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Quarterly kwacha rate review, Q4 2020

1 October 2020 00:00:19 +0000

Based on the current value of the Zambian kwacha in US dollars and recent trends, we are increasing our retail kwacha prices effective today and until the next quarterly review by about 8%.

Some sample rates:

  • webONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW 307.50
  • mailONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW 205.00
  • gTLD domain (annually): ZMW 389.00

Our new kwacha rates will be online within 24 hours.

Microlink has apparently shut down

14 September 2020 03:24:27 +0000

Microlink last week apparently sent an email to their customers stating that they were suddenly “shutting down their hosting services”. According to some reports, there weren’t many customers left to send the emails to. However, one of them contacted us and with cooperation from ZICTA we were able to transfer their dot-zm domain under our management, and we got them back online the same day.

However, another former Microlink customer who contacted us wanted to get their @microlink.zm email address working again. We had to inform them that we are unable to do that, because we don’t manage the microlink.zm domain and its DNS and email accounts. It remains under the management of Microlink, or whatever is left of it.

We did contact the (apparently) former IT manager at Microlink (Sanjeev) to offer assistance with moving clients to new hosting and to host email on microlink.zm, but we have not had a response … and quite frankly don’t expect one.

If you are a former hosting customer of Microlink — i.e., you have your own domain, dot-zm or otherwise — that was hosted with them, please contact us and we will assist you in getting your domain back online as quickly as possible. We have the expertise and experience.


Update, 2020-09-18: Although we can’t replace what you lost when Microlink shut down unexpectedly, we can try and ease your pain. If you contact us and sign up before the end of September 2020, we will host you for no charge for ONE YEAR (for a maximum of 25 email addresses), including bringing your dot-zm domain registration up to date. Click here to contact us by email now.

SSL/TLS certificate validation limit

22 July 2020 04:35:03 +0000

Effective August 2020, future TLS/SSL certificates we issue will only be valid for one year at a time. This is due to the fact that the major web browser vendors (Apple, Mozilla, Google, etc.) will only trust certificates issued on or after 1 September 2020 for a maximum of 398 days. If your certificate was issued before 1 September, it will be continue to be trusted.

If you have any questions about this, please contact NinerNet support and we will be happy to assist you.

Quarterly kwacha rate review, Q3 2020

1 July 2020 07:11:38 +0000

Based on the current value of the Zambian kwacha in US dollars and recent trends, we are increasing our retail kwacha prices effective today and until the next quarterly review by about 3%.

Some sample rates:

  • webONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW 285.00
  • mailONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW 190.00
  • gTLD domain (annually): ZMW 361.00

Our new kwacha rates will be online within 24 hours.

We now offer dot-zm domain registrations

25 April 2020 01:56:29 +0000

As some of you are aware, we have been pursuing accreditation with ZICTA so that we can register and manage dot-zm domains. In order to accomplish this we partnered with registered ISP Preworx, and our application was recently approved.

This will be particularly good news for those of you who have dot-zm domains registered with a certain registrar who suspends and deletes domains without notice and without billing registrants, as happened most recently in February and will undoubtedly happen again in the future.

We have already transferred those domain registrations for which we are responsible. At the same time we have corrected the registration information for these domains to ensure they are registered by the correct organisations, and are using current contact information.

While we have not recommended dot-zm domains in the past for both technical and administrative reasons, the technical reasons were addressed by ZICTA within the last few years. The administrative reasons are primarily related to poor management by registrars, such as the aforementioned registrar that suspends domains without notice and without issuing invoices. This, as all NinerNet clients know, is not how we conduct business.

Also in the past we have not been able to offer any assistance — only advice — when clients had issues with their dot-zm registrations and registrars. Now, for those clients who have dot-zm domains, if you transfer your dot-zm registration to NinerNet/Preworx, you will be assured of the same service and attention to detail that you are used to with your hosting and other domain registrations. In fact, while it is ultimately your choice whether or not you transfer your dot-zm domain under the management of NinerNet/Preworx, we do strongly recommend that you do.

If you have an existing non-dot-zm domain that includes the word “Zambia” or “Africa” — e.g., company-zambia.com or company.africa — and would like to consider registering a dot-zm instead or as well, please contact us to advise us and we’ll respond with options for you. Your options include:

  • .ac.zm: Academic institutions
  • .biz.zm: Businesses
  • .co.zm: Commercial entities
  • .com.zm: Commercial entities
  • .edu.zm: Academic institutions
  • .gov.zm: Government
  • .info.zm: Information
  • .mil.zm: Military
  • .net.zm: Networks
  • .org.zm: Non-commercial organizations
  • .sch.zm: Schools

Of course, some of the above are restricted.

