Powweb.com is where I've been hosting my web sites for many years. Between myself and clients, I have about 30 domains there. So, while I don't expect to be treated as the uber-customer, I do expect a modicum of respect from my host and from it's appointees in the forums. Today was the last straw.
I've been hosting my domains here since 2002, as you can see by the whois record on one of my domain names. I opened this domain with powweb and have happily been using them for years, referring MANY friends, associates, and eventually my clients there because of their great service. Recently they made a unannounced an unwelcome change to their login protocols which has caused everyone massive headaches. They added Captchas. Gasp! Oh no!
It's not that they've added a captcha system that annoys myself and others as much as it is the fact that they have implemented one of the worst captcha systems in the world for people to read. In fact, it's so bad they don't even use it on their other internal sites... only for us members. Let me explain:
To the left is a decent captcha image. This is the one they use when you register on their forums (message boards). It's basically another step in the security process to stop random bots (small web computer programs) from generating accounts and then spamming the system. The captcha they use on their main control panel (called OPS) is designed for a different purpose, though the implementation is similar.
Putting a captcha in place forces computer programs to "read" the text in the box before their attempted login and password will be compared against the database. This prevents a would-be identity thief from simply trying to use a cracker-jack to guess random names and passwords using a dictionary file. So, what's the problem?
The problem with the concept is nothing in big scheme of things. Besides being the ONLY web host I've ever heard of who does this, there's no major problem. For all the headache powweb is going through with this, apparently required from their legal department, I can't believe for a moment that it's more stringent than the security policies my three different banks use, and none of them implement this annoying system of security? Powweb has security concerns sent down to them from legal that outstrip the security concerns of the FDIC insured banking system?
What IS a problem is that this was forced on us as paying customers as a security measure with no warning, no consideration for our desires, or anything else resembling customer satisfaction being considered.
The REAL problem, the heart of the matter, is that they are using a completely crappy (technical jargon) captcha system. It's unbelievably hard to read and is causing huge headaches for the people like me who resell hosting and who maintain multiple domains, not to mention that this captcha system doesn't implement a backup protocol for the visually impaired (read as blind people) like most systems do. Usually, if you can't read the text, you just press the "Hear it" button and it will be played on your speakers so you can type in the letters and numbers as they are repeated to you.
What do other's think?
(Click to enlarge)
At first, I joined the forums on this topic to see if I was the only one who was upset by this new "security" feature. Apparently I'm not. As of right now, this post has drawn SO much attention that the thread is number 4 in powweb's entire customer support forum. It's outranked almost every other problem in the entire company's list of complaints in only a month. So, let's assume that I'm not the only one complaining.
I'd like you to take a moment to try to put yourselves in our shoes.
These screenshots below are from powweb's OPS panel login screen. You'd think this is really an easy thing to deal with right?
What does that look like to you? Apparently it's NOT 56eh5s.... invalid. So, I get this nice annoying screen below.
What does this look like? I swear to God that it's clearly mt6ddu... umm wrong. Ok. Let's try again.
Again.. looks to me like xhba8y. Nope. Again I was greeted with this now-familiar-yet-annoying red text box.
The 4th try worked and I got in. I felt like throwing a party! That's an example of what it's like for me and my PAYING customers to login to powweb.com's web site control panel. I have to login to these ops panels a few times per day sometimes, per customer. I may have to login on a busy day to ops as many as 30 times throughout a day. Now, I'm spending more time trying to login than I am actually working. This is WAY beyond frustrating.
Attempts to mitigate the problem:
I tried to post in the forum dedicated to the topic, located at:http://forum.powweb.com/showthread.php?t=79280. I made my initial post describing my dissatisfaction with the service and joined mine to the other voices begging them to come up with something else before the problem trickled to my customers and I started getting hit with flame-mail from subscribers. Every couple of weeks I'd check in to see if any progress has been made. Well, today I get the dreaded flaming email from a customer describing their dissatisfaction with a service I am providing them, through powweb.
I'll quote the email here (with permission from the author, who has made every effort to be kind in the matter).
Please know that these comments are not personally directed to you as the NCBBA Website Developer BUT I have had about all the inconvenience trying to login in, post and publish I can stand!!!!! As the primary contributor to the daily updates of our website I am damn tired of the failures of POWWEB.
I understand that POWWEB was upgrading their site and was unavailable for a period of time …..got it! No problem! BUT I have issues with the following:
- The Captcha function is terrible. Half of the time you cannot read the dark gray letters on the gray background which causes me to ‘try another image’ 2-3-4 times before I have the confidence to try the login.
