NinerNet Communications™
Blog

Corporate Blog

Yet more problems with dot-zm (Zambian) domains

9 December 2015 14:33:02 +0000

Back on 16 September a client with a dot-zm domain hosted with us came to us with a problem that had started the day before. The majority of this post documents the details of the monumental effort we had to expend to get the domain registrar (Realtime/Hai) and registry (ZICTA, the Zambia Information & Communications Technology Authority) to do their jobs and provide a working domain.

However, the reason for the timing of this post (which we should have made two months ago) is that we are seeing these same problems again with dot-zm domains. Emails sent to existing dot-zm domains, hosted with different hosting companies, are bouncing because these dot-zm domains seem not to exist on the Internet because the dot-zm nameservers are reporting differing, incomplete or even incorrect information for them.

Unfortunately there is nothing that we can do on our servers when ZICTA’s dot-zm nameservers report — incorrectly! — that a dot-zm domain does not exist or directs traffic to the wrong servers.

Our recommendation for years now, due to the shocking unreliability of dot-zm domains, is that you simply should not register dot-zm domains. This seems awfully unpatriotic — after all, you.co.zm is supposed to be a proud acknowledgement of your association with Zambia — but the sad fact of the matter is that your dot-zm domain is actually an embarrassment and a disservice to you, your business and your country.

We have written about this over and over again over the years. Here’s a recap of some of what we’ve written on our blogs (there’s more lost in the mists of time and in emails sent before we set up our corporate and status blogs):

We also have over 50 MB of raw data (some of it compressed) dating back to 2008 documenting problems with dot-zm domains, including all dot-zm domains going down worldwide. It’s the kind of material with which we could write a thesis about TLD mismanagement, if we had the time … but we don’t.

So what happened in September?

Back on 16 September a client with a dot-zm domain hosted with us came to us with a problem that had started the day before. They were suddenly receiving very little email, and they were being told by some of their correspondents that emails sent to their domain were bouncing. Of course, this galvanised us immediately, and we checked all aspects of their domain’s configuration on our nameservers and mail servers. We could find nothing wrong. However, the problem was undeniable; some mail sent to this client’s domain was indeed bouncing.

So we started digging deeper. We found that, without being asked to do so by the domain registrant (our client), the dot-zm domain registry (ZICTA, whose website is again down as I write this) had changed the nameservers of our client’s domain to those of their domain registrar, Realtime Technologies Ltd., now doing business as Hai Alive Telecommunications — whose websites on both of their domains are also down right now. (Seeing a pattern here?) Both the registrar and the registry denied being responsible for changing the nameservers and refused to explain how it happened. The nameservers were changed back to ours, but the problem persisted.

What we found was that the problem was intermittent, hence the fact that some email was getting through and some was being bounced. An intermittent problem is the worst kind of problem because when things are working there is no problem to find, and when things aren’t working you don’t know when the problem will go away and whether or not you’ll find the problem before it disappears. On top of that mail from multiple different and unrelated sources was being bounced, so we couldn’t blame a particular sender’s improperly configured mail server for the problem.

Seeing as the registrar (Realtime/Hai) blamed NinerNet for the problem, and the registry (ZICTA) refused to deal with us, telling us we had to seek help from the registrar (Realtime/Hai) who was too busy blaming us to investigate, some more investigation by NinerNet revealed that one of the six nameservers that run the dot-zm country-code top-level domain (as of today they’re now down to four) was still broadcasting to the world that the authoritative nameservers for the domain were hosted at Realtime/Hai, which was the result of the unauthorised change to the nameservers a couple of days earlier. (One of the six was failing, and one wasn’t providing the information it was supposed to provide, meaning that three of the six nameservers for dot-zm domains were not working properly!)

There was an easy temporary solution to this problem, seeing as ZICTA was being uncooperative: A few keystrokes by someone at Realtime/Hai could have set up the client’s domain on their nameservers, so that when a mail server was incorrectly directed there it would have received the correct information that we would provide to Realtime/Hai. However, Realtime/Hai refused to help unless the client signed a hosting contract with them and paid money up front, despite the fact that the client/registrant had already paid them for a working domain that they expected to work for the entire length of the contract for that domain. This, of course, was an outrageous attempt at extortion and was rejected.