Pricing has been another reason that dot-zm domains have not been popular. To be frank, we don’t have any firm commitment from ZICTA on our pricing yet. We’d love to be able to say that we know what price we will be charging for domains next year and five years from now, but we can’t. However, as part of our application we did commit to pricing “in line with industry standards for most TLDs.” What this means for now is that we intend to charge the same price for a dot-zm domain that we currently charge for a dot-com, which is K351.50. Actually, considering we’re not paying for dot-zm domain registrations in forex, we’ll peg that at K350 per year unless and until ZICTA makes any significant change to their pricing model.

Even better is that — subject to ZICTA’s pricing — we will charge only half that, K175 for a year, for all transferred and new domains for the rest of 2020. This applies to all existing clients, and any new clients. And remember, we pay a 10% bounty for new clients — to both the referring client and the new client — based on the new client’s spending with us for their first six months.

Please contact us to transfer your existing dot-zm domain (if you have one), or register a new one. Thank-you.

Quarterly kwacha rate review, Q2 2020

1 April 2020 00:00:00 +0000

Based on the current value of the Zambian kwacha in US dollars and recent trends, we are increasing our retail kwacha prices effective today and until the next quarterly review by about 32%. If we see a significant improvement in the value of the kwacha we may revise this rate sooner than the next quarter.

Some sample rates:

  • webONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW 277.50
  • mailONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW 185.00
  • gTLD domain (annually): ZMW 351.50

Our new kwacha rates will be online within 24 hours.

Business during the COVID-19 pandemic

19 March 2020 02:54:52 +0000

We know that some of you are no doubt weary of COVID-19 (coronavirus) news updates, but we’re prompted to make this brief statement.

NinerNet‘s operations are not currently, nor forecast to be, affected by this pandemic. We do have business continuity plans, but at this point they have not needed to be activated beyond following public health guidelines and directives. We have had communications from some (but not all) suppliers that they are implementing contingency plans to ensure the continuity of their own businesses, and therefore we do not anticipate we or you (our clients) will be adversely affected.

It’s important to remember that the vast majority of the relatively small numbers of people who have been affected so far have recovered. This means life will no doubt carry on as usual in the near future.

In the meantime though, as the operators of a service on which you rely for information communication, we want to remind you that the scammers and spammers never rest — in fact, through our spam filtering we know they are already at work, attempting to take advantage of fear. If you receive any email about the pandemic — offering rumours, cures, masks, hand sanitiser or even (in some parts of the world) toilet paper! — they are best ignored.

We very much appreciate your business. We hope you are staying safe and healthy, and we look forward to continuing to serve you for many years to come. If we can help you or your business in some way during this time, please do tell us how.

Here are some links that may help you get some factual information from your governmental health authorities:

Thank-you, and stay well.

Craig

Mail server in and out of capricious blacklist

10 March 2020 02:33:48 +0000

As you’re aware, we work hard to ensure that our mail servers do not get into blacklists. On the rare occasion that one of our IP addresses is blacklisted, we investigate the cause of the problem, fix the problem (often a client with a compromised machine) and (if possible) try to have our IP address removed from the blacklist. Often though, manual removal from the blacklist is unnecessary, as modern, well-maintained blacklists are automated, and offending IP addresses are removed very soon after they no longer show any signs of sending spam.

It’s not often any more that we run into old-style blacklists — blacklists that are poorly maintained, that blacklist huge swathes of the Internet, or that offer no discernible removal process — but there are still some of them out there. Not many are used by mail servers that accept email on behalf of any sizeable number of users, but we have run into one that happens to fit that exact trifecta: urbl.hostedemail.com.

This blacklist is used by Hostedemail(.com), a subsidiary of OpenSRS/Tucows. Good luck getting to their website though, as one doesn’t exist. Their email hosting service is a white-label service sold by their resellers, and they don’t even have a way for other mail server administrators to contact them, to search their blacklist or ask to be taken out of it.

Thankfully though, we are still hanging onto our own long-established reseller account with OpenSRS, and we contacted them about this block of our (non-resold) primary mail server (NC036). We first did this in February when we noticed that email from some clients was being blocked with this error message:

host mx.DOMAIN.com.cust.a.hostedemail.com[216.40.42.4] refused to talk to me: 554 5.7.1 Service unavailable; Client host [178.62.195.26] blocked using urbl.hostedemail.com; Your IP has been manually blacklisted

(It was the reference to being “manually blacklisted” that really got our attention, as this is a hallmark of the aforementioned poorly maintained blacklists.)