- Re entering the username and password each time is a pain in the ass ….especially if the captcha is incorrect. This is the only site where retention of the information is a problem.
- What has been added in this upgrade to POWWEB? It seems like a list and explanation should have accompanied the upgrade for the users or at least the Website Developer. I see new functions and pages of code that were formerly written words. More trial and error and errors!
- I am tired of REMOTE PUBLISHING ERRORS. Prior to the upgrade I only had to ‘publish’ and the work was done…….What gives? My system is capable ..is theirs?
- It takes a considerable amount of time to log-in and access the XXXXX site….2x or 3x longer than before the upgrade if you connect at all.
I’m ready to move on if we can’t get some relief on these issues. Let me know what you can resolve with POWWEB and let me know.
Wow, right? In eleven years, this is the first emailed complaint I've ever had about the quality of the services I've provided through virtual hosting services. So, naturally I take this to the forums and post my complaint on behalf of my customer there on their forums. What else am I supposed to do? I can't relieve his frustrations myself so I move on to the next in line who can by posting in the powweb support forums to see if I can get either some support from other users or the attention of a staff-member who can address the problem on an invidivual instance basis. Within 30 minutes, I get an email stating that my inclusion of the customer's email is in violation of the terms of service of the forums without proper permission from the author. My post has been edited to remove the customer's comments. Ok, that's annoying, but the process makes sense and I can understand their viewpoint. (Note: no one mentioned who edited my post, though I suspect it to be the moderator known as Doc_C, based on the alarming number of smartass responses he has posted in the past to other concerned forum members. Having this guy represent your company to your customers is akin to me hiring a wino-alcoholic to stand outside my store and curse at my customers to try to gain business.
So, I email my customer the following and wait for a response:
I’ve forwarded your request to one of the support forums, but the moderators removed it because I had no authority from you to post it. Please respond with an “ok” to share your email sent earlier today and I’ll post it again.
Within an hour or so, I had a written response from the customer stating:
You have my permission to post this information with POWWEB with the hopes some of the issues can be resolved for our account……
This was a perfectly reasonable answer that will allow me to continue with my support issue, so, I login to powweb tonight to make my revision to my post, including the author's permissions to use his email as content, and this is what I'm greeted with:
Now it hits the fan
I've been BANNED? For two weeks? For trying to fix an issue on behalf of a customer? WOW! Additionally, if you look further up the page between the post numbers 177 and 185, you'll notice there is no post with the author "alornmage" which was where my post was before it was first edited and then removed entirely. No email to me explaining why. I had received no communication from them as to WHY they did this. They banned me from a support forum for asking for support and they removed the post as well. So, I've written this article to accomplish two things:
- To post this in a place that no one from powweb can remove from the web without legal effort on their part, which will cost them money and I will still win.
(Hint: I'm one of those people who really goes out of his way to be nice to people even when I'd rather beat them to death rather than be in their company. However, that much effort takes its toll and when some schmuck-stick pulls this kind of crap, I get my chance to let it ALL out at one single target. Anyone who knows me knows you don't mess with me when I know I'm in the right. I will sacrifice my time, effort, and money to make sure you know how big a mistake it was to screw me over. Hence, few people screw me over more than once. Usually, associates of people who screw me over have better sense than to try it too, so it's a tried-and-true technique that has proven a useful tool. I'm not at all an uneducated redneck, though I enjoy the pretense sometimes. I can be really nasty when provoked.)
- To provide a method to warn other powweb users about the horrible quality of service received from their moderators, staff, and technical support.
I freely welcome any correspondence from the moderators of the forum or powweb on this topic, however please be aware that all information will be for public consumption and emailing or commenting in any manner willfully nullifies any confidentiality claims you may wish to impose upon me, my associates, or any other location at which I choose to rebroadcast this publication. (There, Now I'm legally covered too)
I'll respond more when I hear back from powweb. Meanwhile, I'm going to technorati and Digg to rip powweb a new one in the search engine rankings. I'm gonna link this post all over the web. This action was completely inexcusable on their part and I have time to kill until they contact me back with a resolution to the issue.
Now, they've added moderator approval to the forum as well, as evidenced by this image, shown left. I'm pretty sure my other post won't get noticed either now. Rather they will disappear into the etherspace of moderator-hell. I made ONE post between the time they implemented moderation and the present, so it's been done very recently tonight. These guys are really messing with the wrong person. I've got just enough angst to take this as far as I have to in order to make my point. You can disagree with me all you want, but you WILL give me the opportunity to voice my opinion, especially if I'm paying for it every month and I'm putting the information in a place designed for such comments and criticisms.
