Somebody once described NTL (now, Virgin Media) to me as “excellent, until you need any help”, due to their poor support.
When it comes to Streamline.net hosting I wouldn’t even go that far. Their hosting is quite cheap and that’s the only good word I can give them.
The Copy+ website, owned by the software author Stuart, are hosted by Streamline, but I manage the site. As huge profits aren’t made from the Copy+ site we stuck with cheap hosting. We also needed a big bandwidth due to the size of the software being downloaded – it’s often only the lower end of the hosting market that offers this.
Apart from site speed issues it’s been, okay-ish. But when we have needed support it’s not been brilliant. They also have a lot of restrictions – e.g. .htaccess files can only consist of redirects – everything else (including caching) is ignored. I was never able to upgrade phpBB 2 to phpBB 3 due to “out of memory” issues. Instead, I installed it on my own personal site (hosted elsewhere) and transferred over the resulting files and database, which worked.
However, we started being told by customers at the beginning of the year that they had problems signing up for the forum. Over time it got worse and some testing by myself showed that emails sent from the site simply weren’t turning up at their destination.
On the 22nd March I sent them a support request, asking them to investigate why email was not been sent via my site scripts. I sent them a very basic piece of code using the PHP mail facility to send a mail, so that they had an example (and wouldn’t simply assume it’s my code that’s wrong).
The response was…
To ensure that no spam messages are sent from our network, Streamlinenet filters all outgoing e-mail. These must have a ‘From’ or ‘To’ address that is a domain hosted with Streamlinenet. Any e-mail not fulfilling these criteria is stopped. For more details, please refer to the link below: http://www.streamlinesupport.net/index.php?page=show&id=150 We would recommend that you change the destination email on your mailer script to an email address hosted with us.
Ok, so the FROM or TO field needs to be one that is from our domain name – in this case skycopyplus.co.uk. Except the code I sent them had a FROM email from that domain.
I pointed this out.
Can you please provide us the password of the email account email@example.com, so that we can check if it was able to received the test email that we are going to do with the php form on your website?
Quite blatantly they hadn’t looked at the example code as it was using the firstname.lastname@example.org email address as the FROM address, not TO. I pointed this out to them too.
We are already aware with the issue that you are encountering right now, this is because of the SMTP server (authsmtp.streamline.net) intermittent overloading issue. The symptoms of the issue is you are going to encounter delays in sending out emails and sometimes you are going to received bounced back emails. In order for us to further check the issue, can you please provide us the bounced back emails that you received? As an alternative solution you can use the outgoing server of your local ISP (internet service provider) or use webmail.domain URL (http://webmail.phit-consultancy.co.uk) in sending out emails, because this is not encountering any issues in sending out emails to any types of email accounts. Our deepest apologies about this matter. Rest assured that we are working on this issue to solve it soon as possible, as we already received lots of complaints from our customers. With regards with the issue of the form with your website, we found out that the contact.php and sendmail.php file does not contain any action script to send out emails. Please double check the script of your website and create an action script to send the emails. Note: We would like to remind you that scripting issue is already beyond of our scope of support.
So, they now wanted bounced emails. Except there weren’t any – they simply didn’t turn up at their destination. They now suggesting this was a problem with my coding too. None-the-less they were now admitting they had a problem with their SMTP server.
My response begins to show my frustration…
We are not recieving any bounced mail responses, so are unable to forward these onto you. Using an alternative outgoing SMTP server is not a solution for PHP mail, which will use your own SMTP server – as per the code example I sent you. It would appear that the outgoing mail issue has been going on for weeks – I do not see an open support ticket for this and I am dismayed that you still do not have any ETA for a fix. At the end of the day I need PHP mail to work. Not to lose mails when I use the correct email structure, as per your demands (i.e. using a FROM or TO mail from our domain). If you have no intentions to fix this, please let me know now and I will make arrangements to move to another company who can provide the most basic of functions, such as working SMTP.
Their response didn’t help…
We are very sorry, we don’t have the ETA of the sending emails using the main SMTP server which is authsmtp.streamline.net Please use the alternative SMTP below: authsmpt1.streamline.net
As I pointed out to them – again – I can’t change the SMTP server that PHP uses without changing the PHP configuration, which they don’t allow me to do.
They responded by ignoring this but instead creating another test program which they told me worked. It worked, but only because the TO address was going to a navpoint.co.uk domain email address. As soon as you change this to go elsewhere it fails.
They then pointed out that they had alternative SMTP servers available. I blew…
Did you read my last message when I clearly explained this? I am using the PHP mail command, which you cannot configure to use a different SMTP server. That can only be done via the PHP configuration file, which I am unable to change – that is something you have to do. Have you thought to change this in config.php? Please stop asking me questions that I keep answering and you ignore.
The response, though, finally told us what we wanted to know…
The destination email on your mailer script (test.php) is still showing as [REMOVED] which is an external email address. Please be reminded that the ‘From’ and ‘To’ fields should be Streamline hosted email addresses else it will be stopped. We have changed this to email@example.com and it now appears to be working fine.
So what they’re telling me is that I have to send mails to the navpoint domain. Which is no good for website contact forms or running a forum which requires users to validate their email address.
Unfortunately, there is no other way around it as these limits exist is so we don’t open ourselves up to abuse.
At this point the Copy+ owner, Stuart, not a web expert in any way, responded. He’d got it, why couldn’t Streamline?
With respect, your statement that BOTH the TO and FROM addresses must be streamline hosted is clearly nonsense. Our own tests (and also direct experience of this mainly working most of the time over many years) have proved this. The reason for the INTERMITTENT problems we are currently experiencing is it seems, by your own admission, due to an issue with authsmtp.streamline.net. In Ticket Number: 639751 you kindly provide us with a workaround for this issue – specifically to use authsmtp1.streamline.net. However the configuration required to do this is part of the PHP server configuration and so outside of our direct control! We simply ask that you configure our sites at navpoint.co.uk and skycopyplus.co.uk to use the alternative SMTP server of authsmtp1.streamline.net.
