I ran my own mail server for many years until the end of 1999 when we moved out to the Wine Country boonies where the only broadband service back then was by satellite. I couldn’t run my own server but still wanted a cringely.com address so I fell back on what seemed to be the simplest alternative, which was e-mail through my domain registrar, Network Solutions. What a mistake.

We all have friends who claim to have had a more-or-less continuous headache since, say, 1946. That’s how I feel about Network Solutions mail. It was never very good, but I was lazy and it was better than nothing… until this weekend when they appear to have lost forever more than 200 of my incoming messages.

My e-mail just stopped arriving shortly after midnight on Friday. I waited until morning then called support and was told the problem was a system upgrade that should have taken five minutes but was then well into its 12th hour. I’d been through this with the previous upgrade, which they eventually reversed it was so terrible, going back to the bad old code that at least functioned, however slowly.

No messages would be lost, they said, just delayed, and they’d call me as soon as the upgrade was complete. I’m still waiting for that call.

At the time of that first call to support I simultaneously filed a support ticket through the Network Solutions web site, which promised a human response within 24 hours. Thirty-six hours later I am still waiting.

About 20 hours after the problem began 3-4 messages burped-through. In the same 20 hours a week earlier I received 196 messages. So I called tech support again, explaining the problem for a second time.

“Everything is functioning normally,” they said.

What about that system upgrade, was that problem solved?

“The upgrade is still in process, but that shouldn’t keep you from getting messages, ” they said.

I have all my mail since 1992, I explained, and there isn’t a Saturday in that entire time when I received less than 80 messages. Today I got only four.

“Maybe they are stuck on the server,” the tech suggested. So she rebooted the server. No luck.

“Maybe your mail is being rejected as spam,” she suggested. “Send us copies of all messages you didn’t receive including their IP addresses.”

I am not making this up.

How am I supposed to send them copies of messages I didn’t receive, including their IP addresses? Sorry, I didn’t pay for Network Solutions quantum e-mail, though perhaps I should have.

Was spam filtering changed as part of the system upgrade? I asked.


So if my mail is being rejected as spam the change is for no known reason. And if, for that unknown reason, my legitimate e-mail messages have disappeared from people who have been writing to me for two decades, what happens to those messages? Are they quarantined somewhere?

“No. If a message is tagged as spam by the system it is deleted and no records are kept. Such messages cannot be recovered. But this shouldn’t keep you from getting messages,” the supervisor said, making no sense at all.  At least I’d moved-up one support level.

And I suppose she was correct, because messages continue to dribble through, one or two per hour, and about two thirds of those are spam. But the support techs still see no messages stuck on the server.

“We have thousands of customers and you are the only one complaining about this problem, ” they lied.

My wife is having it, too.

“Then we have thousands of customers and you and your wife are the only ones complaining about this problem.”

It’s my own damned fault.

I’ve known since the beginning of our relationship that Network Solutions is a technically incompetent organization. At least that has always been my experience. Their services are poorly designed, prone to failure, and too expensive. Most of the time they have no idea what’s really happening with their own system. I suspect this is because engineering regularly lies to support which then lies to me whether they know they are doing so or not.

They are never proactive, reaching-out to me when there is a problem. They appear never to have support updates for major system problems on their homepage, apparently preferring to pretend such problems don’t exist.

Their answers to problems caused by their own incompetence is nearly always an offer to move me to a more expensive version of the same service, which sounds to me like a protection racket.

Support, which appears to come from India, is unfailingly pleasant but also unfailingly useless.

So if you sent me an e-mail message this weekend and I didn’t reply, now you know why. Please resend. But wait a few hours so I can move my service to Google Gmail for Domains, which my friends love and also happens to be free. I’m tired of paying for a service I don’t receive.

My only hope is that Network Solutions doesn’t screw-up the transfer.