It's 9:12 PM now and I've now been on hold for 20 minutes with powweb live-chat with no response from an operator. I'm also on hold on the telephone, trying to see who will answer first, after having to make 4 calls to the system to even get to a human without their system hanging up on me. Further, I just got THIS when I tried to review the forums using another account I had to create until my first account was reinstated.
Wow.. nice support huh? And guess what? This is done by volunteer moderators approved by powweb's staff! Nice huh? Again, I have a sneaky suspicion this was done by Doc_C. If I'm wrong, I'll owe him a public apology, which I'll in turn provide with pleasure. However, I'm pretty sure I'm right.
Since I'm bored and still waiting, let's review the terms of service while I setup my third forum account. According to legal policy, I'm pretty sure that I'm not violating anything by recreating my account. If they delete my ID, then I don't have an ID anymore, so creating another one is acceptable use. Their policies state:
Powweb's Terms of Service for Forum Membership:
We welcome your participation in the PowWeb community forum! In order to maintain a friendly, helpful atmosphere, we require that all users abide by the rules and policies detailed below and in the forum FAQ. Clicking the "Register" button at the end of the page indicates that you agree to follow the forum rules and guidelines.
Although the administrators and moderators of the PowWeb community forums will attempt to keep all objectionable messages off this forum, it is impossible to review every message. All messages express the views of the author. The owners, administrators and moderators of the PowWeb community forums will not be held responsible for the content of any message.
By clicking the "Register" button, you warrant that you will not post any messages that are obscene, vulgar, sexually-orientated, hateful, threatening, insulting, non-productive or in violation of any laws or forum rules or guidelines.(Nice legal cover there. What the hell is a non-productive message? And who determines the productiveness of any given post to the overall community?)
The owners of the PowWeb community forums retain the right to remove, edit, move or close any thread for any reason, and to suspend or ban any user at their discretion. (No problem. If this was done by an "owner" then I want to know who. If the powweb staff member holds corporate stock, then he or she is an owner. If they don't, they are an employee and exempted from this freedom, as are the community volunteer moderators.)
Access to the community forums is not guaranteed to any user or hosting client. Additionally, Intentional disruption of these forums is a violation of PowWeb policy, and could lead to hosting account cancellation.
• Please check the "PowWeb Announcements" and "Outages / Service Problems" forums before posting a message regarding a service-related problem. (did that)
• Respect your fellow user's views and opinions. Personal attacks, disruptive, provocative or threatening posts will not be tolerated, and may lead to suspension or banning. (didn't do that)
• Please limit yourself to posting under one username. Users found to be posting under multiple usernames may be denied access to the forums.
(A "user" Tommy is not the same as the "user" who represents a client's web site. According to support, I'm entitled to one user account per customer account. I usually write "how-to" articles under my own personal forum account, alornmage. I might in the same sense, login as the client-user of a respective customer if I am posting a support issue related to their domain specifically, rather than general discussion about services.)
• Posting copyrighted works of any kind is forbidden. Brief excerpts or links to articles, stories, lyrics, images, etc. are allowed. Posting copyrighted material in its entirety is not. All such posts will be deleted or edited to excise the copyrighted material, whichever is deemed more expedient by PowWeb staff or moderators. (I didn't do that either)
• Please not that the contents of your posts may be index by Google, Yahoo, and other search engines. We do not delete posts for the reason.
(Did I read that right? We do NOT DELETE POSTS? D O N O T D E L E T E P O S T S) Wow! Seems kinds of contrary to the rest of their "we can delete you for whatever reason we want attitude")
9:32 PM. I finally got in touch with telephone support. A guy named Mike helped me out. Let me say for the record that this guy actually "works for" powweb. He's not a volunteer mod. He was amazingly courteous, listened to my entire rant, read this blog, contacted his supervisor about the severity of the issue of my ban, and has escalated this issue to their corporate office. Both the support tech and the supervisor agreed this is a major violation of how things are supposed to go, so thus far I'm getting some support on the issue. Let's see what happens. I was told this was being moved into a "priority 1" support status with the admin team and that I should be contacted via telephone within 24 hours. Powweb.. if you're reading this... call me. My phone number is in the support ticket. I don't expect a canned email response from an issue that has cost me this much time.