After hammering away at ZICTA for over a week by email (while trying to get Realtime/Hai to take responsibility for addressing the problem, as the domain registrar is supposed to do) and being ignored (including receiving notifications that emails to them had been deleted unread) — except by one person, the head of “Consumer Protection”, who said that he would help me but then also continued to ignore me, never sending me another email again — I finally picked up the phone and eventually (after six tries and being disconnected twice; this is the “Communications Technology Authority”?!) reached a receptionist. (A month earlier when trying unsuccessfully to deal with ZICTA over another issue, the receptionist couldn’t put me through to the person who could help me with my issue because the whole organisation, except apparently the receptionist, was at a staff meeting!) After explaining the situation to the receptionist she stated that I had to deal with Realtime/Hai. After explaining that Realtime/Hai refused to help, she said that she would only continue to talk to me if I would lodge a complaint against Realtime/Hai, so I reluctantly agreed. After being on hold for over ten minutes while she did who knows what, she came back on the line. This time I literally pleaded with her to give me one minute to fully explain the problem and why the problem was caused by ZICTA and how it was within the power of only ZICTA to fix in less than two minutes.

My pleading must have had an effect, as she agreed to put me through to someone else. That person was apparently a “Cyber Security Analyst” with Zambia CIRT (Computer Incident Response Team, whose website is actually up!). I had to actually give him the computer commands to demonstrate the cause and location of the problem. Miraculously he agreed with my assessment — after eight days of banging my head against brick walls, someone finally understood and agreed! — but could do nothing to fix it right away because (although it was nine o’ clock in the morning) the person who was in charge of running the registry back end was not in yet. However, he did assure me that it would be dealt with that day, although it wasn’t until the next day that I finally received written acknowledgement from ZICTA of the problem they had caused, and it was another two days before they fixed it, twelve days after the problem was created!

So, let’s review …

… how a problem with a dot-zm domain is handled by the registry and its registrar, and how long it takes:

  • Day one: Client’s dot-zm domain stops working.
  • It is found that the nameservers for the domain have been changed to use the registrar’s (Realtime/Hai) nameservers instead of NinerNet’s, without the authority of the domain registrant.
  • Nameservers are changed back; registrar (Realtime/Hai) and registry (ZICTA) deny responsibility and refuse to explain.
  • Problem persists.
  • Registrar (Realtime/Hai) refuses to help, attempts to extort money from registrant for services (domain registration) already paid for.
  • Registry (ZICTA) finally responds, refers problem to registrar (Realtime/Hai). Will only address problem with a formal complaint about registrar (Realtime/Hai).
  • After pleading with registry (ZICTA) they relent and refer the matter to a staff member who can help.
  • We have to hold the hand of the person at the registry (ZICTA) to show him how to confirm the nature and location of the problem.
  • Day thirteen: Problem at ZICTA is finally fixed by ZICTA 3 days later, 12 days after they created the problem in the first place.

It is interesting to note that there is almost no information on the ZICTA website about the management of the dot-zm ccTLD (country-code top-level domain; compare that to, for example, the website of Nominet, the organisation that runs the dot-uk ccTLD), and their Facebook page contains nothing but pages and pages of repetitive so-called FAQs about mobile service, and not a single mention (going back to at least the end of 2014) of dot-zm domains and domain registration. Underneath almost all of the posts by ZICTA with FAQs are reams and reams of complaints about how useless ZICTA is and how they do nothing about consumer complaints. See for yourself.

Is there a solution?

Yes, there is. If someone in Zambia cannot be found to provide competent management and direction to ZICTA — and the wherewithal to whip registrars into shape and to educate them on the need to provide customer service without resorting to blaming hosting providers for issues that are demonstrably not theirs — then the job can and should be outsourced to a foreign company with a good track record.

  • Just on the other side of the boerewors curtain is ZADNA, the domain authority of South Africa. I don’t know if they offer their services to other national domain authorities to run their ccTLDs, but they’re doing a decent job of running their own (dot-za), have recently (in the last few years) launched a new competitive domain registration system, and launched the new TLDs dot-capetown, dot-durban and dot-joburg. They’re also the leading contender to run dot-africa, if ICANN ever fixes that mess and launches it.
  • In New Zealand is CoCCA Registry Services (NZ) Limited, with whom ZICTA already has a relationship as they’re using CoCCA’s registry software and have apparently provided some financial consideration for same. As you can see, CoCCA is already running the registries of at least ten TLDs, most of which are those of other small and developing countries.
  • In Canada there is OpenSRS who offer their services to registrars, but who may also be interested in providing service to a ccTLD registry.

