Lunarpages lets the users of Basic Hosting and Business Hosting plans access the FTP server through Transport Layer Security (TLS). It’s an unauthenticated root certificate. But it’s way more secure than the ordinary file transfer protocol (FTP), through which FTP client sends login information in a simple form without encryption on either side.
Back in March 2007, we were invited to evaluate Lunarpages’ Basic Hosting plan. We wanted to see a more secure file transfer means than FTP with no encryption layer. Our local operating system is Mac OS X. And we had no trouble downloading/uploading files with FTP over TLS, using YummyFTP and FileZilla, at first.
One of the strongest points of Lunarpages’ hosting service is its client support system. Open a support ticket and describe your problem. And they will respond within several hours. Most hosting companies don’t respond to tickets that fast. Oh, yes. We have switched our hosting companies several times in the past. On average, it takes other hosting companies 4 to 5 days to respond to a ticket. I won’t mention the name, but one notorious very popular hosting company systematically handles support tickets in such a way that they respond with links to irrelevant knowledge database pages, which don’t solve problems at all.
Let me explain briefly what happened several months before. In March, we had to have our account switched from one server to another right because we wanted to use PHP5 as opposed to PHP4. Everything was working fairly well except that our websites became inaccessible for a few hours every other week or so. But that wasn’t really a big deal.
Then something went terribly wrong in May. Our websites suddenly became inaccessible. The FTP server was dead as well. And mail servers rejected a lot of messages. We had no contact with the outside world. We were isolated. So we were forced to use Hotmail accounts to receive and send messages. And the problems persisted on and off over a period of 11 to 12 days.
|Lunarpages responded promptly but handled the case badly. We couldn’t access our websites, and they repeatedly said that it was the matter of clearing cache as they were able to access them through proxy servers when we couldn’t. How about e-mail and FTP/TLS? Basically, we were told that we needed to go over how our e-mail and FTP client programs were set up. Does that mean we created a dozen video tutorials for Lunarpages users without ourselves actually knowing how to set up e-mail and FTP applications? We were very disappointed and had a serious discussion as to whether we should change web hosting companies again.|
They actually traced the source of all the problems at an early stage. They switched our account from one server to another in March but didn’t correct the DNS entries on the nameservers, which pointed our account to two servers. Unfortunately, we kept having the same problems over and over. And it took them too many days to correct the root of the problems entirely after the first diagnosis.
After the DNS fiasco, we didn’t run into a major problem for several months. In November, we were trying to install a couple of new PHP (PHP5) scripts. One Sunday, I was myself uploading files through FTP/TLS on and off without quitting the FTP client application. Then the FTP connection suddenly went dead. Actually, the websites, FTP server and mail servers were all dead at least for a couple of hours. So our initial diagnosis was that the DND fiasco was back again.
There was no sign that the FTP/TLS problem would ever be resolved. So we gave up using the TLS layer. Our basic stance was that we had not changed a single setting and that we were unable to use FTP/TLS only after they made an emergency fix on the server where account is hosted. But Lunarpages sent several different people one by one and said that they were able to use our FTP account. Eventually, one of them said
|“this is not officially supported by Lunarpages. If you are unsuccessful in applying this to your account, we cannot offer you any support from the helpdesk to get it working.”|
That was a very disappointing comment because we were invited to test their FTP/TLS connection on the Mac platform. Another support representative wrote
“Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with YummyFTP, so I don’t know how you would make it accept the new certificate. You may want to try contacting support for the software at http://www.yummysoftware.com/support.”
We suggested that they themselves review their system as we haven’t changed a single setting on our FTP client for months. But they refused. In fact, they admitted that they had updated the root certificate at the same time the FTP/TLS connection stopped working. Eventually, it looked like that the problem was local and it was we who had to go over our FTP settings or that we had to get our FTP client (YummyFTP and FileZilla) recognize the updated root certificate. However, the entire case had unexpected turn and closure when one of the Lunarpages support representative wrote
“There was an issue with the firewall and ftp configuration that was causing some passive connections to fail due to the incorrect ranges being opened. For some reason this caused passive FTP with Explicit TLS to consistently fail to establish a data connection.”
In fact, I’m not writing this article to tell people to avoid Lunarpages. As I noted earlier, we have switched from one web hosting company to another several times. None of them is perfect. Most of them don’t respond promptly enough in the first place. Most importantly, there is no guarantee that life will be better at a new web hosting company. Wherever you go, there are assholes and idiots on this planet. And I can tell you that changing jobs has never improved my life. The best prevention from major problems is knowledge. And the best person to count on is yourself in time of trouble.
In both cases, there was nothing we could do as neither case was local. The first fiasco resulted from their failure in updating DNS entries. As for the second fiasco, we didn’t update their root certificate. Nor did we configure their FIREWALL. Despite these two major oops of theirs, we are not convinced to switch to another hosting company for now. And I’m sure life won’t be any better at a new host.
On the other hand, Lunarpages should have checked up their system sooner in both cases. As for the FTP/TLS fiasco, it took them about 6 weeks to finally resolve the case. If you don’t resolve each case one by one, you know what will happen? Another one occurs to have a pile of unsolved problems. In fact, before they resolved the last problem, we ran into another major problem. And we have not been able to receive e-mail messages. Despite the fact that we haven’t changed a single setting on our e-mail client, they maintain that the problem resides locally as one of the support representatives wrote
“Unfortunately, We won’t change the settings because there’s nothing wrong with the settings, as we have demonstrated. The issue is likely an issue with the setup of the account. I would recommend deleting the account from your email client, then closing it out, reboot the system, and then add it back, and see if that resolves the issue for you.”
So why are we writing this article? A main reason is that any Lunarpages client who faces the same trouble with FTP/TLS can tell the hosting company what to look for. Furthermore, again, this fiasco won’t make us decide to switch to another web hosting company. Simply, bad things happen from time to time wherever you go.