Mike's random thoughts and ramblings

Customer Service, Security and APlus

I mentioned recently that I spent some of my Christmas holidays switching web-hosting companies. And I had originally considered letting my switch go without too much comment. Suffice it to say that I was pretty unhappy with my old web-hosting company, and my new one (Site5) absolutely rocks.

And then, I read Michael Stzelzner's blog this week on a similar topic. He, too, had an incredibly bad experience with APlus.

My story isn't nearly as frustrating as Michael's: he probably lost significant amounts of money due to the incompetence and arrogance of APlus.

Mine is a story more about security. And, more specifically, trackback pings.

You see, APlus bills themselves as a great place to host a blog. They install software for you on your site (Serendipity) that helps you run a blog. They encourage you to be a blogger, and encourage the use of their service for blogging. It was one of the reasons I signed up for APlus web hosting in the first place.

So, I install a blog, and write an entry that links to some other entry, and the service tries to do a trackback to the link. Permission denied.

And I figure "Okay, that's annoying. But, no problem. I'll just email and ask them to allow trackbacks."

And my jaw dropped on their response. This is the actual email I received:

"Dear Michael Murry, if you want make an Outbound connection you have to:
In order to Open outbound connection to remote site you need:
1. To provide me your registration number and domain name
2. To specify the local script filename and location that is running on our server
3. To provide me the remote hostname or IP address and port number which needs to be
4. To tell me what is the exact and detailed purpose for this connection

Please provide me with more details on this issue. Thank you."

So, if I want to use trackbacks on the blog, I have to provide them with a hostname and IP address and await a firewall change every time.

Okay, that's annoying, but I decided to live with it.

And then, I ran into number problem #2. They'll only allow you 10 outbound connections total. Ever. Oh, yeah, and you can't connect outbound to port 80.

That was the end of trackbacks. And doing blacklist-type comment-spam protection. And about a million other things I wanted to do on the blog.

And why did they have this policy, you ask? Directly from their mouths:

"This is a shared hosting server with certain restrictions on it. Due to security reasons and company's policy we can not grant you access to more than 10 remote hosts. Actually there are no such restrictions on dedicated servers."

I attempted to get them to see the failure of rationality that limiting providing service to customers for a practice that doesn't provide significant risk reduction is a bad business decision. Their final answer:

"After discussing your case with our management I can state that our decision is final."

My conclusion here was pretty simple: if you want to run a blog and a podcast, don't use APlus.Net. And, apparently, if you want decent service, you shouldn't use APlus either.

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Michael Murray

Michael Murray