And Mike.... thanks.
Attention moderators, I'm really getting tired of your... well, you know what I was going to say. I've already spoken to support, who has assured me this will get corrected to my satisfaction and I'm starting to get a little miffed that you think it's cute to keep deleting my forum accounts. I checked with support. I have multiple domains paid separately under multiple names, paid individually from separate companies. Under powweb's terms of service, I am allowed one forum account per customer account. You have now deleted three of my logins, one each from three of my separate domains. I'm really really getting tired of this. I'm posting a screen capture now just to show what posts are currently on the forum, so the execs can see the thread prunes in the morning. I've been nice until now, but I'm quickly losing my patience with your childish games. Keep it up.. please... I need more ammunition to show the execs of Powweb tomorrow morning.
Yup... if you look at the web forum, you'll notice that the aforementioned messages (shown in the picture above) are no longer there. It took them all of 5 minutes to remove both posts (approximately the amount it took me to create another account to post with on the forum). Please take a moment to actually click on the graphic above and read the content of the message. This is a clearly defined post, directed to the heart of the forum thread. Who is giving these mods permission to arbitrarily wipe threads from the database? The previous post mentioned the idea of some of responding with alternative suggestions, so I did, as shown above. Rather than get a "good idea" or "nah, that's a horrible idea" I get my post wiped off the board.
Other thoughts: (yes, this part is purely for link popularity and trackback purposes.. sneaky, I know)
While I'm sitting here steaming mad, I thought I'd look around google and Digg to see if anyone else had made any complaints against powweb lately. Here's what I found:
Holy Crap! Now they're deleting my client's forum accounts too! Wow!
I couldn't believe it until I logged in to see. Check this out. (By the way, I love screen capture utilities.)
Read the image text carefully, paying special attention to the first part. You can see the user account they deleted has NEVER EVEN POSTED anything on the forums! Their moderators are deleting "official support forum accounts" from paying customers because some guy is angry at me, personally, who most likely doesn't even work for powweb. Now, I can't even read the forums! (Ok, not true.. I'll just proxy to them for the duration of this debacle. Let's see the moderators stop that!)
I'm changing my thoughts about being agreeable to remove this entire blog post because I'm really getting tired of this mess.
1) I'm not ever removing this post, unless I get some major cooperation in the form of these guys getting fired... permanently.
2) I'll call the lawyer's Monday and see what they can do. I pay for the retainer so I might as well use the darned thing.
Powweb's Telephone Support? "We have 24 hour support... click"?? WTF?
Powweb has two customer telephone numbers. Sales is 1-877-476-9932. Support is 1-866-476-9932. Both say on their greetings that they are open 24 hours per day. The very next words you hear on the phone are:
"No one is available to take your call at this time. Please try again later. Goodbye."
Maybe I read that wrong? Let's call again. I'll direct quote the answering machine. *dialing* "Thank you for calling powweb. Our sales team is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week." *insert annoying midi music here*... BAM.. same message. No one is available to take your call at this time. Please try again later. Good Bye.
I wonder, considering this all stemmed from the fact that I'm trying to get support for a nationally-recognized non-profit customer who is using their powweb site for a national election of officers and needs support, what sort of reimbursement I am entitled to under the law? I'm really starting to become "that guy"... the annoyed customer who will go to any lengths to get justice.. yeah him.
18 Hours Later....
It's 3:33 PM on Saturday now and I still haven't heard back via either email or telephone.
Online support finally arrives to work...
I finally got in touch with the "Live-Chat" people today at 3:50 PM EST. It seems like they are just about useless when it comes to assistance. I don't want to chat. I want my account fixed. If I wanted to "chat" about my problems I'd be on the forum... oh wait.. I can't chat about my problems on the forum because my problem IS THE FORUMS! Rather than try to briefly paraphrase the laughably horrible support call I had today, let me post the transcript. This should make for some hilarious reading. It's truly comical how sad their customer support has become recently.
Thank you for contacting Support.
Please be prepared to answer your Security Question when we begin chatting. To enhance our security protocols, we'll need you to provide the answer to your Security Question at the beginning of our conversation. If you have not yet set your Security Question and Answer, please log into your account now to set it up. Thank you.
You are now chatting with 'Sharon Adams'
Tommy Jordan : Hi sharon.
Sharon Adams: Hi Tommy. I apologize for the wait time. My name is Sharon, how are you today?
Tommy Jordan : I'm a little frustrated, but maybe we can fix that.
