Why Email Hates Me and Having a “Real” Office

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I don’t usually talk about my web development business on here. Part of me doesn’t because I think it is probably boring for most folks. The other part of me doesn’t want to post anything that could irritate, make uncomfortable, annoy or generally piss off a current or potential client.

The next couple of things, however, I think are ineffectual enough that it really shouldn’t bug anyone…but me.

We have a long-time client. They’ve always been a very good client and have referred business to us. Not long ago we ran into an email issue on our current host. We’ve been planning a move from this host for a few months, but many things have interfered with that move and you don’t want to make it until you are completely ready.

Anyway, our host, through no fault of their own, was blacklisted by SpamCop due to an anonomys report from someone that their server was responsible for SPAM. Everyone knows that SPAM is a pain in the ass. We all have to deal with it. I get a few hundred junk emails every day and my junk mail rules list in my email client is longer than the dress code at Bob Jones University.

What’s frustrating is that there are virtually no real regulations on either spammers or spam reporting and things like this happen.

As a result of the block, several ISP’s blocked email from that host including emails from our client. This wouldn’t necessarily be a huge issue if all the client employees were in one office. They could simply switch sendmail to their ISP, but this client has employees spread across the country and many who work in multiple locations via laptop.

The only real solution after a few days of problems was to move them to another host – not the easiest thing in the world to make happen. Not only did the move cause all sorts of issues – this isn’t an IT company, so the folks there aren’t experts at diagnosing and fixing email issues – but it took time and was a lot of work. Even after the move, there were residual effects – problems with computer virus filters, weird errors, attachments not working.

Mind you, none of these were the DIRECT fault of the servers, which worked perfectly, but, because the problems came about as the result of changes to each individual email client, we had to try and fix the problem despite our lack of expertise in Outlook. As I tell everyone, we aren’t experts at diagnosing individual computer software issues, just web-based stuff.

Once I thought we were out of the woods, along comes the next problem. The server we moved them to was/is a testing account with another hosting company that was set up a couple of years ago. When it was created, one of the DNS server ip addresses was entered incorrectly (probably by me). This had never been an issue because it was a secondary DNS and rarely became active.

Because of the increased traffic of this client, however, the secondary DNS began getting used and problems like disappearing emails and bouncebacks began to occur. Great! This was fixed immediately and the propogation required to get it totally fixed was working until…BLAM…down goes the DNS server at our hosting company. Are you freaking kidding me???

I had literally NEVER had this occur, EVER, with ANY host and it happens now, with this client. The result was bouncing email, emails disappearing into nowhere and all sorts of other issues until around 5:30am the next morning when the admins at our hosting company were able to straighten out what had become a total nightmare for me. I felt convinced that our client would leave. I could completely understand.

Fortunately, we had recently been in discussions with a local company to handle virtual mail hosting for some of our clients. This is something that allows us to be removed from the email support loop and still manage our clients’ other web services. We offered to pay the extra yearly cost for our client so that they could move to a email host that would give them not only more advanced options, but 24/7 tech support for email only and IT services when their Outlook was faulty. We hope that works out best for all of us.

It sure made for a hell of a week last week.

Now, that brings me to issue #2 on today’s agenda. We are a small company. We countract (not outsource) numerous designers, developers, etc. for work on individual projects. It is common in this industry. We hand-pick each person who works with us and contract them individually based on the need of the project. We’ve done huge projects with corporations and tiny projects with one-person offices. We can manage virtually any project this way.

Today, I got a call from a really nice guy looking for web development. After talking for a few minutes, he asked about seeing our offices. I make no bones about the fact that we do not have full-blown office space. It makes no economic sense for us and not having it has never created an issue in dealing with a project. In fact, the lack of space makes us not only more efficient but more flexible.

He was adamant that he didn’t want to do business with a company that wasn’t professional enough to have an office. He said that he wouldn’t know where we were if he needed something fixed. I explained that we’d worked with many clients who came to us after working with companies that had real offices but didn’t provide good customer service. Hell, anyone tried to get good service from the phone company or cable? They have plenty of “real” offices.

Anyway, I explained to the guy that we just didn’t do business that way and, if he was uncomfortable with that, he should just look elsewhere. Ironically, he said that we and another rival company were the most well-informed and the most advanced of the companies he had called. The rival happens to also be owned by a fellow photo and Flickr-ite and the vp is a good friend. I explained this to him and he said, “And they have a real office.”

LOL! They sure do! 🙂

I told him that they were a great company and that if he felt more comfortable with their setup, he should most definitely use them and I wished him the best of luck.

I make no apologies, nor should I. In this age of technology, all I need is a laptop, a wi fi connection and a cell phone and I can do business from the beach if I want to. And why not? I can almost promise you that putting me in an office 8+ hours each day would not make me MORE conducive to customer service. That’s just NOT me.

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