From Earth(link) and back again, and other annoyances

I meant to pen this months ago, but you know how it is, you get busy. Lately I had another wonderful issue with Earthlink, so that prompted me to write about both incidents.

One general statement before I begin: I used to have a fairly high opinion of Earthlink. That opinion has been tarnished like old silver in the last few months. The ISP part of their business may be very good, I do not know. From what I have seen their web mail is good, if not a little paranoid. My beef is not with the ISP part of their services, well, not entirely. I have heard both good and bad things about their ISP services, but I cannot pass judgment on that because I do not have first hand knowledge of it.

My problem is with Earthlink's web hosting services, specifically their small business web hosting services.

In this instance, I found out that if you use earthlink for an ISP, and for a web host, you cannot, no matter how you try, move to a cheaper, better web host. The only way to do this is if you give up Earthlink High Speed Internet as well. If you have bundled services from Earthlink, you are in their little club, and you cannot leave. It is worse then Avon, I swear.

Why would I want to move a client to a new web host? Lets see, Earthlink web hosting is just a bit pricey. Lets just say its highway robbery. They really ream people with their "small business" packages. You would think that Earthlink would have more competitive prices for packages aimed at small businesses. Anyways, I am not ranting about the prices, that is secondary to my real problem with Earthlink.

Unfortunately I tried to fight Earthlink on this. I failed. I now know not to mess with the Big Orange Machine.

I successfully moved this client's web site to the new, better host. I could login and the new web hosts admin tools, upload the new site, but I was getting problems with email. It seemed as if Earthlink would not give up the MX record. After a week I had to move the client back to Earthlink for web hosting and tell her to forget about saving a lot on her web hosting. Things were quickly back to normal.

Lesson learned.

I now learn, because of another client, that when you sign up with Earthlink for web hosting, you transfer partial control of your domain name to Earthlink.

The administrative contact still stays with the owner of the domain, but the technical contact and billing contact is changed to Earthlink. They then charge you $35 a year to register the domain name. I pay GoDaddy $9.95 a year, that is a big difference, isn't it?

I learned this new information about the billing and technical contact today when on the phone with Network Solutions, the registrar of choice of one of my clients. Because two of this client's domains is hosted by Earthlink, I cannot login to the Network Solutions Account Manager and manage them! The very helpful Network Solutions tech. support representative sent me a form I have to fax to Earthlink to get back billing and technical control over the domain names my client originally bought at Network solutions. What is wrong with that?

This client does not use Earthlink as their ISP, so I have no problems with getting rid of Earthlink all together. Their pricing for one domain is what I can pay for an entire reseller account to host all the domains my client has. Like I said, their prices are not very competitive. In my opinion, Earthlink, like a lot of all-in-one internet service companies out there, prey on the naive customers who do not know any better.

Right now I am just waiting to get this form from Network Solutions so my client can have back the domain names that are rightfully theirs.

After these two incidents I have had with my clients I can not recommend Earthlink for anything. I would not even recommend them for dial-up or high speed internet access. Not after these two fiascos I have had to deal with in the past few months!

I don't like it that my one client has to stay with Earthlink, but it would be too much work to move both her web hosting and high speed internet. And that is why people deal with it, these companies make it next to impossible to leave.

If you have Earthlink and like the services that you pay for, well, good for you. I would just say that there may be better solutions for you that are not only cheaper, but offer better and more tools. In my two experiences, I found that I could find both cheaper and better tools elsewhere.

As a side note: Earthlink's phone and web based live tech. support is horrid. Depending on what time of day, you get people with more or less knowledge, you cannot get a strait answer from them, they have treated me like I know nothing about web hosting, and worst of all they more or less held information from me that I had to figure out on my own as to why things were not working correctly.

Maybe Earthlink has a book of small print that most people do not read before they sign their domain names away, I do not know. I have never pursued Earthlink for any of their services. But I will tell you this. I will never look to Earthlink, or point a client in their direction, for any of their services.

They need to rethink their customer relations in my opinion. They should also rethink some of their business practices.

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