Sharon Adams: To protect your account from unauthorized changes, can you please verify for me the answer to the Security Question:
Sharon Adams: What is your mother's maiden name?
Tommy Jordan : (edited for security)
Sharon Adams: Thank you for the authentication.
Sharon Adams: I have noticed that still one of our specialists are working on your issue.
Sharon Adams: You will be hearing from them once the issue resolved.
Tommy Jordan : That's wonderful, but it's been 18 hours and none of your phone lines are answering.
Tommy Jordan : I need access to the support forums restored immediately.
Tommy Jordan : I'm not asking for account changes... or repairs. I need the forum account restored and the ban lifted now.
Sharon Adams: Okay.
Sharon Adams: I have updated the ticket with the information you have provided.
Tommy Jordan : I already did that myself on the support ticket.
Tommy Jordan : That does nothing to address the issue.
Tommy Jordan : You and I can both update the ticket all day long.
Tommy Jordan : I was assured last night that this was a priority 1 issue. That was at 9:33 PM EST.
Sharon Adams: Okay.
Tommy Jordan : Ihave been waiting 18 hours for a non-problem to be fixed. Nothing needs to be repaired. No SQl crashes, no DoS issue... just account information fixed.
Sharon Adams: I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you.
Tommy Jordan : Your condolences are appreciated, however they don't fix the problem. Can you (personally) reinstate the forum account?
Sharon Adams: It is not possible to do that.
Tommy Jordan : Please explain why it is not possible to restore a sql record to a table?
Tommy Jordan : Or to reinstate the account, however you prefer to explain it.
Sharon Adams: I can understand your frustration regarding your issue.
Sharon Adams: However, I cannot do anything for your issue.
Tommy Jordan : I just checked. The email address is already in use. the username is also already in use. Therefore, they are currently registered in the database.
Tommy Jordan : YOU can not. I understand. I'll hold while you find someone who can.
Sharon Adams: Our Supervisor is not available.
Tommy Jordan : What is your supervisor's name? I'd like it for my records.
Sharon Adams: Chris Miller.
Tommy Jordan : Ok. Thank you. Now, can you please get me someone from support who can handle this issue.
Sharon Adams: Okay.
Sharon Adams: You can contact our Phone Support agent.
Tommy Jordan : I tried that
Tommy Jordan : Your phone support isn't answering.
Tommy Jordan : Neither is sales
Tommy Jordan : Neither is billing.
Tommy Jordan : Hence, I'm here talking to you
Sharon Adams: Due to high volume, you are put on hold.
Tommy Jordan : Not exactly.
Tommy Jordan : the message says "No one is available to answer your call. Please try your call again later. Goodbye"
Tommy Jordan : that is not hold.. that is being hung up on.
Sharon Adams: Since the weekend, there is no one to receive your call.
Sharon Adams: You can try calling later.
Sharon Adams: I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you.
Tommy Jordan : I'm sorry. All three of your phone lines say 24 hour support, seven days per week.
Tommy Jordan : Would you like to call the numbers yourself first to verify that?
Tommy Jordan : Your website banner also says 24 hour support.
Tommy Jordan : I'm here... it's one of the acceptable 24 hours.
Sharon Adams: Yes.
Tommy Jordan : I'd suggest you handle this.
Sharon Adams: I can undestand your frustration regarding your issue.
Tommy Jordan : 1-877-476-9932
Tommy Jordan : press 1
Sharon Adams: However, I cannot do anything for your issue.
Tommy Jordan : or 1-866-476-9932 press 2.
Sharon Adams: I will update the ticket with the information you have provided.
Tommy Jordan : ok. then please verify something for me before I go
Tommy Jordan : I'd like to make sure I have this correct
Sharon Adams: Okay.
Tommy Jordan : You do NOT offer 24/7 support? You can't fix account problems over live support? And no one works on the weekends? Did I get all this correct?
Tommy Jordan : My attorneys will need this information when I forward this transcript to them, so I'd like to be sure I'm being concise and accurate.
Sharon Adams: Since the Phone Support not there, our Chat Support are available for 24x7.
Tommy Jordan : Ok.. I'm chatting. You're not supporting.
Tommy Jordan : This is chat support. We've handled the chatting portion of this call. Now I'd like to move on to the part where you provide support.
Sharon Adams: Okay.
Tommy Jordan : So, I'll start again. Please reinstate the support forums account immediately. I've been waiting 18 hours for a reply. I was told by Mike in support that this was Priority 1 and he would get this handled at the highest levels.