In the more immediate term NinerNet has provided, since 2010, the option of registering a dot-zam.co domain — e.g., ninernet.zam.co. We provide it expressly because of the ongoing, years old problems with the management and administration of the dot-zm ccTLD, not to mention the exorbitant cost of dot-zm domains. Instead of registering companyzambia.com (which is probably available, I should point out) you can instead register company.zam.co. It’s the same number of characters as company.com.zm, and only one more than company.co.zm. But more importantly, it’s reliable!

I should point out that we don’t expose the flaws in the dot-zm ccTLD in order to sell dot-zam.co domains; our setting up dot-zam.co is the result of these flaws. If the dot-zm domain system worked properly, we would never have thought to create the dot-zam.co alternative ccTLD, and we’d certainly have no reason to complain. Besides, having been created in 1994, dot-zm had a sixteen-year head start on dot-zam.co! Dot-zam.co is a long way from being a threat to ZICTA and dot-zm.

Finally, you can switch to a new, non-dot-zm domain. Ideally you would never have registered that dot-zm domain in the first place, but it’s an understandable and forgivable mistake. It’s not ideal to switch to a new domain, but where would you be if your domain went down for two weeks and nobody wanted to help you? Here’s how you do it:

  1. Register your new non-dot-zm domain.
  2. Have your hosting provider set up the hosting for it, and create all of the existing email address on your old domain (e.g., phiri@example.co.zm) on the new domain (e.g., phiri@example.zam.co).
  3. Similarly you would upload your existing website to your new domain, reconfigured to use your new domain instead of your old dot-zm domain. (Doing this properly is a little more involved than what I have laid out here and there are options, but it’s very doable and quite straightforward from a technical point of view for a good host that knows what they’re doing.)
  4. Disable your old dot-zm domain and “alias” it to your new domain. This means that all email to your old dot-zm domain is automatically redirected to your new domain, and all traffic to your old dot-zm website is redirected to your website on your new domain, preserving your ranking in the search engines and all existing links to your old dot-zm domain.
  5. Start using your new domain for email by reconfiguring your email program to use the new domain. While your customers and other contacts may still email you at the old dot-zm domain, your replies will come from your new domain and so their future replies will go straight to your new domain. Of course, you would also advise your customers and contacts of your new domain by email and on your website, and in any other ways that you advertise your business.
  6. Keep your old dot-zm domain for at least a year or two, aliased to your new domain. How long you keep your old dot-zm domain is up to you and would depend on a number of factors (we can advise on that), but the good thing is that when (not if) it goes down again, you will use that opportunity to reinforce with your customers and other contacts the importance of using your new domain.

While some less sympathetic hosting companies may charge you for the time involved in making this change (which is actually quite understandable), we will not charge you even one extra ngwee to make this change away from your old dot-zm domain. We also do not charge any extra hosting fees to alias your old dot-zm domain to your new domain. In other words, changing to a new domain will only cost you the price of the new domain.

Appendix

The email below, sent to the person we spoke to at ZICTA (who also seems to be associated with Zambia CIRT) after we finally managed to talk to him, documents the problem experienced by our client with their dot-zm domain. The client’s domain has been redacted for privacy reasons (changed to example.co.zm), as have the names and email addresses of individuals.

