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Aardvark Weekly 27 August 99
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Dateline: 21 December 1999 All Day Edition
Read Yesterday's Edition

What A Cruisy Job!
There was a time when only a handful of businesses had any presence on the Internet and asking a businessman for his email address would simply result in a blank or puzzled stare.

However, as we prepare to roll the clock over to the year 2,000 we it's interesting to note just how quickly so many businesses have become extremely reliant on the services offered by the Net.

In many cases, email has effectively replaced fax and the post for day-to-day communications and a company's e-commerce enabled website acts as a 24-hour-per-day salesman -- offering product information and taking orders and payments to customers all over the world.

It stands to reason therefore, that any critical failure in the services that are used to provide a company's Net presence and email can be a very costly event.

While you could be forgiven for thinking that even over the holiday period, the major suppliers of essential services have got the bases covered -- with Telecom monitoring data lines and international circuits while also handling fault reports and most ISPs providing help-desk services between Christmas and New Year -- but there's one absolutely critical service that seems to have been abandoned.

Let's explore the unlikely situation where your service provider or hosting company has a major failure and can't get their systems up again within a reasonable amount of time. Such a failure could even be as a result of the Y2K situation.

Under normal circumstances you could simply transfer your website and email to another provider by having the information related to your domain name updated. For those who don't know how domain names and the DNS (domain name system) work -- when your browser or email program encounters a domain name (such as aardvark.co.nz) it issues a request to the equivalent of an Internet phone book. In New Zealand, this system is run by Domainz and it returns the number of the computer on which your mailbox or website is located. Moving your website to another ISP's computer is simply a case of changing the number that's registered against your domain name.

Sounds simple eh?

But what if the company that manages the domain name registry decides that the service it provides is not important enough to stay open over the Christmas/New Year period?

The answer is that any business which finds itself in the unenviable position of having to change hosting companies during this period is utterly stuffed!

To quote the official Domainz advisory:

The Domainz office will be closed for customer enquiries from the evening of Thursday 23rd December and will re-open Thursday, January 6, 2000

Excuse me? That's a TWO WEEK period when anyone unfortunate enough to have a problem is going to SOL when it comes to having their email and web service restored by changing hosting companies.

Is this acceptable?

And just in case you think I'm scaremongering -- ask all the customers of WebDrive who found themselves in the unfortunate situation of having their hosting company's server fall over -- leaving them without service for several days.

Fortunately, those who were critically reliant on the Net were able to transfer at least their email or their websites to other ISPs and get back online within a day or so. This is not intended as a criticism of WebDrive -- just an indication that this kind of thing can, and does happen.

If this had happend between December 23 and January 6 however, none of those companies could have hoped to have any kind of temporary restoration of service by switching providers.

Domainz seem to think that it's unreasonable for them to have to provide any customer service over the break to help anyone else who might similarly be caught.

With the new government claiming that the Net is becoming an "essential service", surely it behoves Domainz to act responsibly about the provision of customer service over this period. One must ask -- if it weren't a monopoly, would Domainz be quite so quick to disregard the needs of the market quite so quickly?

You'd think that with the healthy profit Domainz is wringing from its monopoly that at the very least they could afford to have at least a skeleton crew onboard from December 27 through December 31 and January 3 onwards. This is disgraceful!

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