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back to article PlusNet blasts email into blackhole (again)

PlusNet, the terminally scatterbrained ISP, has permanently deleted customers' email again after it bungled the installation of an anti-spam appliance, it admitted this morning. The Sheffield firm said it had blackholed about 10 per cent of the backlog of mail which built up yesterday daytime while its engineers worked on the …

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Here we go again...

Interesting looking at the previous announcements, assuring customers nothing was lost and all that yada. PlusNet are a great ISP, but we might think differently if we used them for anything more than their connection.

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It's rocket science I tell you!

"As previously announced, we encounter problems following the installation of a new spam appliance on the mail platform yesterday morning. This caused some email sent to customers' accounts to queue on the spam appliance before being delivered to our mail servers.

The decision was taken to roll back the changes late afternoon at which point new email should have been getting delivered immediately and older email should have been in the process of getting dequeued."

H'mm lets see, messages are queued on the new spam appliance, said appliance is then taken offline because it's causing problems and I wonder where the queued mail went - sheesh!

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non-plussed

Their uses are probably thinking of renaming the company MinusNet for being so non-plussed.

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Not alone

Freeserve (now Orange) has just deleted my freeserve.co.uk email account after 10 years - must be a phase they're all going through.

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Anonymous Coward

The problem is....

....all the people with a clue have either migrated to another ISP or at the very least moved their email/hosting (hi Kitz and others, hope you're all well) to more resilient hosts.

This leaves the people least able to comprehend what is going on as the ones suffering.

I've said it before and I'm saying it again "BT PLEASE close Plusnet down - the brand is worthless, as is the business model. You got Workplace so do the decent thing for your customers and CLOSE THEM DOWN!"

Sorry for caps but Plusnet have less competence than Tiscali UK (Tiscali Europe is actually reasonable) and no things aren't going to improve, not unless ALL the senior/middle management is removed and you may as well close the whole show down in that case.

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Anonymous Coward

So what's new?

News? Olds? Similar to the one about a secure operating system from a famous OS maker. Maybe next time?

If it's not their mail, it's their web servers, or their bandwidth limitations.

Can businesses put their trust in Plusnet? Not if they use e-mail.

Disgruntled Plusnet customer.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

That's why I left...

...PlusNet, because of all their screw ups. Seems I left just in time before this little outbreak of incompetence.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: The problem is....

I don't accept the comments about the Plusnet brand and business model. They are still one of the cheapest providers for users with low to intermediate usage requirements (I've never managed to use more than the 8GB a month for £14.99) and I can't fault their helpdesk or their broadband service/download speed (yes I actually do get 8Mbit/s when downloading from Microsoft/Apple update sites).

Their email service is another matter. If I used it I would be severely pissed off by now.

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Loving the suggestion "if you haven't received mail"

So lets think: who failed to mail me yesterday that might have mailed? Hm...

You definitely don't want to come across as whiny and insecure, but then if that company mailed you a job offer or promised estimate: shall we just wait a couple days and let them hanging? Shall we nag them now? Choices, choices. Nah, just dump PlusNet, get a Gmail account and mail the companies this change -- voila.

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Google

GMail saved me from this lot many moons ago, as far as connection is concerned that are above par but as for the rest well....the reports speak for themselves.

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@John Naismith

"....all the people with a clue have either migrated to another ISP or at the very least moved their email/hosting (hi Kitz and others, hope you're all well) to more resilient hosts."

Not entirely true. I have several clues - many more than most - I'm just very busy right now and the loss of a load of mail - 90% of which was probably spam (gee thanks again Force9) probably doesn't imact my life too much...

I agree with the rest of your post tho' - BT should just pull the plug and migrate us users across to a comparable tariff.

That I agree with the anonymous comment above - the £14.99 tariff and bandwidth usages suit me to the ground. However when you take into account that you have to find someone else to host your mail / domain, all of a sudden it doesn't seem so reasonable.

When I get some time I'll change to someone else - Sky maybe - but tbh it's almost a case of better the devil you know...

Whether I would use them as an ISP if I was a business user is entirely a different matter.

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Anticipated

For once, I seem to have ticked (or in this case, unticked) the right box. Plusnet offered me their spam filtering service a few months ago, and, tempting as it seemed, I had a feeling that it might throw the baby out with the bathwater, so I declined. You'd think they'd have learned to be a bit more careful by now, though...

