HostMonster - Service & Support Issues

While we’re still only in the early months of 2014, a clear frontrunner has emerged for dubious honour of worst hosting provider I’ve had the displeasure of dealing with this year. The fun started earlier today, when I received an EMail from HostMonster’s support stating that outgoing spam had been detected from a mailman installation in our account. So, of course, my first step was to attempt to login to the control panel account in order to check the mailman settings… except when I tried to, I received an error message stating that the account had been suspended. But not for the mailman as you might expect – instead, the error stated that the account had been suspended for a completely different reason: copyright violation.

Sadly, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to shoddy & unreliable service from HostMonster. Read on for the complete comedy of errors.

First, a little bit of background: while we do use our own webservers for the majority of the sites that we host, develop, and maintain, we have also had a Hostmonster account for abut 5 years now – mainly for development purposes, testing, as an emergency backup, etc. So, fortunately, we only have a single live site on HostMonster’s network (one of our own sites), partly due to similar experiences with poor service from Hostmonster in the past – but more on that later.

Getting back to the current (and ongoing as of this writing) issue, this is not actually the first time that Hostmonster has suspended our account for copyright violation – but the second time. The first time was almost as ridiculous: Hostmonster’s support didn’t bother informing us of the “issue” until after they had already suspended the account… for a non-existent copyright violation. Apparently one of the brain donors in their support department noticed that our site contained a number of videos and then mindlessly assumed that they must violate copyright, without having received any third-party complaints or takedown requests, or any other valid reason to believe there was a copyright issue.

That brings us full circle, back to the present… and it gets even more absurd. This time, Hostmonster didn’t even bother to inform us after the fact that the account had been suspended – I only noticed when I attempted to login to the control panel. The notification message about the EMail issue made no mention of account suspension and stated that only the account’s ability to send outgoing mail had been suspended – when, in fact, the entire account had been suspended, included the site hosted on that account (causing any visitors to the site to see an error, instead of the page they expected).

But even THAT isn’t the end of it. I did eventually discover that I could still access the control panel for the account – not immediately obvious, since I was redirected to the “account suspended” page after login. So while waiting for Hostmonster to get around to responding, I checked on the original issue that they reported… only to discover to that that issue was also non-existent, because there are no mailman lists setup in that account to begin with. As near as I can tell, the message originated from one of our other servers (due to a known issue with the way mailman’s “list-owner” address works) – but because it the domain it came from had also been setup on our Hostmonster account in the past, someone appears to have incorrectly assumed that the message came from their server. Which means they evidently didn’t bother to check to check the originating IP in the message headers, or perform a DNS lookup for the domain name, or even check for mailman lists in the account on their own servers – any of which would have immediately confirmed that they’d made a mistaken assumption about the origin of the message. I didn’t think Hostmonster’s service could get worse than assuming that all video files violate copyright, - but suspending an account for spam received from a completely separate network is at least a contender as far as amateur-hour mistakes go.

And to put the cherry on top, I first contacted Hostmonster’s support about the issue nearly two hours ago – but the only response I received was a boilerplate message asking me to confirm that I am in fact the account holder… yep, I replied to a message that they sent to me as the account holder, yet they still need me to verify (not exactly a surprise, though). There have been no further responses since I replied with the information they requested, over an hour and 45 minutes ago.

UPDATE 2014-02-21 It has now been over 24 hours since we first reported the problem to HostMonster's support and requested that they fix it. Since this post was originally written, we have received a grand total of one further response - saying that I needed to check for vulnerable mailman settings... after I had already pointed out that there aren't any mailman lists setup in that account.

In the meantime, we've transferred the one site we had on HostMonster to another server. Despite the fact that the site contains over 50GB of data, we were able to do that in less than it's taken HostMonster to fix a problem that is entirely on their  end & should have required (at most) 10-15 minutes to fix. That's including the time it should have taken to verify the we information provided to them, after we essentially did their job for them and spoon-fed them all of the relevant details.

Now it's time to see if their cancellations department is any less inept - certainly not holding my breath.


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