In our last post we described how FatCow hosting had shut down our sites because of a false positive on an automated malware scan. That false positive involved a perfectly safe file that is found in every WordPress installation.
Today’s post has to do with FatCow suspending our forum’s email account…without telling us that they had done so. Some of this involved fairly technical details so we’ll just give you the basics. This is, after all, Computers Made Simple.
Our forum, GTWorld.ca , has been around for almost two years. It’s a small forum, perhaps 500 members, and we only use email to notify members of their successful registration, forgotten passwords, etc. We have never done mass emailing and we do not publish a newsletter. That’s important in this saga.
The forum uses the phpBB platform. It’s not necessary to know that but if you’ve been having problems with a similar platform, we’d suggest you read farther to see what the problem might be. phpBB is a self-contained package that uses the PHP scripting language. It sounds more complicated than it is but, once you get the hang of it, it’s reasonable simple to use.
We’d noticed recently that we weren’t hearing back from prospective members when we reminded them by email that they’d been approved. We’d also head that some members who’d forgotten their passwords were not being prompted by email. We weren’t sure what the problem was but we set out to fix things up.
For the next week or so, we basically took apart our phpBB installation, piece by piece, to see if we could track down what was happening. We also enlisted the help of FatCow’s support department. After days of trying, they couldn’t find the problem either. Finally, frustrated and tired, we posted questions about the situation on the phpBB support forum.
It didn’t take long before one of the experts there figured out that FatCow themselves were preventing our emails from going through. At first, we couldn’t believe that this could happen. Our own hosting company suspending our site’s emails without even telling us? No way. Turns out, that was exactly what they were doing.
Somehow, most likely through an automated scanning program, our very tiny amount of email had triggered yet another false positive, this time for spam. Once we had an inkling of what the problem might be, we asked the FatCow support staff that had been helping us. Here’s our query:
Is FatCow marking these emails as SPAM? Is that why they do not go through? The board has no spam, the emails we are trying to send are activation emails, notices from admin, etc. Is FatCow blocking them?
We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused. I have tested the functionality and verified the logs. The emails sent are dropped as spam by our spam scanner. So, I will be handing this ticket over to one of our System Administrator to reset the spam score and fix the issue. I have also handed over all my findings to that specialist. You should be hearing from them within 12 – 24 hours.
What followed were several very heated messages that we won’t share here. Here’s one of our final messages to FatCow:
I will be polite and say thank you but I solved this problem myself, right? I discovered that FatCow had marked my totally safe emails as spam. Support tried to help but it was FatCow themselves who caused the problem.
Your email content were flushed by our spam scanner considering it as spam. The email might be flushed due to low reputation or email content might have including some links/spammish pattern. Yes, you have provided the information which helped us to resolve the issue.
Spammish? That’s a new word, isn’t it? At least they admitted that we had solved the problem ourselves. Apology? None received yet. Admitting the FatCow was at fault? Nope, nothing remotely resembling an apology has ever come my way in either instance. FatCow still maintains that the site was at fault, not their scanners.
Since our forum has only one administrator, we know full well that there was never any spam emanating from it. The only time we encountered spam, and that was less than five times, were emails sent from the main page of the site using the ‘Contact Us’ link that is standard on every installation of phpBB’s forum software. Those emails went directly to the gmail account of the administrator, nowhere else. We’ve removed that link from the main page of the site. The spam emails, by the way, were not sent by members but by strangers who happened upon the forum.
FatCow hosting is a good deal, we can’t ignore that, but if you want a responsible hosting company, one that understands your needs and offers you smart, intelligent support, look elsewhere. Once we find a reputable hosting company, we’ll post a link to their site.
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