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Isn't it obvious?

I've not used an ISP for my email since I got a hotmail account all those years ago for precisely this reason.

In the last few months since I signed up to plusNet, I've had no issues with my connection what-so-ever. £14.99 a month for an 8GB limit that only applies between 8am and midnight (just schedule downloads for between 00:10 and 07:50!), a connection speed that is regularly 6-8Mbps down and at least 512kbps up, a static IP on a home connection AND a callcentre BASED IN THE UK(!!!) is bloody good value for money in my opinion.

It's certainly better than the £14.99 a month I was paying for 2Mbps from Tiscali which was constantly breaking on me and support didn't understand that I had already checked my router and diagnosed that the fault was with them.

Issues with email? Don't use them for it. Truth is, they're the best ISP I've been with in the last 7 years for a connection, so that's what I use them for.

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And that ladies and gentlemen

is precisely the sort of shit service you can expect from PlusNet which is precisely why I told them what to do with their service last month.

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Anonymous Coward

Get what you pay for

You're getting broadband for 15 quid a month - what did you think you'd get for this? Mind you, losing email because of a hyper-aggressive spam-filter really just defines their "engineers" as absolutely clueless. Have they ever heard of properly testing this shit before letting it lose like a rabid dog?

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Comments from a former customer

I'm a former PlusNet customer, having moved to another ISP about 18 months ago after discovering that PlusNet had been happily overcharging me for months: continuing to charge me £40 a month for a product that other customers had been paying just £25 a month for over a significant period of time.

I realise that the onus is on the user to be proactive about these things, but you'd assume that when a product is reduced in price, then all users who are currently using that product would automatically benefit from the new pricing, not just new customers that signed up. After heavy correspondence debating this point with PlusNet "management", and their stubborn decision not to refund the full amount of the overcharge or even a goodwill amount, I came to the conclusion that they are nothing more than a bunch of money-grabbing charlatans who should not to be in business.

I've experienced first class customer service with my current ISP and haven't experienced a single problem in one-and-a-half year of service - all at a great price too. If you're still with PlusNet, I suggest that you get out before things head even further south.

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Anonymous Coward

E-mail appliance?

..and which wonderful anti-spam e-mail 'appliance' was it exactly that they were attempting to configure. An 'appliance' suggests they were sticking a separate box in their server room between the gateway and the e-mail server. Perhaps the people who sold them this wonderful device forgot to mention what would happen if they unplugged it?

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Anonymous Coward

@Mark W

"Not entirely true. I have several clues - many more than most - I'm just very busy right now and the loss of a load of mail - 90% of which was probably spam (gee thanks again Force9) probably doesn't imact my life too much..."

Well there you go, you see you understand what is going on and that if you wanted *guaranteed* delivery you'd (I assume) do it yourself. I do although smtp is about as guaranteed as snow in the UK :-P

However Joe Public sees it like the Royal Mail and frankly it isn't beyond the wit of man to provide a better service than that over smtp.

The problem is (IMHO) as always Plusnet under-fund/resource everything. This is endemic throughout the "company" and is (IMHO) an inheritance from Strafford's "what does it matter, BT will buy us" days.

Therefore in my humble opinion BT should end Plusnet and also make all ISP staff redundant. It seems harsh but the previous managments cynicism (IMHO again) about customer service has a corrosive effect throughout the organisation. MEANINGFUL retraining would cost more than simply moving the callcentre somewhere else and even if you chose retraining how do you salvage the Plusnet brand which is a laughing stock amongst the clueful from Aberystwyth to Shanghai?

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Crikey

"Not entirely true. I have several clues - many more than most - I'm just very busy right now and the loss of a load of mail - 90% of which was probably spam (gee thanks again Force9) probably doesn't imact my life too much..."

I wonder if you'd be so cavalier if you worked in a bank's IT department and 10% of your customers balances were wiped out. If their typical sysadmin has an attitude like that, no wonder PlusNet are always screwing up.

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Anonymous Coward

amount of lost email

Who loses more emails, plusnet whose appliance is disconnected once, or hotmail that silently classifies most emails as spam and drops them?

