Network Solutions, a domain name registrar and website hosting service that's been owned by Web.com since 2011, started having problems Sunday, when some customers began reporting that their sent emails were bouncing back, after having been flagged as spam by receiving servers.
In a Monday "service update" posted to the Network Solutions Facebook page, the company acknowledged the problem. "Our Technical Services Team has confirmed spam abuse resulting in blacklisting with Trend Micro, LashBack, SORBS, and Backscatterer," it said. "Delisting processes are being implemented, and resolution times will vary from service to service."
The email outage was followed by a separate problem -- involving an undisclosed aspect of Network Solutions' domain name system (DNS) infrastructure -- which the company confirmed Tuesday. "We experienced an issue earlier today on DNS," the company said via Facebook. "Our Tech Team also worked quickly to mitigate [it]. Some customers may experience intermittent slowness, as full restoration occurs. We regret the inconvenience and appreciate your patience. Rest assured that we will continue to monitor and act as quickly as possible to limit the occurrence and duration of such events."
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But the statements left multiple questions unanswered, such as identifying how spam had caused the company's servers to be blacklisted and the precise nature of the DNS problem, and when the problems might be resolved. Contacted Wednesday via email, a Web.com spokesman said he couldn't immediately answer those questions.
Some Network Solutions customers have used Facebook to press the company for better outage information. "These updates are not updates," one customer wrote Tuesday. "Can you give us some idea on when these problems should be fixed? I am still getting bounce backs from all of my customers. This is impacting my business. Timeframe to resolution, please?"
The recent outages follow a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in July that knocked some of the company's servers offline. A week later, some customers experienced further outages, which Network Solutions traced to internal MySQL problems.
Earlier this month, meanwhile, pro-Palestinian hackers managed to redirect the websites for messaging service WhatsApp, as well as security firms AVG and Avira, by changing DNS settings registered with Network Solutions. Only those three companies were affected by that attack.
The other three outages, however, have lead to disruptions not just for Network Solutions' customers, but also for those businesses' customers. "We started getting e-mails and phone calls from about a dozen of our customers because their sites were down," one InformationWeek reader, who works at a company that provides websites to U.S. healthcare organizations, said Wednesday via email.
"This is now the third time it has happened and is really starting to impact our business. We were further frustrated because we could not get through to Network Solutions because all of their lines were busy, and their site was down. We tried calling Web.com -- their parent company -- and they had no clue about what was happening," said the reader, who asked to remain anonymous. "We are planning to move all of our domains to GoDaddy in about a week from now. We do understand that these things happen, but the level of transparency and culpability from Network Solutions is nonexistent and that's why we plan to take our business elsewhere."
Other customers announced on Facebook that they are leaving Network Solutions. "Goodbye, NetSol," read one post. Another said: "I am done with these guys. Blacklisted again today, emails bouncing back, servers down. My IT guys won't even recommend Network Solutions anymore. I'm done."
Will the repeat outages hit Web.com's bottom line? An August 2013 Web.com earnings presentation, covering the period between April and June 2013, reported "record high levels" of customer retention, with the company losing only about 1% of customers per month.
But if Web.com hopes to keep its customer-retention track record, it might need to rethink its communications strategy. While many customers were waiting for outage-updates Tuesday, the company posted a link to a chatty story about "What are the top 5 digital shopping trends you can expect this holiday season?"
Cue criticism from users waiting to hear word when their service might be restored. "How can you post such fluff when so many of your customers are unable to conduct business and send emails? It is not only disrespectful but shameful," commented one.
Another posted: "How about an update on when this will be fixed? I am trying to operate a law practice and need this fixed now."