Web Hosts - The Good, Bad, and Indifferent

The Good

SupremeHost (2003 - )

I have had an excellent experience with SupremeHost. Their service has been reliable and their staff helpful. Although I am probably one of their smallest users, their turnaround time on e-mailed questions has been excellent. I don't recall them ever taking longer than eight hours to get back to me, weekends included. The fact that their prices are more than reasonable helps too!

2013 Update: While SupremeHost still offers a solid package for web hosting, I have encountered several period of e-mail instability over the last two years. e-Mails in this regard have not been anwered as quickly (or at all). I am now running my e-mail through Google Apps.

Just the Name (2001 - 2004)

Although not strictly speaking a web host, Just the Name provides a premier URL Masking solution that appears to involve caching your site on their servers. Their service has been reliable and their staff helpful. Turnaround time on e-mailed queries is good, only once stretching to four days - admittedly over a weekend.

The Bad (But Improving?)

StreamlineNet (2003 - 2004)

While I was looking into SupremeHost in March 2003, I took up StreamlineNet's offer of a three month free trial. This was a major mistake as the following chronology will demonstrate.

When I decided that SupremeHost would get my web hosting business I sent an e-mail cancelling my account to StreamlineNet, some seventeen days after the account had been created. The first danger sign that I should have spotted was the fact that I did not receive an acknowledgement of receipt. Sure enough, I was billed for the default account - the most expensive account available - three months later.

As soon as I received my credit card statement, I sent a copy of my cancellation e-mail to StreamlineNet and requested that the charge be reversed. Four days later I received an e-mail indicating that this was being looked into and an hour later a request for a copy of the confirmation of cancellation, which I had never received. I replied the same day indicating that I had not received it and pointing out I had never made use of the account. A week later I followed up as I had received no response. The next day I received a request for the date of my e-mail cancelling the account. I replied the next day with another copy of the cancellation e-mail. Five days later I followed up as I had not received a response. (Do you notice a trend here?) Two days later I received an e-mail stating;

"Thanks for your patients!

The reason we kept you waiting is because we had to look back into our old deleted e-mails to find proof of cancellation.

The good news is that we have found your original cancellation and have therefore issued a refund that will reach your account in no more than 3 working days.

Any further questions please get I touch.

We hope and would be honoured to welcome you back as a customer in the near future!"

Well, this was looking hopeful, so I responded with;

"Thank you. Perhaps your web pages should note the need to follow-up if no confirmation of cancellation is received within, say, 72 hours."

A month later the credit had not appeared on my credit card statement, so I e-mailed to ask what was happening. Mirabile dictu, I got a response the next day indicating that this was being looked into. A month later the credit had not appeared on my credit card statement, so I e-mailed to ask what was happening. No response.

Two weeks later I started looking into lodging a complaint with the Trading Standards Office. Interestingly enough, StreamlineNet's web site does not give a physical or postal address. Fortunately, the web site mentions its associate StreamlineDSL. A quick check shows that, in common with StreamlineNet, this domain was registered by [the founder of StreamlineNet]. As it was registered after 1 January 2003, it falls under Nominet's new WHOIS policy and an address is available. To ensure that I wasn't making a mistake, I then e-mailed StreamlineNet to ask what their physical or postal address was. Anyone surprised to hear that I got no response?

I am not the only person to have difficulty with StreamlineNet as the following extract from http://www.rectrix.cx, which I retrieved on 12 October 2003, shows;

"March - July 2003: Well, I must give a hearty shout of disapproval for StreamlineNet as a hosting company. They took an average of two weeks to respond to my emails, and finally decided to refuse to host my domain (they have not yet returned my (required) pre-payment for two years of service). They initially claimed it was because I provided images of copyrighted content - then later realized that fair use would allow me to do that."

I then created this web page to give fair warning to others and invited StreamlineNet to comment on it before I made it public. The invitation elicited the following response two days later:

"We have decided that due to the fact you say that you cancelled before the 3 months expired we will refund the moneys.

Please however for security provide us with your account Username and Password?"

I found this rather curious for two reasons. The first was that StreamlineNet had already conceded that I had cancelled the account. The second was the request for information that should have been at their fingertips. I took the charitable view that they were trying to confirm my identity and so provided my user name and my password with two letters asterisked out. The next day the full password was requested and I sent it the following day.

A day later I received an e-mail stating;

"Thanks for your mail.

This refund has now been made.

Any problems please get in touch..."

Well, it is a month later and this refund still has not shown up on my credit card statement. Time to lodge that complaint with the Trading Standards Office and to make this web page public! Whatever the outcome of the complaint, my advice to anyone considering StreamlineNet as a web host is do not.


3 December 2003: No response to the courtesy e-mail I sent StreamlineNet on 22 November to let them know that my page was going live. On the other hand, the Derbyshire Trading Standards Service has acknowledged receipt of my complaint.

I have heard from another disgruntled StreamlineNet user, Brian, who came across this web page by chance. He tells me; "I am currently having the same problems with this company, no telephone support and simply lack of mail support. It has been near a week now since they have taken payment from my bank account, and they are simply hitting me with 'send us a copy of the cancellation mail'..." He has a different address for StreamlineNet but he is also trying the Derbyshire Trading Standards Service first to see where that takes us.

Brian's e-mail prompted me to do a search for StreamlineNet on Google and I am glad to see this page makes it to the top ten results. Switching to the groups search as a matter of curiosity turns up this thread. Bob's message and those following it provide another reason for avoiding StreamlineNet.

