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The Cost of Free

First, the story:

A producer, essentially a 3rd-party contractor working for one of Feedwire’s clients, has elected to use a free gmail account for the bulk of her business and personal email. We’ll call her Sophie to protect the innocent. She’s currently on a business trip in Africa. Email communication is essential to her work and to her life.

Two days ago, her account stopped receiving messages. We’ve reviewed the settings, tested and re-tested the account. Her account is not full, her emails are not being forwarded, her messages are not being downloaded to some device or computer. Messages addressed to her are not being delivered to her mailbox. They’re just now starting to soft-bounce. Senders are receiving notices that delivery of their message has been delayed, and attempts will be made for a few more days to deliver the message before giving up.

We have concluded that there is something wrong with her mailbox. This isn’t an unexpected occurrence. There are millions, possibly billions of mailboxes out there in the world and every once in a while one of them has a glitch or a hiccup. Unfortunately for her, gmail’s free email service does not include phone support. There is a web-based support form, and the problem will probably eventually be resolved, but eventually doesn’t help her immediate and severe need to access her incoming mail.

Now, the solution:

Pay for it.

If you need a service, if you depend on it for business or for life, pay for it. You don’t have to pay much, but you do have to be someone’s customer before you can get any kind of customer service. Reliability has become free. Gmail is an extremely reliable service, among the best, but even the best fail. Failure is the expensive part. You get to decide whether you will pay a little in advance, or a lot on the back end. It’s your call.

What’s it cost to have a paid-for email? We can set you up for $22 / year. Three times that, and we can include a permanent secondary archive of your messages. $50 / year for an extremely reliable mailbox on your own personal domain with accessible customer service and support. I’m sure Sophie would have gladly paid $50 to avoid the predicament she’s in now. Probably even ten times that.

Everything breaks. The consequences of failure can be shaped. You have the power to prevent failure from becoming disaster. We’d love to help you with that process. Get in touch with us.


The Best Email Just Got Cheaper

Mailtrust Email Hosting. We have raved about Mailtrust before and host all of our personal and business domains on their servers. We love Mailtrust so much that we resell their service to our customers and even own stock in the company (RAX). Mailtrust slashed its retail prices this month to $1 / 10 GB Mailbox / Month. For our customers, that's $0.70 / Month. Why is it cheaper for our customers? Because we do not mark-up.

It is common practice for service providers and consultants to become resellers of other services or products. These services and products are marked-up to their clients and the consultants pocket the difference. We could do that, we'd make some money at it, but we choose not to. In fact, we believe this behavior borders on the unethical. We are paid for our time, expertise, and advice. If our advice includes recommending the purchase of a service or product from which we will gain financially, it is difficult for us to be unbiased. So we do not mark-up.

Why become a reseller if we do not make a profit at it? That is simple. We like to make our clients happy. We have noticed that paying less money for the same service or product tends to make our clients happy. This policy extends to all of our reseller and partner agreements, and even to the simple act of purchasing retail equipment for reimbursement. We do not mark-up. So smile, because Mailtrust email just got cheaper for everyone, and even cheaper for you if you're a Feedwire client.

Common Pitfalls

We see computer and technology problems every day. These are the greatest hits and they're in heavy rotation. Do us a favor -- avoid these common problems and give us more interesting problems to solve.


Backing up data is important. Hard drives are machines that break. When they do it can be very expensive if not impossible to recover the data they contain. Fortunately, it is possible and affordable to make exact copies of digital information. The question is not whether you can afford to back up, it's why you think you can afford not to.

Square Peg, Square Hole

Computers use different connectors for different purposed. Displays are connected via VGA or DVI, Keyboards and mice via PS/2 and USB, and copper ethernet networks are connected via RJ-45. Unfortunately IT is not a realm in which it is safe to adopt an “if the shoe fits, wear it,” or “if the connector fits, plug it” mentality. It's common for both ends of one wire to end up plugged into a switch or hub, which creates a loopback on the network and generates infinite traffic and breaking the network. It's also common for multiple routers to be connected to a network via their LAN ports, often with identical IP information, defeating the network's ability to properly route traffic to the internet. Improperly connected network hardware and cables is a big cause of network downtime and can be extremely difficult to track down.

Reset Button

Reset =/= Restart. Restarting or rebooting a network device is a common troubleshooting technique. Routers and switches and wireless access points are actually little computers. They sometimes crash too, especially less robust models. In that case, rebooting can be a quick and easy and effective fix. Resetting the device, however, reloads the factory default configuration, which is probably not appropriate for your network.

Email and Scope

Email is the first indicator. There are many problems with the same symptom that people notice before anything else. When email stops flowing, our phones start ringing. These problems can exist at any step along a long chain. The local computer, local network, network perimeter, ISP, and the mail server itself are all required for email to flow, and a hitch in any one of them can cause the same symptom. Some of these problems might require professional help to solve, some you might be able to handle yourself. To determine where the problem lies, or at least a likely candidate, run down this list:

  1. Does rebooting my computer solve this problem? If yes, it's probably something on my computer that's acting up.

  2. Can I print to a network printer or see file servers on my local network? If yes, the local network is probably healthy.

  3. Do I get a response from my router if I type its IP address into my browser? If yes, the perimeter is probably OK.

  4. Can I open web pages? If yes, the ISP is probably in good shape.

  5. Can I access my email via the webmail login? If yes, the mail server probably isn't broken.

Knowing the answers to these questions might not fix your problem, but it will certainly help us fix your problem.


Businesses are internet addicts. Financial information, email, research, data shared with customers, data shared with vendors, business web presence, instant messages and more all require a working internet connection. It's relatively inexpensive to upgrade your office to a dual-WAN configuration with automatic failover. Save yourself the worry and hassle of internet downtime in your office and make this small investment.

Preventative Medicine

One client insisted that their server's hard drive was being backed up. It turns out that it was not. Data was recovered, but at a cost of $2,400. Another ignored our recommendations for managed switches. Network downtime cost three-quarters of a day of productivity. Both of these problems could have been identified and mitigated in advance for much less money than the eventual cost of cleaning up after a disaster. Rebuilding the levee is cheaper than rebuilding the city.

Backstage with Email

Email. It's become one of the most important personal and business communication tools. When my customers email stops working, for whatever reason, they very quickly move from concern, to worry, to distress, to panic. As with most computer problems, a lack of knowledge about the system only increases the intensity of the panic - not only are they unable to access their email, they have no idea how it works. Hopefully after reading this article, you'll have a better understanding of the multitude of systems that have to coordinate for your email to make it to you.