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Anonymous Coward

SMTP forwarding

I use Plusnet and have simply set SMTP forwarding up so my box get the mail directly and if for some reason my computer is offline they store the email and then when I reconnect I can just finger their email server and I get my mail.

I've not lost any email whilst I've been with Plusnet and the connection is rock solid (I'm on a 2Mbit fixed line to due distance/overhead line problems with Max) - solid to the point that its been connected for a month with no CRC errors.

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Anonymous Coward

make them all redundant you say...

... thats a novel idea, mind you they must be overdue their annual cull of staff anyway...

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ian

Plusnet = Wankers.

Q: Dear Plusnet. Isn't failing to protect personal information a breach of the Data Protection Act?

Q: Dear ICO. Given that Plusnet screw up on a frequent basis, destroying or disclosing personal information, why haven't you acted?

Q: Dear Plusnet. When you statement says "As previously announced", does this mean you were planning on losing the data?

Q: Dear Plusnet. How come you contrived to lose all the genuine emails, and none of the spam that you keep sending me due to your previous screwups?

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Been good

Just in their defence, I have been using plusnet for 6 months now and am very happy with the broadband service and the up front way in which they handle the connection (including the unlimited period between 12pm and 8am and no hidden "fair usage" policy), but I don't use their email - I generally don't use my ISPs email service now so that it is easy to change providers without the need to tell everyone I've moved.

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Spam fitler appeared and then disappeared

I was with plus net for a while and noticed one day that extra headers were appearing in my mail, specifically spam filtering ones. I asked their tech support about this and asked them not to filter my mail as I have my own internal filters and virus scanners. I even attached a copy of the headers with their info in them.

They denied having filters, ignored the attachment and when I finally convinced them that they had done it they said it was in the interest of all their users to filter mail. The filtering stopped as mysteriously as it had started a few days later.

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I feel for the majority

Don't let the few clued up users posting here confuse you - if PlusNet have 200,000 customers, the chances are that at least 175,000 of them will have been using PlusNet's mail servers and have lost mail as a result of this debacle. Presumably a few thousand of those will get the message this time and move elsewhere. A year ago, one of their directors put his head on the line when he promised thinkbroadband forum members that the mail problems wouldn't occur again. Yet he's still there!

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If you use them for the pipe, and not the services, then fantastic...

I just wanted to re-iterate what others have said, in that if you use PlusNET for their connection only, not the additional services like email, then they really are fantastic value for money. I've been with PlusNET for nearly 7 years now, enjoy a full 8mbps (even at peak times), fantastic packet shaping (so that my gaming on one computer is not affected by activites on another computer) and a clearly stated usage policy - simply schedule your big downloads for the off-peak time and you have no problem - I regularly go over 100GB a month, but <10GB during peak hours. Oh, and all this with a static IP as well.

A few words of caution, however: don't use their email !

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Just to add some balance ...

I'm (now) a happy PlusNet customer - there, said it. BUT, I don't have anything whatsoever to do with their mail services as last month they (after a lot of pushing) added the facility to delete the automatically added backup MX record. I handle my own mail (and a friends, and a club I'm in) on my own server at home and yes I've had an 'ongoing' issue with their inability to fix some fundamental problems in their mail system that's been losing me mail for 5 months.

But I can't understand why people are slagging them off quite as much as they are ? Yes they have screwed up (again), but seriously, people talk about moving to other ISPs as though other ISPs don't silently delete mail according to what some unknown system labels as spam ! From both running my own mail server, and from my work at an IT services company, I can tell you that most ISPs have mail issues - only some of which get to make the pages of ElReg.

Look what you DO get with PlusNet :

- Reliable broadband connections (YMMV but mines been fine) which aren't really that expensive.

- A stated usage cap instead of something called 'unlimited' with some hard to find and obscure limit - and not to mention that for 1/3 of the day (2/3 for those of us on an older tariff) the traffic is unmetered and so limited only by your available transfer rate. If you do 'go over' then your connection doesn't stop working (it just slows down) and you don't get thrown out.

- A publically disclosed traffic shaping policy that makes things generally work instead of either a) a service that just falls over due to congestion, or b) traffic shaping that the ISP denies is in use.