Tommy Jordan : I'm sure your telephone system has a record of that conversation. Do whatever you need to do, but find me someone (now) who can fix this issue.
Sharon Adams: No.
Tommy Jordan : Thank you. that's what I wanted to hear. I was pretty sure there was no "support" provided through this interface.
Tommy Jordan : there is no one at powweb who I can speak to in person at this hour? (on the telephone)
Tommy Jordan : I appreciate your candor. I'm filing the complaint with the BBB online today. I should note this transcript will be included. If there is nothing you can provide me to fix my problem, please confirm and I will let you get back to supporting other customers.
Sharon Adams: Do you wish to allow for the forum?
(comment: What the hell did she just ask me? Someone tell me that english is her first language...)
Tommy Jordan : I wish to have my forum account(s) reinstated.
Sharon Adams: Okay.
Tommy Jordan : I have had multiple forum threads deleted in the last 24 hours, which are a clear violation of your terms of service on your registration agreement.
Tommy Jordan : In addition, my account was banned, as was my customer's account, when we tried to describe the problem we were having.
Sharon Adams: Okay.
Tommy Jordan : I was very polite until this happened. Now I'm quite upset and someone is going to fix this.
Sharon Adams: I have updated the ticket with the information you have provided.
Sharon Adams: You will be hearing from us soon.
Tommy Jordan : When will telephone support be back in the office?
Tommy Jordan : I need a day and time so I can schedule time to handle this.
Sharon Adams: On Monday, it will be back.
Tommy Jordan : What time?
Sharon Adams: Since morning.
Sharon Adams: We are available 24x7 on Monday.
Tommy Jordan : 9 AM? 7 AM? 5 AM Eastern?
Tommy Jordan : lol.
Tommy Jordan : ok
Tommy Jordan : thank you
Sharon Adams: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?
Tommy Jordan : You do understand that 24x7 indicates 24 hours per day SEVEN days per week? Is that correct?
Tommy Jordan : anything else? You haven't fixed the first of my problems yet, lady.
Tommy Jordan : go do whatever it is you were doing before work interrupted.
Then I closed the screen in pure frustration.
Almost every single answer they gave me was "canned" from a script. First she says, yes, we have 24x7 support. Then she says we don't have 24x7 support on weekend. Does that make it 24x7 support or 24x5 support? Those are two really different things. THEN, she tells me that 24x7 support will be available again on Monday... really? What time? MORNING! I love it! This is some Korean chick working in a sweat shop who has english as a second language and she's supposed to be qualified to deliver support for a web hosting company?
Better Business Bureau? God I hate that.
At this time, I have escalated the matter to the BBB online for the state of MA. Hey people. All I wanted was a phone call and to fix my account! (and now my customer's account too). Failure to meet your advertised terms of service will not be tolerated and I'm going to make sure others learn BEFORE they host with powweb, that is unless this all gets magically fixed. However, I don't consider me having to wait three days and call support on Monday to be support. I consider that to be answering the phone... which is different.
Further information about the Endurance International Group can be found here: http://reports.bosbbb.org/Boston/Public/Reports/BrandedReport.aspx?firm=76863
Other domain companies owned by the same corporation with similar management policies
Monday Morning: No News
Well, it's Monday morning at 8:00 AM and I'm still sitting here with no resolution. I decided to check out the Endurnance Group, the company that own's powweb.com. Here's another of those little advertisements from them guaranteeing 24 hour service. I'm copying this verbatim from their Contact Us page:
The Endurance International Group, Inc.
70 Blanchard Road
Burlington, MA 01803
General Number: 866-897-5421
Customers: If you are a customer of one of our properties, please call your Web hosting Customer Support number for assistance. Our agents are available 24x7. Thank you for your continued support.
Media and Public Relations Inquiries
Contact: Jean McCarthy
Business Development Inquiries
Contact: Joe Bardenheier
Just for fun, I tracked down their CEO, Steve Sydness, on LinkedIn.com. You can find his info at: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/0/46/5b4. He's also listed on Bizland.com, along with other officers from the Endurance Group, available at:http://www.jigsaw.com/scid8491857/steve_sydness.xhtml
I did finally get a response today around noon, and from the Vice President of Customer Support for Powweb. While not conciliatory, it's not overly hostile either, so I'm glad at least someone it looking into the matter. It seems he's been told a few things incorrectly, but I'm assuming he'll read the blog post for a more proper chronology of the evening's events before making a final decision.
