Analysts 'bite back' after Internet shutdown

The company that calls itself the "dot com people" needs to work on its people skills, an influential analyst shop specialising in information technology complained on Wednesday.

Network Solutions, the company that -- until May, at least -- enjoys a virtual monopoly on .com domain-name registration, infuriated Boston-based Aberdeen Group by pulling the plug on its Web presence this month.

On April 1, NSI deleted Aberdeen's Web site and e-mail capabilities from the Domain Name Server (DNS) tables that control the routing of messages over the Internet, Aberdeen's vice president, David Alschuler, said on Wednesday.

The site was back online 36 hours later, after Aberdeen paid -- for the second time -- NSI's $35 annual domain name registration bill.

Alschuler said the whole mess should never have happened. It was an apparent case of the cheque getting lost in the mail.

A Network Solutions spokeswoman said her company was investigating Aberdeen's claim. "It looks like it was a combination of errors -- an initial one from them and then others. But we don't have all the details yet." She declined to elaborate.

Virginia-based NSI yanked the site after sending Aberdeen three notices of nonpayment of the annual registration fee. But Alschuler said Aberdeen paid -- and has the cancelled cheque to prove it.

The company was so enraged that it published a report titled "Network Solutions dog bites Aberdeen Group, Aberdeen bites back" documenting the ordeal.

"In a nutshell, it was a very bad customer service experience," Alschuler said. "And based on e-mail we've received since we wrote it, we believe that we are neither unique nor alone. At its root, we would suggest that maybe being a monopoly makes people a little complacent about these things."

NSI never acknowledged any wrongdoing, he added. However, the company did expedite the process of getting Aberdeen back online once it paid an additional $35, Alschuler said.

Since Aberdeen doesn't conduct much business over the Internet, he said the incident was "problematic for us, but not cataclysmic".

Starting next month, NSI will be forced to share the domain name registry business with five competing companies. "We think that it's an appropriate move, and we can't wait for the changeover," Alschuler said. Meanwhile, he said that NSI needs to review its procedures for termination of registration rights, especially considering that the Internet is fast becoming the "lifeblood of many businesses".

"It wasn't an April Fool's Day joke -- but maybe we were the April Fools nonetheless," Aberdeen's report concluded. "There's a lesson in risk management here for every organisation for whom the Internet is now (or will soon become) mission-critical -- and we think that means just about everyone."

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