BITNETS FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions - With Answers

We spend a lot of time responding to your questions. Typically an hour to read and draft a single reply if no research is involved, sometimes even 3 hours. We understand every message thoroughly before responding so you're never exasperated trying to re-explain your issue several times over to several different people. Your tough question might be a good one, but we won't stop at telling you that! Please refer to this FAQ before requesting support, since that will save us the time to come up with many more good answers. Plus, it might resolve your issue before we get to it.
 

SERVICE AND SUPPORT

I'm experiencing service interruptions with my existing service provider, and there were billing problems with another service provider before that. In such situations, what's worse is, not receiving a response from billing and support. If such an incident should occur with you, what's my recourse other than changing service providers once again?

We think the case with anyone would be that you would have to switch. We have never had a billing related problem or an extended service interruption, so we do not think this would be an issue.
 

Do you have a policy of pre-warning when you schedule a maintenance or system overhaul, or do you just go ahead and shut off mail service? While the maintenance is being carried out, does a backup server take over or is service interrupted for that duration?

Scheduled maintenance such as major system upgrades will be announced. Minor component upgrades don't usually require a server reboot, so the momentary downtime is usually under 5 seconds, and even a reboot translates to less than a minute of downtime. Yes, backup servers do take over any time mail is not deliverable to the primary server for any reason.

The way the Internet works, every ISP has an upstream ISP. If one of our upstream ISPs goes down unannounced (does not happen too often, of course), we won't be able to pre-warn you. We would nonetheless receive pager notification from our own monitoring system and be aware of the problem, and would take steps to restore connectivity ASAP.

During the upstream outage, mail will still be received since we have both multi-homed connectivity and multi-location backup servers. You might experience intermittent connection failures when attempting to download mail in spite of our redundant Internet connectivity. We won't get into the complexity of why this happens, but it is a limitation of existing e-mail systems. To help fix this issue we have done our part in contacting mail user agent (e-mail software) vendors to modify their software, and written up an Internet Draft that might someday become an Internet standard that would overcome these shortcomings. Mail will never bounce or be lost as a result of failures at any one upstream ISP.
 

Do you have 24x7 monitoring and support staff who will alert me by e-mail immediately should I be mail bombed or hacked? Or will I find out only much later when I don't receive mail for hours?

Do you know of any service provider that does this? We'd like to see that! We restrict the size of any single message deposited in your mailbox to 15 MB, but this requires your mailbox size to be much larger than the default 15 MB. We have no way of telling if your mailbox has been bombed or your account has been hacked. This is because the large message (sometimes several megabytes) could be a legitimate message containing an attachment of program source code etc. Or if your account information is known to a third party, someone could log in with your username and password. In both cases the system does not think anything is wrong. This is the case with any provider though, not just us. The only way we could find something like this is to manually check every client's account all the time which would require considerable manpower.

We monitor our servers 24x7, though not by a human. Monitoring includes utility power, Internet connectivity and ensuring battery backups, network devices, server hardware and software are all functioning. If for any reason service at our end is disrupted, we will attempt to rectify it immediately, without regard to what time of the day or night it is. This does not include monitoring every account on the servers, but we do resolve any issues you might point out as quickly as possible. You could set up some sort of external script that monitors your own mailbox, one that will notify you based on certain criteria.

We do not provide 24x7 support, even if in practice we do reply to your e-mail messages immediately whenever someone is available after hours. We do however have faster turnaround times than most service providers who do offer 24x7 support. This is because their after hours personnel are usually not empowered to deal with any issues other than basic web browser compatibility and e-mail program configuration. We have a flat, single-tier support infrastructure and all support personnel are empowered to at least begin resolving your issue immediately. You won't have to open a support ticket and wait for hours or even days for your ticket to be escalted to reach personnel empowered to deal with your issue, as you might with a multi-tiered support infrastructure.
 

Will there be a troubleshooter who can be contacted by e-mail at 3 AM to respond to and fix a login or POP account problem? We are 14 hours ahead of your time zone, so it wouldn't be an unreasonable time for us to check on mail and ask for help if we encounter any account related problem.

We generally are not around at 3 AM, the time zone difference does make things a bit messy. We do not provide 24x7 support, even if in practice we do reply to your e-mail messages immediately whenever someone is available after hours. We do realise an account related issue which disrupts your mail flow is urgent and we will not wait until the morning to resolve it if at all someone is available, since we well realise what your working hours are. Everything else will be taken care of during our business hours, including replying to your e-mail. So leave us an instant message or e-mail and rest assured it will be taken care of ASAP, without necessarily being there to chat or reply.
 

Our company auditors/tax advisors want to see a service contract. We don't recall having signed one. Does BITNETS provide written contracts?

Yes, in fact we require that you print, sign, date and return a copy of the BITNETS Service Agreement. Please retain a copy for your records.
 

Do you have a partner program for resellers?

You bet! Check out our Hosting Partner Program.
 

Are you going to be around in 6 months?

We do not borrow money and are very modest risk takers. We work to keep our overheads low. We have no outside investors or controlling interests. We rest content providing services within the realm of our core competencies.
We intend to be around for a long time.

 

INVOICES AND PAYMENTS

Can we pay monthly (or quarterly if you prefer) by bank draft with no cheque processing charge levied, either against an e-mail invoice or paper invoice by postal mail? The invoice must show the invoice no. & date, due date, period of service, sender's address, bill to address and details of service.

We require a minimum one year contract, but you could pay quarterly for business accounts. Given the low cost service we can only accept payment annually for personal accounts. There are no cheque processing charges for cheques issued in Canadian Dollars or US Dollars and payable at a Canadian or US bank. There are also no processing charges for SWIFT transfers of a minimum CAD 1,000. Yes, we will send you a descriptive invoice. The invoice is usually sent by e-mail only, as an attached .PDF which you can view and print for your records using Adobe Reader®.
 

Can you not charge us the Canadian Goods and Services Tax?

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requires that we charge 5% GST. By the same ruling we do not charge HST to the participating provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. If you are not a resident of Canada, GST is still payable except as noted below -
Consulting services are zero-rated (0%) and
Hosting is zero-rated (0%) for resellers only
The zero-rating does not apply to residents of Canada.