Also, he commented in his response to my Better Business Bureau post (not cited here) that the phones DO answer 24/7, but apparently there was a problem with the rollover. I'm not sure how to take that, but it's plausible, yet extremely unlikely not to get noticed for 48 hours straight. I won't pretend to know more about hosting than powweb does, but I do know that I'm a better IPPBX programmer than most and no phones ringing for 2 days should have caused a massive alarm somewhere in the management chain. Anyway, here's his response, and my response to his response, to my response from earlier, to the lack of response... ok.. just kidding. I've got to laugh somewhere in here. They're working on making it better, so I'll play ball.
I'm sorry to hear that your dissatisfied with our implementation of captcha, we do feel that it's an important step that we can take to provide an additional layer of security for our customers. We understand that it does require an extra step when logging in, sometimes more than one. We are continually trying to find the right balance between an image that is so easy to read that it defeats the purpose of having captcha, and one that is so hard to read that prevents legitimate customers from logging in without a hassle.
With regards to you being banned from our forum, my understanding is that your forum account was suspended because you had violated our rule about a single person posting under multiple usernames. I will review this situation with our forum staff and let you know whether we feel that your account can be reinstated, and I will follow up with you once that is done.
Regarding your case # 162102 with the BBB, this has also been brought to my attention this morning. I see absolutely no reason for any financial compensation for you of any sort. I will be responding directly back to the BBB with that information shortly.
If you'd like to contact me, please feel free to call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx (edited for obvious reasons) at your convenience or simply update this ticket, as I will be handling it personally.
Vice President, Customer Support
My response thus far is:
Let me address a few issues with you, but first let me say Thank You for taking the time to respond to the issue.
The issue with Captcha is only half of my complaint. Let me address that part first. All we (members) have been hearing in the forums from moderators and PW staff is comments along the lines of "shut up, we're working on it. Don't bother us." YOU are one of the first person I've heard admit that yes, it's a problem and that you understand why it's a problem. Your comment "We are continually trying to find the right balance between an image that is so easy to read that it defeats the purpose of having captcha, and one that is so hard to read that prevents legitimate customers from logging in without a hassle" says a lot towards the fact that you do at least understand our concerns. However, someone like you needs to be the one to say it, or else have your staff members in the forums say it on your behalf with a modicum of sincerity and patience. Your moderators and forum staff are downright rude about it on the forums, in addition to being no help. (Please review some of more caustic replies by the moderator Doc_C for further evidence of this issue.)
Second, my forum account was not banned for multiple IDs. Refer to my blog post, which I'm sure you've seen by now. It was banned for no reason whatsoever. LATER it was banned for multiple IDs after a powweb staff member (Mike) told me that I was indeed entitiled to multiple accounts if I am representing multiple customers and that he agreed with my complaint 100%!
Again, I tried to create an account and even posted some completely relevant helpful information on the forum, just to see it deleted 5 minutes later. (The blog screen capture will show you the posts which are now missing from your forum threads.) Arbitrary pruning of our posts deserves the attention of the staff, not the moderators who are performing the abuse in the first place.
Lastly, I don't want money from powweb. What I wanted to do was get through my weekend without hassling myself and you over something so petty. I want my account working as they always have and I want to cease having my accounts deleted by mods for no reason. I"ve been with your company as a satisfied customer longer than most of your mods and probaly half your staff as well. I've seen powweb offer AWESOME customer service in the past. I've ALWAYS been a huge fan of your services and your pricing platforms. Most importantly, I've been here to see the growth in customer services over the years. (100, email addresses, 1000 email addresses, now it's unlimited email addresses, etc) What irritates me is the fact that your company (and your parent company) both state that you offer 24/7 support and you quite obviously do not. Not offering 24/7 support is ok, truly. I don't mind if I'm told that upfront. But, I DO mind being told we are able to depend on someone answering the phones at 3 in the morning if the site says they will. I offer 24/7 support to my hosting customers because powweb offers it to me. If I can't offer that service, then I need to know this up front. You can happily state that telephone support is available M-F, 9-6 EST and that email/chat support is available 24/7. However you don't. You advertise telephone and customer support which isn't there. Having Shuang-Li from India fielding my tech support over the web and telling me her name is Sharon Adamsm only to tell me that no one can fix my problem and that you offer 24x7 support from Monday-Friday (huh?) isn't a fair way to treat your customers.
