

I immediately sent out a help desk request, to which 01.com replied,

The bounce messages you received from weeks ago are due to an issue on our end where the returned email messages were deferred. Now that we’ve identified the issue, and can monitor it, we do not expect it to happen again.

The greylisting issue is due to being listed on the SORB blacklist. This morning we discovered that a RBL had automatically blacklisted smtp.01.com, our primary outbound mail server.

I apologize for the inconvenience.

And this was just a couple of days after they’d assured me that,

…we believe something is not setup properly on the recipients end.

So, basically, for weeks –  possibly for over a month – much of the email I’d been sending out had been going nowhere. It got jammed up on 01.com’s servers and nobody noticed. (And I’m convinced that the issues would never have been noticed unless I’d started hassling 01.com’s tech support about the problems I was having with Business Catalyst’s practice of greylisting on their email servers.)

What’s more, I was astounded that, without any notice, warning, or consultation, 01.com just cut all the pent-up messages loose. I’m not sure how many of their clients were affected, but I woke up one morning to a deluge of bounced messages, incredulous replies from friends, family, colleagues, and clients, and even some honest-to-goodness replies to messages I’d sent as long ago as a month.

And 01.com didn’t alert any of the affected clients to the problem. If you asked, they told you about it. Otherwise, they kept a lid on what, to my mind, is a major failure in the management of their email system. It sort of makes you wonder: what else are they not telling their customers?

I’ve been with 01.com for a few years and I’ve been generally happy with their service. They’ve had a few problems, and have generally been quick to fix them. But this recent problem I’ve had with 01.com, and the manner in which they dealt with it, left me wondering if they’re entirely capable of managing a mission-critical email system. I’ve lost clients and suffered professional embarrassment as a result of the failure of their email system. And o1.com did little to take ownership of the matter or offer consolation to affected clients.

And, really, the problem persists: I can’t be certain that anything I sent during the month of March and possibly in late February ended up where I intended it to. Even ongoing, I don’t trust that I can depend on their email system to manage what I consider to be the mission-critical messaging of my business. Every message I send goes out with trepidation, as I wonder, will it actually get there? In turn I wonder if I’m receiving everything that’s addressed to me.

In short, I’ve lost trust in 01.com. And if you can’t trust your email provider in this day and age, you have problems. Email is the backbone of contemporary communications (as much as I loathe it); a lack of faith in your email provider is a disabling problem.

So I’ve moved my email away o1.com to the free Google Apps environment. It’s true that Gmail hasn’t been without problem, but there are enough users in that system that any issue is quickly (and loudly) recognized and resolved. And I know for certain that no Google Gmail problem has persisted for over a month, as mine did with 01.com.

It’s too bad, really. I had enjoyed my relationship with 01.com, so I’m saddened by the fact that my trust in them is gone. But really, without trust, any relationship is meaningless.

2 thoughts on “Trust is a Terrible Thing to Lose

  1. It’s crazy how much of our trust and our lives we put into these systems and believing they work, we let so much rely on it. Email isn’t just a form of personal communication, it’s also how we pay bills, and how some of us do our jobs. With email being my main correspondence for my distance education, an email not received by my prof could mean the difference between a pass and a fail. You’re right to switch.

  2. Hi, blogwalking and find your blog.

    Anyways, human are not perfect. Therefore the systems that they created also not perfect. That’s life, very sad indeed 😛

    Cheers!

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