From: Craig Hartnett <hxxxxxxx _AT_ niner.net>
To: cxxxxx _AT_ cirt.zm
CC: exxxx.cxxxxxx _AT_ hai-alive.co.zm, exxxx.mxxxx _AT_ hai-alive.co.zm,
     exxxxxx _AT_ rtaa.com.zm, mxxxxxx _AT_ rtaa.com.zm,
     rxxxxx.zxxxx _AT_ hai-alive.co.zm, servicedesk _AT_ hai-alive.co.zm,
     servicedesk _AT_ rtaa.com.zm, cxxxx _AT_ zicta.zm, info _AT_ zicta.zm,
     kxxxxxx _AT_ zicta.zm, nxxxxx _AT_ example.co.zm, ixxxxxx _AT_ jxxxxxxxxx.com
Subject: Problem with example.co.zm domain
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 2015 09:21:22 +0200
Mailer:	Evolution 3.10.4-0ubuntu2
Organization: NinerNet Communications, www.niner.net
Dear Cxxxxx,
Thank-you for taking my call this morning.
As I explained, the nameservers for the dot-zm TLD are not properly
synchronised, and are therefore reporting different nameservers for the
example.co.zm domain. In particular, pch.nic.zm is reporting incorrect
nameservers.
Of course, this results in disruption of the example.co.zm domain, and
this has been the case since at least Tuesday 15 September. At one point
last week the WHOIS showed only Realtime nameservers for the
example.co.zm domain. Realtime claims that this was the result of some
sort of registry activity -- a reset of some sort if I remember
correctly. These were changed back to NinerNet's nameservers but, as I
explained on the phone, one of the dot-zm nameservers is still responding
with Realtime's nameserver instead of NinerNet's.
Realtime have refused to assist thus far -- even though they are the
registrar of this domain -- instead blaming us (NinerNet Communications,
the company hosting the domain) for the problems. However, this is
clearly refuted by the evidence below, which are fresh queries from a
few minutes ago (with date and time stamps) on all of the dot-zm TLD
nameservers.
I have copied this email to all of the people at Realtime who have been
involved thus far, as well as representatives of the registrant of the
domain.
This should take two minutes for someone with access to the pch.nic.zm
nameserver to fix. Please ensure that this is fixed today so that the
registrant of example.co.zm can get back to running their business.
Thank-you.
Craig Hartnett
[00:13:14 leftseat@wrathall ~]$ date -u
Fri Sep 25 07:13:19 UTC 2015
[00:13:19 leftseat@wrathall ~]$ dig example.co.zm ns @hippo.ru.ac.za
; <<>> DiG 9.9.5-3ubuntu0.5-Ubuntu <<>> example.co.zm ns @hippo.ru.ac.za
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 63660
;; flags: qr rd; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 3, ADDITIONAL: 2
;; WARNING: recursion requested but not available
;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 4096
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;example.co.zm.                        IN      NS
;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
co.zm.                  86400   IN      NS      pch.nic.zm.
co.zm.                  86400   IN      NS      ns-zm.afrinic.net.
co.zm.                  86400   IN      NS      ns1.zamnet.zm.
;; ADDITIONAL SECTION:
ns1.zamnet.zm.          86400   IN      A       196.46.192.26
;; Query time: 348 msec
;; SERVER: 146.231.128.1#53(146.231.128.1)
;; WHEN: Fri Sep 25 00:13:28 PDT 2015
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 137
[00:13:28 leftseat@wrathall ~]$ dig example.co.zm ns @ns1.coppernet.zm
; <<>> DiG 9.9.5-3ubuntu0.5-Ubuntu <<>> example.co.zm ns @ns1.coppernet.zm
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: SERVFAIL, id: 17502
;; flags: qr rd; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1
;; WARNING: recursion requested but not available
;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 4096
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;example.co.zm.                        IN      NS
;; Query time: 586 msec
;; SERVER: 41.222.240.15#53(41.222.240.15)
;; WHEN: Fri Sep 25 00:13:32 PDT 2015
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 43
[00:13:32 leftseat@wrathall ~]$ dig example.co.zm ns @ns1.zamnet.zm
; <<>> DiG 9.9.5-3ubuntu0.5-Ubuntu <<>> example.co.zm ns @ns1.zamnet.zm
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 52796
;; flags: qr rd; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 2, ADDITIONAL: 1
;; WARNING: recursion requested but not available
;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 4096
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;example.co.zm.                        IN      NS
;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      ns2.niner.net.
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      ns1.niner.net.
;; Query time: 320 msec
;; SERVER: 196.46.192.26#53(196.46.192.26)
;; WHEN: Fri Sep 25 00:13:38 PDT 2015
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 88
[00:13:38 leftseat@wrathall ~]$ dig example.co.zm ns @ns2.zamnet.zm
; <<>> DiG 9.9.5-3ubuntu0.5-Ubuntu <<>> example.co.zm ns @ns2.zamnet.zm
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 16638
;; flags: qr rd; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 2, ADDITIONAL: 1
;; WARNING: recursion requested but not available
;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 4096
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;example.co.zm.                        IN      NS
;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      ns1.niner.net.
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      ns2.niner.net.
;; Query time: 338 msec
;; SERVER: 196.46.192.21#53(196.46.192.21)
;; WHEN: Fri Sep 25 00:13:42 PDT 2015
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 88
[00:13:42 leftseat@wrathall ~]$ dig example.co.zm ns @ns-zm.afrinic.net
; <<>> DiG 9.9.5-3ubuntu0.5-Ubuntu <<>> example.co.zm ns @ns-zm.afrinic.net
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 36928
;; flags: qr rd; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 2, ADDITIONAL: 1
;; WARNING: recursion requested but not available
;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 4096
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;example.co.zm.                        IN      NS
;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      ns1.niner.net.
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      ns2.niner.net.
;; Query time: 310 msec
;; SERVER: 196.216.168.44#53(196.216.168.44)
;; WHEN: Fri Sep 25 00:13:45 PDT 2015
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 88
[00:13:45 leftseat@wrathall ~]$ dig example.co.zm ns @pch.nic.zm
; <<>> DiG 9.9.5-3ubuntu0.5-Ubuntu <<>> example.co.zm ns @pch.nic.zm
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 37546
;; flags: qr rd; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 8, ADDITIONAL: 1
;; WARNING: recursion requested but not available
;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 4096
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;example.co.zm.                        IN      NS
;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      dns2.hai-alive.zm.
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      dns2.realtime.zm.
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      dns1.hai-alive.zm.
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      dns3.realtime.zm.
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      dns4.realtime.zm.
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      dns1.realtime.zm.
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      dns4.hai-alive.zm.
example.co.zm.         86400   IN      NS      dns3.hai-alive.zm.
;; Query time: 17 msec
;; SERVER: 204.61.216.73#53(204.61.216.73)
;; WHEN: Fri Sep 25 00:13:49 PDT 2015
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 214
[00:13:49 leftseat@wrathall ~]$ date -u
Fri Sep 25 07:13:56 UTC 2015
[00:13:56 leftseat@wrathall ~]$
--
NinerNet Communications | Craig Hartnett
* http://www.niner.net | info _AT_ niner.net
Phone: +1 604 630 1772 | +260 21 1 255568 | 1 855 NINERNET