They responded back to pointing us to 2 pages on their site which mentions the limitations of their mail system. Except it states the from OR to email fields must have the owners domain and, at no point, makes mention that the TO field must have.
Stuart responded back to ask them – again- if they could configure our site to use their altnerative SMTL server. They responded by saying that they didn’t write scripts for users.
To say we are dealing with IT illiterate imbeciles would be an understatement.
It was now the 31st March. Between Stuart and I we decided to switch hosts – the hosting was due to finish in August. Unfortunately, Streamline still had something in store for us when we requested for the hosting not to auto-renew (there is no option in their provided control panel to stop it).
So we can complete the closure please confirm the following: -That the package you wish to cancel is: skycopyplus.co.uk - That you have taken all required backups of your website and hosting space, including emails. Please reply to this ticket to confirm this has been done in order that we can proceed to cancellation for you. - Also if you are able to provide any feedback on why you moved this away would be appreciated We will close the account on receipt of your confirmation, so please ensure that you complete any backups before replying to this mail, as we are unable to schedule cancellations for a future date. Please be aware that closure of a hosting account does not entitle you to a refund of any charges already applied to that particular service, including any additional service charges already incurred
In other words, they would close it there and then, with no option to simply cancel the auto-renew. Even this pushed the patience of Stuart.
I am sorry, but that is totally unacceptable. I have paid for my hosting on this account up until the renewal date of 15/08/2011, and I should be entitled to receive the remainder without having to cancel early or run the risk of automatically being charged for a further 2 years at £119.76 as a result. Which appears to be what you are telling me will happen if I fail to cancel exactly on time? If I wait until the renewal date to cancel (as you seem to imply I need to), how I am supposed to know on what exact date you will have taken the payment, or indeed how long it might take you to respond to my support request so that I can cancel in a timely fashion beforehand to avoid further charges? I notice that my card payment details that you hold on file have expired. I trust this is sufficient to ensure that I will not be charged on this card? However should you attempt to submit a payment to my card anyway, I will have no hesitation in contacting my card company and demanding a charge back for my card issuer of any monies so taken. As you happen to ask – one reason for cancelling is that we have been unable to get a reliable service for sending mail via your SMTP servers and a total lack of any coherent responses from your support department regarding this long standing issue on the last 2 tickets we raised. In fact we were totally going round in circles with you as nobody seemed to be reading the history of the ticket before replying. So we are moving our hosting elsewhere where we can get decent support and they do not have ongoing SMTP mail server issues. But I shall now add to my list of reasons for cancelling your completely inflexible approach to a polite and entirely reasonable request to opt not to renew one of our accounts.
I don’t think a huge amount now needs to be said. The site has been moved to HostPapa who are also cheap and offer unlimited bandwidth. However, their email appears to work and, so far, their support seems a lot, lot better. In time I’ll publish a review about them. Meantime, they hosting is quite a bargain with many features above those that Streamline offer.
My intention for the site is to install WordPress and a brand new forum – a nice bit of stress testing. Next year we have another site to potentially move to a new host so HostPapa may be a possibility there too.
Whatever happens, they surely can’t be worse than Streamline.
A few more “reviews”…
- My legal battle with Streamline.net
- Streamline.net taking money from my account
- streamline.net are crap
- streamline.net are still incompetant
Because of the above policy and the fact that the only card details Streamline were aware of was an expired one, Stuart decided to simply let the hosting expire. Once it had he asked them to close his account. The response was…
Further to your request to close the account I am sorry but I am not able to do this whilst there is a payment outstanding on the account. If you did not wish to renew the account for a further period you would have needed to contact us to request the closure before the renewal date. As you did not do this you would need to clear the payment. Please note you can use this package with any domain name that you wish to so if there is another website that you need to host we can help you with adding the domain to this package. I would be happy to cover the initial cost of a new .uk or .com domain name (or one of equivalent value). Should you still wish to proceed with the closure please let us know once you have cleared the payment and we will contact you regarding this.
Basically, they now believe Stuart owes them money for the hosting since his details expired. It took them a week to respond and Stuart’s response was straightforward…
Sorry, but it has taken you over a WEEK to reply to this ticket. Given that I informed you that I wished to cancel as soon as I became aware that this account was up for renewal (you hadn’t bothered to send me any reminders prior to this), and we then moved our hosting away from your site from that very date, this really isn’t fair at all. Also I notice from my past dealings with you that it is impossible to inform you in ADVANCE that I wish to cancel, and that my account will be suspended from the date I inform you without any recompense for the lost hosting time. So really is a total catch 22, and the most atrocious cancellation policy of any company I think I have ever dealt with. Most require some days notice (for example 1 month) of cancellation with continued service up until that date, which is fair enough. But it seems you can not even offer that basic courtesy. In light of this, and as a sign of good will on my part, I am prepared to offer you pro-rata payment of 1 weeks extra hosting – the exact same time it has taken you to reply to this ticket and a whole 5 days more than we actually effectively used. Please let me know how I can pay that. Alternatively good luck with collecting the full £143.71 from my cancelled credit card.
A response from Streamline… I am sorry I am not able to accept anything other than the full outstanding fee. If you do not wish to clear this then I am not able to close the package at this time.
Summary of Streamline.net hostingCheap but not cheerful. They don’t seem to be able to grasp the most basic of customer requirements and have all the technical savvy of my 2 year old. Avoid at all costs.
Reviewed by David Artiss on 27th July 2011.