All that being said, I only want one thing. I want my forum account reinstated and I want to know that I can depend on powweb following its published rules of moderation, as stated in its registration agreement. (See the last line of your registration agreement, which is completely not articulated correctly, by the way.)
I hope you can understand my frustrations and that you can find a way to help me (be) a 100% satisfied customer of powweb again. You can reach me at xxx-xxx-xxxxif you'd like to speak in person. I'll keep an eye on this support ticket for updates. Thanks again for your attention to the matter.
Grrr. I hate making typos, especially in letters to people. That's the problem with typing all that in these little response boxes, but que sera.
My last communication on the support ticket is:
Your response to the BBB filing mentioned a problem with the phone system this weekend, but you didn't address it in your email, so I didn't respond back to in in my initial response. While I can't say that's the reason for the problem, I do understand that it's possible. However on Friday night, your support and billing lines were down, but sales worked. I had sales transfer me to support on my 4th try and that finally got through the PBX.
On Saturday and Sunday both the sales and the support lines were down, responding only with the "There is no one available to take your call. Goodbye" message.
THAT is where the primary amount of my frustrations come from. If you're assuring me that this isn't the normal situation for powweb, then I'll accept that and write that off as just a technical breakdown. (However, for reference in the future, someone should definitely know something's wrong when the lines don't ring for 48 hours... that can't be a common occurrence.)
Thanks again for your time and attention to the matter.
I'll post more when I know more...
Tuesday, May 23th: Progress is made
I got a response from the Vice President of Customer Support again. Looks like I'm making progress!
Thanks for the quick responses.
I'll synch up with our forum team later today. The way that you have described the moderators "downright rude", "arbitrary", "abusive" is very concerning to me, clearly the reason that we maintain the forums is to foster an open, honest dialogue between PowWeb and it's customers, and to create a space where customer's can assist one another. Your characterization of the moderators is a serious issue and I'll be making sure that if this is the case, it will not continue.
With regards to the phone lines over the weekend, I've got one of our IT staff checking this out, our phone lines (both support and sales) should both be operational 24/7, it definitely appears (based on your detailed comments) that something wasn't working this past weekend. I apologize for that, and appreciate you brining it to my attention.
Regarding your forum account, I'll speak with our forum team later today, however, regardless of what our support agent told you about having a forum account for each hosting account, that's not the spirit of what we're trying to do. Each human being should have a single forum identity, it was never intended that a single person could post under multiple identities, as I am sure you'll agree, that's not in the spirit of what we're trying to create.
Then later, I got this:
What is your forum username, the one that you want to use going forward?
Alornmage is back in. Captcha is out:
As of 12:38 on Wednesday, I got my account reinstated, so I'm very happy with the efforts of Mr Gary Engel on my behalf. Even better though is the news that on Thursday at 2:30 PM, Powweb officially removed captcha from their OPS control panel. I posted the info in this this forum and was later directed to the official post, available here:
Update on Login Captcha
As of a few short minutes ago, we've removed the captcha image from login on the PowWeb site.
We've taken your valuable feedback into consideration, and removed it completely for the time being. We realize that our implementation made it more difficult to access your account that it should have been, and that there's plenty of room for improvement. While we sort out the ways that we can improve, we've decided to completely remove the captcha from login.
Our intention with captcha was to help protect your account from possible intrusion, and malicious hackers. The easiest solution to do so was to implement the captcha on login, to prevent scripted logins attempting to "hack" your account.
We're always striving to make security improvements, and I'll be the first to admit that captcha wasn't the best choice. Rest assured, it's gone. There's no plan, as of right now, to bring it back. The future may hold a different type of login security, but it will not likely be captcha.
Thanks for all of you feedback -- we *do* listen -- and let me personally apologize to those that felt offended, left out, and discriminated against by the captcha. It was not our intention to do so, I assure you.
I appreciate your patience while we explored one way to make our platform and your hosting account more secure, and will certainly appreciate your patience with these types of initiatives in the future.
Manager, Technical Support
So, it is with great happiness that I close this post now! It took me almost a week and I had no real hope of actually affecting the implementation of Captcha on the servers, but I guess it just takes persistence and patience. I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure this posting had something to do with it. Posting their problems online in this forum, where they couldn't be lost in the support system, and where the appropriate people could be brought to see ALL the data surrounding the issue seemed to have an effect. I'm sure VP Gary Engel had something to do with all of this, so if he reads this in the future, he has my thanks and the thanks of many others who use powweb for their hosting needs.