Update, 2016-12-12: Updated link to CoCCA “patrons” page.

Delaying tactics by Network Solutions

21 January 2015 23:55:41 +0000

Businesses hate to lose customers, there’s no question of that. We hate to lose customers, there’s also no question of that. When a client tells us that they will be closing their account with us for one reason or another — it happens! — we’ll ask if there is anything we can do to keep their business. More often than not we’ll learn (often to our surprise) that the client is actually closing shop, and they’re not moving to another hosting provider — which is a bit of a relief (to us) in that we know they’re not leaving because of something we did, or something we didn’t do.

Sometimes, of course, the client is actually moving to a new hosting provider. As we’ve stated before, we do say that we’re sorry to see them go — and we mean it — and we ask if there’s anything we can do to keep their business, but if they’re committed then we back off. Importantly, we also don’t do anything to impede their progress into the sunset. In our opinion, that would be unprofessional, and we’d then deserve to lose that business. And given the number of clients that end up returning to us months or a year or two later, we’d be idiots to burn that bridge.

So it was interesting to learn today that Network Solutions (owned by Web.com) has apparently (at some point) implemented a three day waiting period if you ask for the “auth code” for a domain registered through them. (The authorisation code is required to effect a domain transfer from one registrar to another.) Now, it is our assertion that every domain name owner should ask for and make a note of the auth code for their domain as soon as it’s registered, and should also change it (if permitted by the registry) after a registrar transfer. (There is a long history of domain owners being caught flat-footed in times of crisis without this information.) But most of our incoming clients have not done that, and so now this client is being held hostage by Network Solutions for three days, waiting for the information — information they already own — that they need to effect the transfer they want to make. Network Solutions give the following reason, after a couple of screens of FUD-generating warnings of imminent Armageddon that are clearly designed to scare the domain owner into not obtaining the information to which they are entitled:

Your request for an Auth Code has been received and your information will be validated to ensure the security of your account. If your request is approved, you will receive your Auth Code by email in 3 days.

To cancel this request, please call one of our Customer Service Representatives at 1-800-779-4903.

Thank you.

Now, it’s all well and good that Network Solutions claims (or hides behind) the excuse of “[ensuring] the security of your account” (which is not surprising, considering they were responsible for one of the biggest screw ups in domain history when they allowed the fraudulent registrant transfer of a domain registered with them back when they held the monopoly on gTLD registrations), but this is clearly a delaying tactic to give the customer time to lose the will to transfer because now it’s just too much of a problem, too much effort, too complicated, too time-consuming … or whatever negative feeling develops in the mind of the domain owner as he or she spends three days mulling over (and perhaps having nightmares about) the things they read in the two screens of dire warnings before finally screwing up the courage to click the “yes, I really do want my auth code” button.

Shame on you, Network Solutions, for impeding the progress of this customer who has decided — as they’re free to do — to move their business to a competitor. But this is not surprising of a company that has a longer list of “controversies” listed in their Wikipedia article than most companies, along with those of their former parent company Verisign. They both also appear prominently in the “Domain name scams” article, as well as here on our own blog.

Domain contact information MUST be valid

15 January 2014 11:38:43 +0000

ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) — the organisation in charge of all generic top-level domains (e.g., dot-com, dot-net, dot-org, etc., and the upcoming new gTLDs) — has introduced new rules that came into effect on 1 January.