- Oh yes, and a 1 month contract. Yes, you can give them 1 months notice and leave if you want - the only penalty is if you had a discounted installation or bundled hardware in which case I believe you are expected to repay the cost of that if you leave in the first year. How many ISPs force you to stay by imposing 12 or 18 months contracts ?

- A helpdesk that a) isn't on a premium rate number, and b) is staffed by people that mostly know the basics and do have access to 2nd level people to whom problems do get escalated (if you push hard enough). I've dealt with plenty of companies (like Orange and O2) where the front line people sometimes give the appearance of a computer in a turing test competition and who can't escalate problems. Their online portal works very well, you can create you own tickets and track their status - pretty well everything that happens on the account (including all the payements etc) appears in a ticket trail.

- A portal that allows you to configure your domain names - you can set it to send your mail somewhere else if you don't want to use their server. You can set where to host your website so you don't have any of that 'frames redirect' rubbish many outfits force on people.

Really, unless you pay a fair bit more then I don't see you getting a much better service (overall) with another ISP. At work we deal with customers who have connections from a variety of ISPs (including BT), and I can tell you that all the ISPs have their issues. One customer has two connections with BT and is just waiting for their 12 month contract to come up so they can ditch them and move to something less bad.

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In their defence...

There's not really any excuse for this, and I don't use their mail service so I'm not affected by it, but in all other respects PlusNet get more flak than they deserve. Go read their website (especially if you have a customer account) and tell me what other company in any business is so honest and frank about things, especially technical stuff...graphs of call waiting times, internal management reports openly posted (including ones with red flags on), a lot of technical detail about how their packet shaping works etc. I've had an account for 2 years (just using it for the connection) and it's been rock solid, fast at all times including peak, and all the customer communication I've ever had has always been open and straightforward. At least when they do mess up they admit to it and often post a lot of details about what went wrong and what they are going to do about it. I'd rather have that than megacorp PR bluster about unspecified "technical problems".

In PR terms they are an unmitigated disaster, and losing people's e-mail really isn't on, but I do get the impression that there are some serious, hardworking and knowledgeable techies at the heart. If BT stop running Plusnet as a separate unit and migrate everyone onto standard BT products I'm leaving straight away; I can't be bothered fighting my way through 10 layers of "support" asking me if I've turned my PC on or if I know what a phone socket looks like when I'm trying to report a technical problem.

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Joe

What was the appliance

I'm curious as to what the "Appliance" was? Who was the vendor eh? I can't think of any proper installation that would loose ALL email - maybe a percentage, but not all....

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Anonymous Coward

Am I glad...

Shortly after they took over Metronet, who I was extremely happy with, PlusNet deleted my account one weekend and then argued for weeks afterwards that I had never had an account with them or Metronet. I was forced to change to another ISP (well, I wasn't about to take them up on their offer to open a new account with them at my expense!). I'm now really grateful to the incompetent who messed up. A big raspberry to them all...

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Anonymous Coward

In their defense

Again, like many others I only use them for the line.

I've had my phone line and internet with them, internet for about 4 years and they haven't caused many problems at all. Any problems they have caused they have switly rectified, apologised and in most cases given me compensation in the form of a free month's service.

Always polite, and always aiming to please.

I have to admit though I wouldn't trust them with any of my data or emails!

It looks like, from their forums "CriticalPath" was the vendor in question. Perhaps a case of management believing salesmen, and engineers being forced to implement an untested solution?

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No worries

I've not had a problem with PlusNet and find them an excellent ISP for the "home user". Mind you, I don't use their email service so perhaps that is why. ;)

However, their connection is generally excellent and very good value for money.

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Not in thier defence

i was for some time a customer of pussnets, but thier continual screw ups and self elevated attitude that forces them to blame everyone (including the customer) before taking responsibility themselves forced me to go else where.

im now with bulldog, whilst bulldog are far from the perfect ISP, the line works a treat, i have not lost my email, its fast as fek and lastly they do not spew out patronizing and condescending tosh about how they are so superior and the rest of us should be grateful they allow to us give them money.

i wounder where Ian is ?

he is normally very swift to give self praise when the Reg post a story about the monarchy he is king of.

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'Reliable?'

I jumped ship from plusnet last year when they managed to delete all the websites by user names beginning with A or B (so mine...) and all my email for a month - interestingly, when the sites went down, they emailed us... only the emails were all deleted!

