Web provider disappears after 'unprecedented' sanction

  • 26/08/2014

A Kiwi web provider has gone to ground after an unprecedented sanction from the Domain Name Commission (DNC) over months of poor or completely absent service.

The Christchurch business, 24/7 Hosting, appears to have been abandoned - its website has been offline since Friday and has now expired, support emails are bouncing back to the sender and authorities are unable to make contact.

The company provides hosting and domain services to around 6000 Kiwi websites, and dozens of its customers are now reportedly offline and without access to email.

Many small business owners are now desperate for a response or some kind of update from the provider, who on Friday claimed to be experiencing "a temporary outage".

There have been no updates since and many small business owners have left to beg for information through Facebook, with one saying she'd been left "sick" by the ordeal.

Campbell Gardiner, of the Domain Name Commission, says the mysterious collapse comes just days after an "unprecedented" sanction which forced all 24/7 Hosting customers to leave the provider.

The "last resort step" was imposed on August 19 after months of regulation breaches and ongoing issues for customers, with 24/7 management becoming extremely difficult to contact.

"It's become really blindingly obvious that people are experiencing massive disruption and 24/7 Hosting appears to be doing nothing to fix things," he says. "This is very, very rare, in fact it's unprecedented… this is beyond a joke, this needs to be closed now."

24/7 customers now have until September 20 to leave the provider or face having their domain cancelled, put back on the market and available for purchase after a 90-day grace period.

Mr Gardiner says the measure is designed to "close the book" on the embattled business, which buys domain and hosting services from other companies and resells it to the end user.

"It's never happened before; we've never had to take an action to require people to move away from a provider," he says. "We're ultimately acting in the best interests of the name holders."

24/7 Hosting bought thousands of domains through a top level registrar named Voyager which, under an order from the DNC, is now working to inform all customers of the impending sanction.

However, CEO Seeby Woodhouse says many could be left completely unaware as 24/7 Hosting has used the wrong contact information on hundreds of domains.

"They had more like 6000 customers and we emailed around 3000 real customers," he says. "A lot of their domain names were registered their own name.

"If it's bought in someone else's name then you're kind of helpless, so we've been working with the DNC – where people can provide adequate proof, we're changing those name holder details."

Emma Fraser, a small business owner from Auckland, is one of the many customers locked out her website and work email, and unable to rescue her domain as 24/7 has listed it as their own.

"When I found out I wasn't the registered owner I was nearly sick," she says. "I was nervous, I was in tears, it was horrendous because I didn't know what to do. I had this big event on in a week.

"I've done as much as I can but I hate to think what new emails I'm missing from new retailers."

Fraser Scott, a management consultant, was also locked out of essential emails and is furious 24/7 Hosting has been allowed to shaft hundreds of customers.

"People are just begging for some kind of advice or input about what's happening," he says. "The email is a killer because that's the main form of communication I use.

"There are emails I know that are bouncing… it just looks unprofessional, it would have caused people to go elsewhere, I have no doubt about that."

The Christchurch man has been keeping a close eye on the company's Facebook page which – after being deleted and then restored last month – has become home to hundreds of complaints.

"They're not providing any kind of update on what's happening in any form, but someone's still sitting there, monitoring Facebook and removing comments," he says.

"They have deleted huge numbers [of complaints], around half of the overall comments and I've checked every half an hour or so over the last few days.

Domain records show the company's main website, www.247hosting.co.nz, has expired in the last few days and has not been renewed.

Mr Woodhouse has worked with the company through Voyager for years and has no idea why they have fallen from grace over the last few months.

"They had a viable business for quite a while," he says. "They wouldn't have built up several thousand customers unless they were answering the phone at some point.

"Things seem to have fallen by the wayside… it's a bit of a first for the New Zealand domain name industry."

Affected customers should contact Voyager as soon as possible – the company was the top level registrar used by 24/7 Hosting, and still has control over almost all of their domains.

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source: newshub archive