The rule most likely to affect you at some point is the requirement for a valid email address associated with your domain. People generally register a new domain with a working email address, but over time that address may stop working for one reason or another. ICANN have taken steps to ensure that such a situation is not perpetuated.

Effective 1 January, if one of our automated emails to a contact address for your domain bounces, we are required to send you a verification email asking you to click a link in the email to confirm that your address does actually work. Of course, you’ll only receive that email if your email address has started working again in the meantime. Unfortunately, if you do not receive and act on the instructions in the verification email, we will have no choice but to suspend your domain, which will automatically happen fifteen (15) days after the first verification email is sent. If your domain is suspended, any services (email, websites, etc.) that rely on it will stop working until you respond and update the email address in your domain account. This is an ICANN rule applicable to all registrars and domain registrants, and we are contractually obligated to comply with it.

You may receive the same verification email when you register a new domain, when you transfer an existing domain into your domain account with NinerNet from another domain registrar, or when you change the contact information for your domain.

Please take this opportunity to log into your domain account (if your domain is registered with us) to check the contact information we have on record for your domain(s). If the contact email address you see there no longer works, exists or is no longer controlled by you, please update it immediately. (You will then receive a verification email, and you must follow the instructions in that email to complete the change to your contact details.) If you have multiple domains, you can update all of them at the same time. If you need the log-in information for your domain account sent to you, please advise us of that. Please note that your domain account is different and separate from your hosting account, and needs to be maintained separately by you. Thank-you for your understanding and cooperation.

If you have any questions, please contact support. Thank-you.

Dot-net and dot-com: The domains that define the Internet

31 December 2013 18:49:44 +0000

Define your ideas on the domains that define the Internet.

With all the hype about new top-level domains (TLDs) entering the market late this year and early in 2014, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that most people still prefer to register new domains under the dot-com and dot-net TLDs. In fact, about 83% of the domains we host are either dot-coms or dot-nets. And there’s good reason for this: they are still the most widely-recognised TLDs out there, considering they have been around since 1985. That’s almost thirty years!

While some people — mostly people advocating use of less known TLDs — talk about domain depletion in dot-com and dot-net, we register new domains for clients in these name spaces every month. The fact is, domain names based on company names and/or locations are and will continue to be available to imaginative business owners. Besides, even though you might sell widgets, widgets.com isn’t necessarily the best domain for you; it may very well be widgetsgalore.com (reflecting your full company name), or widgetsvancouver.com (reflecting your location and market). Many of our clients register more specific domains like these as they better identify who they are and the markets that their companies serve.

If you’d like help selecting and registering a new or additional domain for your business, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help you.

Christmas and New Year hours and wishes

24 December 2013 22:25:28 +0000

It’s the end of the year again, and a fitting time to thank you once again for the custom that you have given to NinerNet in 2013. This year was challenging in some respects, but looking at things from the positive side the challenges were the result of growth. Some of that growth continues to be the new business that you, our existing clients, continue to refer to us, and for that we are most grateful.

Looking forward to 2014 we, as always, have plans to expand and improve the services we offer to you. Some of the new services will involve “private clouds”. We have avoided the buzzword “cloud”, bucking the industry trend in recent years, but with the news that broke this year about pervasive, worldwide, government surveillance — especially through big hosting companies based in the USA — we’re getting more enquiries about setting up a cloud-type infrastructure for in-house use only, and on servers outside the US. Look for an announcement about this in 2014.

On a wider scale, 2014 will see the introduction of new top-level domains (TLDs) and stronger enforcement of the requirement to use real and working contact data for domain registrations. Early in the new year we’ll be contacting you about the latter. As for the new TLDs — a TLD is the part of your domain to the right of the last dot (e.g., .com) — early registration for some of these are underway. Their introduction has been controversial, but they may see use in certain regions and niche industries. At this time they would appeal to only a limited number of our existing clients, but we’ll be providing information about them early in the New Year too (although we can immediately register in some of them). Some examples of new TLDs include .bike (e.g., example.bike), .clothing, .construction, .contractors, .diamonds, .enterprises, .guru, .holdings, .singles … and so on. Eventually there will also be a .africa too. Please be aware, though, that there are already scams involving fake registrations in these new TLDs, so if you get spam about these please keep that in mind and ask us if you need guidance.

Finally, our offices will be closed over the Christmas break for routine business, but support continues to be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We will re-open on Monday, 6 January.

