What do you do when a good host provider goes bad? That’s the situation I’m in right now. I’m not going to name names, but over the past couple of months, I have been enduring some irritations due to a new host administrator who doesn’t quite grasp the trade-off between ultra-tight security and inconveniencing the user.
It began last month, when I suddently discovered I no longer have shell access to any of my accounts on this particular server. No warning, just poof! When I inquired what the problem was, I received the following response:
After a bit more complaining, “jail” access was restored. Jail access is a term for limited shell access. That’s fine with me, I didn’t need all the commands Linux has to offer, just tar, grep and a few other essential operations for the installation and maintenance of software.
This didn’t last long. The next day, no email, just no access. When I inquired as to why, they replied with:
*Please note, the bold emphasis is mine.
Now two things about this bother me. First, by the administrator’s own admission, he didn’t know the cause, just that he granted me jail access and the system crashed. Second, he didn’t check his log files, because had he, he would have realized that all I did was “pico .htaccess” … that is, I used a text editor to make a modification because my site was under attack from a comment spam flood attack. In other words, someone attacking the system dropped it, and by denying the honest man access, the administrator prevented me from protecting the system.
This misunderstanding was eventually resolved, however we had another server-related issue with mission4me.com, email wasn’t getting to or from deanpeters.com. A few months back, I had moved Chuck Holton’s account to another server, then deleted the account on the old server where deanpeters.com resided. Unfortunately, they didn’t remove the MX record, so email between Chuck and I was essentially tossed into a black hole. I resolved this just before I left the country.
Then, when in Jordan, thousands of miles away from my loved ones, email to deanpeters.com ceased to work. Apparently, email I was deleting, or at least sending to the “trash can” wasn’t actually deleted, so it was consuming disk space. The provider, again without warning, stopped any further incoming email. Exactly what I didn’t need to happen at the worst possible time. I conveyed this to the provider, and they responded with a Catch-22. They weren’t going to restore access until I deleted several incoming messages … which I wasn’t going to delete because they were holding them, and I wasn’t going to delete them until I was in country again.
More complaining finally got this resolved, somewhat …
… then last night, I discovered I could no longer send SMTP from my home computer. When I first inquired as to why, here was the response:
Please try setting up your email client manually (not with the cpanel autoconfig) and making sure that you have checked ‘my server requires authentication’. Out techs tested this connection successfully and replied with their findings. Please let us know if you still have issues.
I was a bit suspicious of this reason. They had in the past identified the wrong cause, and after having updated Cpanel on a server I now manage with the same update, I found no such problem. So I ran some tests of my own and came to the conclusion that they were blocking the IP address: pool-141-156-161-125.esr.east.verizon.net. I informed them as such. Here was their reply:
I asked them if they realized they were blocking an entire portion of the Verizon customers living in the heavily populated Maryland suburbs of DC? Their response was to blame a black hole list:
I then checked ahbl.org. Not blocked. I checked several other lists. It was only blocked at NJABL.ORG. Why my host provider made me query several blackhole lists is beyond me. Why they would go ahead and trust a single blackhole list that blindly blocks an entire range if IP addresses (Verizon VZ-DSLDIAL-*) without checking my specific IP address is just plain sloppy … especially when said IP isn’t on the eight other blackhole lists they employ.
So please forgive an interruption in service later this week as I go through the painful process of moving HealYourChurchWebSite.com and a few other accounts to servers affected by a host who suddenly had problems with Verizon, blog comment spam flod attacks and actually knowing what the problem is instead of guessing or blaming the first thing that comes to mind.
I personally speculate and attribute this to a new administrator coming town.