I had a static line, and the downtime was awful; i'd be working away online and suddenly BOOM nothing. Happened every day for about a month before I said bollocks and switched. On an up point, their customer service were very quick to give me my MAC code.

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@Tim Jackson

"Go read their website (especially if you have a customer account) and tell me what other company in any business is so honest and frank about things, especially technical stuff...graphs of call waiting times, internal management reports openly posted (including ones with red flags on), a lot of technical detail about how their packet shaping works etc. "

The problem is it doesn't make a jot of difference. The "honesty" and detail seem almost calculated to confuse and distract from the fact that they are completely unable to manage the problems they create.

The usual PlusNet approach is firstly to deny there is anything wrong, until users publicly present incontrovertible evidence of a problem. They then go into a phase of introspective navel-gazing, which culminates in a cheery promise that everything is now sorted and that no-one was really that affected. When users who have lost data continue to complain, they go into the third phase, which is to say something along the lines of "Look, we know we made a mistake, but we've changed. See how honest and open we are in telling you about this problem. Judge us on how we perform going forward, not on our past errors." And for some reason the users fall for it, happily following them off the next cliff.

PlusNet are like a recovering alcoholic bus driver who has just got his licence back, saying "It's alright, I'm not going to drink and drive ever again, and I'm not going to crash like the last six times, I've learnt my lesson" while stacking a case of vodka next to his driving seat.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Simon Hobson

*shakes head in pity*

........"Oh yes, and a 1 month contract. Yes, you can give them 1 months notice and leave if you want - the only penalty is if you had a discounted installation or bundled hardware in which case I believe you are expected to repay the cost of that if you leave in the first year. How many ISPs force you to stay by imposing 12 or 18 months contracts ?"..............

Let's change "in the first year" to "in the first FIVE years" before you have wiped out any repayment obligations and then tell me they are not imposing a stealth contract for far longer than any other ISP.

And let's see what I *got* from Pussnet:

Oh yes, I got...*ignored* when I gave a month's notice to cancel my service with them. I subsequently sent many emails explaining that I had already tried to cancel several times and that I had since vacated the property.

Fed up of chasing them to acknowledge me and stop the service, I cancelled the direct debit.

so let's see what I *got* from Pussnet next:

oooh yes, I got..An E-mail CONGRATULATING me telling me they had helped themselves to their monthly fee using my SWITCH CARD number without authorisation or notice - and yes they can do that; it's a legal loophole based on the fact that (at their request) I had authorised their use of my switch card to purchase initial equipment. This then meant they were (and indeed are still now) allowed to help themselves for anything they like.

To add insult to injury..what did I *get* next from Pussnet?:

oh no, not an apology.

It was the long awaited acknowledgement that I had cancelled their shoddy service, coupled with a bill for £190 for cancelling before a year was up, and the advice that this amount would be reduced by a small percentage for each year of service if I chose to stay with them.

This was all news to me, so naturally I challenged this, but they were never able to actually prove I had agreed to this as they ignored each of my 9 requests to produce the terms and conditions that I had "electronically signed" at the time of joining.

But if I didn't pay off these dandy highwaymen, they were going to continue taking more money from my account and being that my wages had drastically reduced to 108 a week maternity pay (hence the need to move in the first place) money was a little too tight to be able to fight the blackmailers.

defensible?

And yes, Oftel have been made aware.

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ian

Re: 18:41 GMT

CISAS also regulate ISPs. Tell the wankers at Plus net you wish them to either settle your complaint, or to raise it with CISAS.

Also, if the Register would tell me what questions they had for Plusnet, then I'm quite happy to make them my questions...

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but...

"I wonder if you'd be so cavalier if you worked in a bank's IT department and 10% of your customers balances were wiped out. If their typical sysadmin has an attitude like that, no wonder PlusNet are always screwing up."

But I don't work in a bank. Nor do I work for F9 / Plusnet.

I don't understand the point that you're trying to make. My issue is that not all PlusNet's (few) remaining customers are technically incompetent - some of us are just plain lazy.

But returning to the point, it is unbelievable that BT allow this debacle to continue. Having said that let's be honest - BT (although better recently) have hardly been whiter-than-white when it comes to service and customer care.

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