26 December 2003: [The founder] of StreamlineNet has apparently been surfing the web and has come across this page. He has offered an apology and backed it up with an offer of the free use of one of StreamlineNet's services. My response;

"Thank you for the offer. I have no plans for an additional domain name at this time. I would, however, appreciate receiving the often promised - but never delivered - refund on my cancelled account."

Brian tells me that he has received a refund from StreamlineNet thanks to the Derbyshire Trading Standards Service.

7 February 2004: The Derbyshire Trading Standards Service has contacted me via this page, since my e-mail address had been mangled by their system. They wanted to check on whether or not I had been provided with StreamlineNet's terms and conditions and if I had received a refund yet. (In case you were wondering, the answers were that the terms and conditions are on StreamlineNet's web site, so I had seen them, and that I had not received the refund.)

I was intrigued to note that this page was one of the most requested pages on my web site in January. Four more unhappy StreamlineNet users have also contacted me since my last update. Looks like this page is turning into a useful resource.

20 February 2004: [The founder] of StreamlineNet has apparently been surfing the web again. He sent me the following e-mail on 9 February;

"I was again looking at the listing provided via a Google search and found your site.

I was absolutely appalled to see that we have still not issued you with your refund. I have therefore today personally issued you with this refund (£79.87).

Also as you have stated on your site that other customers of ours have contacted you. Please let us know of there contact details so that we can resolve these problems with them.

I am so sorry that you had not received this refund earlier and please let us know of anything else we can do to assist you in the future..."

I then requested permission from the four users to release their details. One accepted, one declined, and I haven't heard from the other two. The first user has had a refund promised and the second seems to be on track for a successful cancellation. My refund was indeed credited to my credit card account on 9 February as stated.

19 March 2004: A user who contacted me yesterday pointed out that you can get a physical address and telephone number for [redacted] on the web. The address and the fax number given tie up with information available for StreamlineNet elsewhere, so there seems to be some association.

I am happy to add resources to this web site but I do not have any special influence to help visitors who have problems with StreamlineNet. I can only suggest that you use the classic three step approach.

  1. Ask for the problem to be corrected.
  2. If that does not work, complain to senior management. Try the contact details you find using the resources here.
  3. If you still have no luck, try a regulatory authority - such as your local Trading Standards Office - or some other means of redress.
Remember to keep a record of your interactions at each step so that you have the information handy as you escalate the matter.

27 March 2004: [The founder of StreamlineNet] has visited this page again and while he concedes it is a fair reflection of the problems I experienced, he believes they need to be placed in context.

"I set up the Hosting side of StreamlineNet around one year ago and the demand for the products was huge. One year on we now have around 4500 unique customers. Around 1000 of these started their life on a Trial User account. As you can imagine with this rapid growth came staffing issues and unfortunately during this period some customers (including yourself) had issues contacting us. Three months on and we now have new staff and things are on a much more even keel.

I have also had a meeting with Derbyshire Trading Standards at our offices and they were in agreement that the problems were related to rapid growth.

I once again would like to apologise for the problems you experienced. I hope that you can see that a genuine effort has been made to address problems the kind of problems you experienced and to re-assure you and visitors to your page of our intentions going forward."

The Derbyshire Trading Standards Service has provided the following comment.

"Trading Standards have met with [the founder of StreamlineNet] and investigated a complaint. Some problems linked to rapid business growth were identified and solutions found. [The founder] found the visit to be beneficial to his business. Trading Standards do not expect any further similar complaints to arise."

So, where does that leave my original advice regarding StreamlineNet as a web host? On the positive side, there seems to have been something of an improvement in customer service of late and a sincere apology from the management of the operation. On the negative side are the poor service for the bulk of my involuntary relationship with the operation, the technical difficulties reported by one of my correspondents, and the fact that it took just over eight months from my account being debited incorrectly to the credit being passed. In the final analysis, the decision of whether to use StreamlineNet or not is yours. Search the web and newsgroups for recent reports of others' experiences - hopefully the positive trend that I observed recently has been sustained - and then make your own decision.

5 December 2005: The founder of Streamlinenet has contacted me to request that the record of my experiences above be deleted. Equally, various users have contacted me to suggest that I add their experiences. I have done neither since this page is primarily a record of my experiences with various web hosts over the the specified periods.

I have, however, agreed to the founder's request that I replace all references to his name on this page with [the founder of StreamlineNet] or [the founder]. I have also taken the opportunity to remove a link that is no longer appropriate due to a change in StreamlineNet's address, which is now available from the contact page on their web site and from whois on Nominet.

The Indifferent

M-Web (2001)

My original ISP (and supplier of ten megabytes of free web space) in South Africa, Fastlight Data Systems, sold its business to Netactive. Netactive, in turn, sold its non-commercial accounts to M-Web. The transfer to M-Web was a comedy of errors. A change to passwords with the notification of change being e-mailed to users after the change, duplicate charges, support technicians who had not been informed of changes and had to battle along with me to get things right, and more. What lifts M-Web from the bad category is the helpful technicians I dealt with and the fact that M-Web got around to correcting the errors, reversing the charges, and had a member of management call me to apologise - albeit over the course of a couple of months. By this stage I had dropped them and moved to a new ISP. I also registered my own domain, so that I would not have to worry about changing my e-mail or web site addresses if I changed ISP again.

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This page went live on 22 November 2003 and was last updated on 8 June 2013.