OpenSRS responded quickly, and we were removed from the blacklist within about eight hours. But we were surprised to see, a couple of weeks later in March, that we were blacklisted again, so we contacted OpenSRS yet again. The response this time was much slower, but we have again been removed. This time, however, we pressed for an explanation for the block, as we are not listed in about 300 other blacklists that are more widely used. This is part of their response:

I am just replying back on the RBL listing you inquired about and I can confirm the IP was once again de-listed but I did get some additional information for you as requested. I needed to do a bit of checking but the IP 178.62.195.26 is provided by RIPE Network Coordination Centre, the IP assigned to the user by the hosting provider carries the reputation of the rest of the CIDR. The nature of VPS/Shared IPs is to be disposable …. But of course for the time being we have de-listed the IP but assuming nothing changes its [sic] likely it will be listed again in the future.

This kind of outdated thinking is another of the hallmarks of old-style blacklists: blacklisting half of the Internet based on some outmoded way of thinking that died off around the end of the twentieth century. Essentially, Hostedemail.com is blacklisting all IP addresses in major data centres around the world, which is very counterproductive for their own customers.

We’ll be contacting individual clients whose emails were blocked by this blacklist to point them to this post, and we recommend that if your email is blocked with the above message you contact your correspondent by some other means to advise them to move to a more enlightened mail service provider.


Update, 2019-03-19: Our primary mail server is again blacklisted by this one mail provider in the world out of about 300 major blacklists we have checked. OpenSRS/Tucows/Hostedemail warned us this would happen, so we’re not surprised. We can take no further logical action against an illogical practice. We’re sorry to those clients who are affected, but we again suggest that you tell your correspondents to move to an email service provider that doesn’t run their mail servers based on practices from the last century.

Zamnet deleting dot-zm domains … again!

13 February 2020 05:34:35 +0000

Zamnet’s sleepy accounts receivable department has again risen from its seldom-interrupted slumber to suspend random dot-zm domains. This time they have suspended about 25 per cent of the dot-zm domains that NinerNet hosts — all without a shred of notice to any of their registrants (our hosting clients).

This results in days of downtime while these businesses — some with hundreds of employees and many hundreds of customers across southern Africa — scramble to get a few kwachas to Zamnet’s offices, and then Zamnet takes their time processing the payments. If Zamnet had bothered invoicing for the renewal of these domains in the first place this would likely have never happened. This is not the first time this has occurred; in June 2013 another significant tranche of dot-zm domains were taken offline by Zamnet until registrants coughed up extortionate sums of money (sometimes thirteen years’ worth!) to pay for all the years in which Zamnet didn’t bother to invoice for the renewal of the domains. While that’s the only example we have documented on this blog, it’s not the only example of Zamnet causing dot-zm domains to fail.

NinerNet, in partnership with registered ISP Preworx, are trying to become accredited with ZICTA to register and manage dot-zm domain registrations so that this kind of uncertainty and lack of reliability with dot-zm domain registrations and renewals can be stopped, at least for our clients and those who choose to register their dot-zm domains with us. We made the application in June 2019, but progress on the application has been held up by additional, undocumented steps we have had to take. Only yesterday we happened to submit additional paperwork in support of our application, and this morning we followed up with a complaint about this action by Zamnet and made clear that such an action would never happen under our watch. It is unclear to us what obstacles will be placed in our path now, but it is the incompetence demonstrated by incumbent registrars like Zamnet that drives us forward to our goal.

If you’d like to voice support for the application by Preworx to become a dot-zm domain registrar, we encourage you to voice this support through the ZICTA website. Thank-you.

Quarterly kwacha rate review, Q1 2020

1 January 2020 00:00:52 +0000

Based on the current value of the Zambian kwacha in US dollars and recent trends, we are (for the first time in a while) maintaining our retail kwacha prices until the next quarterly review.

Some sample rates:

  • webONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW 210.00
  • mailONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW 140.00
  • gTLD domain (annually): ZMW 266.00

Our new kwacha rates are available on our website.

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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 it entails. This includes concomitant industries and activities such as domain registration, SSL/TLS certificates, online back-up, virtual private servers (VPS), cloud hosting, etc. Please visit our main website for more information about us.

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