We wish you and your family, business, organisation, employees and/or colleagues who celebrate it a very happy Christmas, and all the best for the New Year.

Deletion of domains by Zamnet continues

14 June 2013 14:32:22 +0000

Not satisfied with having deleted 37 per cent of domains earlier this week, it appears that Zamnet continue to delete even more domains! Today we find out that domains that were still working on Tuesday have now been deleted, causing more clients to scramble because their email and websites have suddenly stopped working. This brings the percentage of domains deleted without warning due to Zamnet’s incompetence to 42 per cent … almost half! When will this stop?!

We encourage clients affected by these arbitrary and unannounced interruptions to their business to file a complaint with the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority. (UPDATE, 2013-06-28: The complaint form disappeared shortly after we posted this. Try their “Complaint Handling” page instead.)

Massive, unannounced deletion of dot-zm domains by Zamnet

11 June 2013 11:15:39 +0000

Over the last few days it has become apparent to us that Zamnet’s accounting department — just as Coppernet’s did almost three years ago — awoke from a long hibernation and realised that a chunk of active domains hadn’t been paid for. As a result, 37 per cent of the dot-zm domains hosted by NinerNet that are (or were) registered with Zamnet — which includes .co.zm, .org.zm and .sch.zm domains — were deleted by Zamnet, taking them off the Internet completely. One client tells us that Zamnet informed them, when they enquired, that they were supposedly four years behind! (UPDATE, 2013-06-28: Another client tells us they had not been invoiced for their dot-co.zm domain in thirteen years! They’ve since switched to a dot-com with “zambia” tacked onto their name, as so many people do to avoid the hassle and expense of registering a dot-zm domain.)

It seems unlikely to us that so many Zamnet customers had simply ignored their invoices for several years. It’s more likely that they were never invoiced. In fact, our own domain (ninernet.co.zm) came up for renewal over a month ago, and we still have not received an invoice. Perhaps Zamnet are too busy disabling over a third of the country’s Internet infrastructure to send out invoices! (CORRECTION, 2013-06-28: Oops, seems we hadn’t updated our records correctly. Zamnet [when they do invoice] bills for domains every two years. Ours does not expire until next year. Our apologies for the incorrect statement, although it doesn’t really change much!)

Screenshot of Zamnet home page, 11 June 2013.

Screenshot of Zamnet home page, 11 June 2013

Other countries take the management of their ccTLD (country code top-level domain) far more seriously than this. They have published rules and procedures governing what exactly happens after a domain expires. They also operate a WHOIS service so that the public can look up “who is” the owner of a domain and the dates that it was registered and will expire. Zamnet and Coppernet, as co-stewards of the dot-zm ccTLD — an odd arrangement that we are not aware of in any other country — do not provide any such information, at least to the public. In fact, judging by these arbitrary and cavalier mass deletions carried out by both companies, they don’t even have any such policies! They just seem to make this up as they go along.

Screenshot of ZICTA home page, 11 June 2013.

Screenshot of ZICTA home page, 11 June 2013

You would think that — given that deleting 37 per cent of the country’s domains has all of the appearance of a planned and concerted effort — Zamnet would, at the very least, post a prominent notice on the home page of their website. However, there is no such notice as of posting this. (Click on the thumbnail at left to see.) I’m also not aware of any notices posted in newspapers. So much for their laughable slogan: “Nobody delivers IT better.” Right now, more than a third of their customers are not getting anything delivered, and it’s clear that their slogan doesn’t apply to the delivery of invoices.

 

And where is ZICTA in all of this? You’d think they’d be interested in the disabling of 37 per cent of the country’s domains, but there’s nothing posted on the home page of their website either! Maybe a few complaints via their complaint form might get their attention. (UPDATE, 2013-06-28: Hmm, the complaint form disappeared shortly after we posted this. Try their “Complaint Handling” page instead.)

Please note that, if you did not register your dot-zm domain through NinerNet, we do not know when it is scheduled to expire and we cannot help you in dealing with Zamnet. We don’t know how effective it would be to request an update to the contact information for your domain so that we can monitor it, from an administrative (not technical) point of view, but if you’d like to try we’re certainly game to assist and cooperate. Let us know if you’d like to try.

Issues such as these mass and arbitrary deletions, as well as the entire dot-zm ccTLD going down occasionally, are the two main reason we discourage clients from registering dot-zm domains. This is unfortunate, of course, but clients expect their online services to actually be … online! It is also the reason that we created the alternative ccTLD for Zambia: dot-zam.co. They’re only K66 per year (as opposed to hundreds for a dot-co.zm and hundreds more for a dot-com.zm) and don’t require paperwork.

Price increase for dot-co.za domains

4 June 2013 11:52:29 +0000

The dot-co.za registry has announced a price increase of 50% for registration and renewal of dot-co.za domains, effective 1 March 2013. As a result, we too must increase our prices, and this will be effective immediately.

The new prices are live on our rates pages. Please check there for the new rates in your currency.

We appreciate your understanding.

Domain renewal scam warning

22 March 2012 12:25:40 +0000

We have had a new domain renewal scam brought to our attention. The example we have seen includes the following wording (changed to preserve our client’s privacy):

Domain Name: EXAMPLE.COM

To: Client Name

Your order #12345678 has been received and is currently processing. Registration includes SE submission for EXAMPLE.COM for 12 months. There is no obligation to pay for this order unless you complete your payment by Mar 25, 2012. SE Services provides submission services and search engine ranking organization for domain owners.

Failure to complete your search engine registration by Mar 25, 2012 may result in the cancellation of this order (making it difficult for your customers to locate you using search engines on the web).

Here is a redacted image of what the email might look like:

Domain renewal scam email.

Domain renewal scam email.

Clicking on the links takes you to a website that looks like this:

Domain renewal scam website.

Domain renewal scam website.

While this email carefully avoids any mention of the expiry or renewal of your domain registration, the intent is clearly to fool and scare the recipient into thinking that their domain registration is about to expire so that they click one of the prominent “PROCESS SECURE PAYMENT” links and complete the payment process. If you do this, your domain will not be renewed, and you’ll be out $75 (in this case) for services of dubious value that you may or may not actually receive. Additionally, you might be opening yourself up to identity theft and/or the abuse of your credit card information.

In fact, if you have already fallen victim to this scam, we suggest that you contact your credit card company immediately, and check to ensure that your domain is “locked” and still registered to you and under your control.

Some of the domains associated with these emails and websites are the following:

  • annualurldom.com
  • iglobalmerchantservice.com
  • urldomannual.com

NinerNet attempts to protect our clients from these kinds of domain-related scams by having a policy of “locking” (as mentioned above) all domains under our management that can be locked. However, you should still be cautious before acting on any emails not from NinerNet (or your actual domain registrar if it’s not NinerNet) regarding any domains you have registered, especially if they attempt to scare you into taking action.

Please contact NinerNet support if you have any questions about emails regarding your domains, and we will help you.

Thank-you.

Technical contact update for domain registrations

30 October 2010 11:18:35 +0000

All domains registered with NinerNet that have NinerNet listed as the technical contact were updated on 19 October to include a working phone number for the technical contact. Please note, however, that this phone number is not a point of contact for NinerNet clients. (Frankly, while it’s a working number and is monitored, its sole purpose it to avoid time-wasting telemarketers.) Actually, all of the contact information we use for domain registrations is not for the use of clients: Postal mail is not collected regularly, and email to the email address is heavily filtered to allow only email from certain domain registries and registrars through. Please refer to our contact page for contact information for clients.

Owners of dot-ca domains may notice that the name of the technical contact (where NinerNet is listed) is shown as “Domian Adnimistrator” [sic]. This intentional misspelling is because CIRA (as a result of a recent, but unannounced, policy change) doesn’t allow the “name” field to contain certain generic words. This doesn’t make sense, as people can come and go from a company, while positions generally remain the same. In fact, the “role account” has a long and distinguished history when it comes to domain registrations that dates back at least as far as the 1990s.

NinerNet home page

Subscriptions:

RSS icon. RSS

General Information:

This is the corporate blog of NinerNet Communications. It's where we post announcements, inform and educate our clients, and discuss issues related to the Internet (web and email) hosting business and all that that entails. This includes such concomitant industries and activities such a domain registration, SSL certificates, online back-up, virtual private servers (VPS), cloud hosting, etc. Please visit our main website for more information about us.

Search:

 

Recent Posts:

Archives:

Categories:

Tags:

accounts receivable apple billing branding cira contact information domain registration domain registry of canada domain renewals domains domain sales dot-ca domains dot-zm domains down time droc facebook google happy hosting customers hosting transfer icann internet registry of canada invoices iphone iroc kwacha maintenance new services paying your bill paying your invoice quarterly kwacha rate review rates registrant transfers registrar transfers reputation scams search engine optimisation search engine optimization security seo service hours spam support transparency verisign wordpress

Resources:

Couldn't connect: Access denied for user 'ninernet_x_site'@'localhost' (using password: YES)