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Prominic take the gloves off…

… and it isn’t pretty. The other day I googled Domino Developer Network, my hosting providers, and was amused to see this paid-for ad in the search results page (look at the right-hand side):

Domino Developer in Google

Today I received two unsolicited emails from Prominic, the other big player in the Domino hosting space. And I can’t say I’m impressed. Here’s the opening gambit of the mail:

Dear Sir/Madam,

When it comes to hosting a web site that you and your customers rely upon, no amount of downtime is good and extended outages are unacceptable. If your provider is having trouble keeping its end of the bargain, then it’s time to switch to Prominic.NET. We’re one of the world’s leading providers of managed hosting solutions for Notes Domino and other IBM Lotus technologies…

…and right now we’re offering 3 MONTHS of free hosting to anyone who switches to Prominic.NET from a less reliable provider!

Setting aside the rather snide approach that Prominic’s VP of Sales, Mark Roosevelt, is choosing to adopt (I thought this sort of marketing was beneath someone like them), I’m somewhat concerned as to how they got both my personal and company email addresses and thought it would be OK to mail me out of the blue. I didn’t opt in for anything like this with them or any of their affiliates. The mail finishes with a note that I can just call them or email them to get my address removed from their lists, but that’s not the point. How did I get there in the first place?

So let’s get back to Prominic themselves. They’re touting themselves as awesome Domino hosts, and I don’t doubt that. But why would I want to move? DDN are pretty awesome too. Consider what they’ve done:

  • DDN offer exceptional development platform hosting for $10 per month and;
  • you only pay for the options you add (mail, mail aliasing, extra Notes IDs, private address books, etc.)
  • My production plan is big in terms of disk space and bandwidth allowances, and it’s very good value for money
  • DDN are the guys who set up free ’blog hosting

This last point is the biggie—DDN are the guys who set up free ’blog hosting. A lot of Domino ’bloggers host on DDN’s free blog.dominodeveloper.net infrastructure, and I for one am extremely glad that DDN took this revolutionary step. If DDN didn’t exist I really don’t think we would have had the explosion in Domino-related weblogs that we’ve seen over the past four years. Case in point: when I started investigating Domino internet hosting some six years ago, the options were to go dedicated (eek! Well, “eek” in those days anyway), go with Prominic or go with DDN. The latter was far less costly than the former (still is), and more to the point was taking customer-focused gambles like the ’blog hosting scheme. That is why I shall be staying with DDN, and the nasty email above is why I shall be staying away from Prominic. Sorry, but this episode has really bugged me.

Comments

  1. Hmmm….
    It's certainly possible that they did some manner of Google search for references to competitor hosting providers, then manually harvested your personal email. Company email could have been gleaned from past Lotusphere. But who knows.

    I *do* know that the hosting biz is quite cut-throat. Last year or year prior (don't recall) I chatted with some of the hosting providers on the Lotusphere vendor floor. They were very open in stating how cut-throat the business is, and were competive in what they would offer - even to a small-time guy like me.

    I have tremendous respect for DDN, and applaud the free hosting for blogs. That is a huge gift to the Domino community. Personally, I've been with Prominic for years and have been extremely satisfied. But the vulture-esque nature of this marketing, while not surprising from any vendor, is a bit off-putting.Joe Litton#
  2. I'm with you, Ben. I got the exact same email, and I also don't know where they got my address, unless they're deliberately targeting Domino-based bloggers and harvesting email addresses off our blogs. I thought the email was in very poor taste.

    If I ever move from DDN, it won't be to Prominic. I'd give Chris Miller at Connectria a call instead, because Chris also does the free blog-hosting thing. And I'd recommend that if anyone NEEDS a different Domino hosting service than DDN, they give Chris a call. I don't consider Prominic a good community citizen after the sleazy email ploy.Rob McDonagh#
  3. Good on you Ben for blogging this. I got the same email. I found it in bad taste.jonvon#
  4. The e-mails you received were sent in response to the increased mail, telephone and web site traffic our Sales department received when DDN was completely and totally down for over 24 hours starting on Monday, October 15, 2007. We received several inquiries from frustrated DDN customers looking for a reliable Domino hosting platform. Many stated that DDN were not answering their phones.

    We did nothing extraordinary to discover your e-mail addresses: We went to DDN's online directory of customers and looked at the contact information on the web sites the directory linked to.

    While DDN pricing may be competitive, I am confident that Domino users will continue to find great value in Prominic's many offerings and reputation as a technology leader and reliable hosting provider--the many leading-edge yet affordable options mentioned in the e-mail but not in your post. (and let us not forget 1 TB of monthly bandwidth per account and free technology-related blog space ;-)
    Mark Roosevelt#
  5. @4: Classy. I didn’t mention all your marvellous options because funnily enough, I’m not out to advertise Prominic. And frankly, I see even less reason to want to talk to you now.Ben Poole#
  6. @4 - Did Ben, Rob or Jon contact you asking for information? No, you admitted "We did nothing extraordinary to discover your e-mail addresses: We went to DDN's online directory of customers and looked at the contact information on the web sites the directory linked to."

    That's about as sleazy as sleazy gets. This is a pretty small community and you don't get ahead by using these kinds of cheap tactics. I'd rather deal with an occasional outage than a company with business practices counter to my own code of ethics. When I bring my own site online in a month or so it won't be with Prominic, that's for sure.Charles Robinson#
  7. But, hey, the good news is that we have a winner!

    I believe Mark *clearly* wins the prize for Cheesiest Sales Weenie of the Year.

    Don't you think? I mean, come on folks, this is a man who will do ANYTHING for a sales lead.

    And someone is finally giving DominoFiles some competition in the race for the Most Despised Spammer Award, too.

    Prominic, your spamming, trash-bin-diving, underhanded service provider of choice! W00t!Rob McDonagh#
  8. C'mon guys, lighten up. I am one of the folks that called Prominic recently, in large part because of the issues with DDN, where my blog has resided for all of its two years of existence. I used Prominic years ago for mail hosting before bringing that function in-house, and I've known and respected Mark's boss Jon since then. I'm also responsible for pointing Mark to this thread to at least give him a chance to respond (a lot of good that did :-) ). So now I kinda have to say something…

    I agree that DDN is probably a better value for anyone who can tolerate extended outages, which is to say anyone only concerned with their own stuff. It happens that I have started to put "other peoples' stuff" on my server, so I can no longer shrug when the server is down. I also want to have Domino 8 hosting, which Prominic now supports but which DDN has been silent on. Maybe DDN supports 8 too but I've not seen any announcement.

    It's arguable whether Mark's (or DominoFiles') sales tactics are "ethical", but he and Prominic ARE running a business and it is the job of ANY sales organization to identify potential customers. It's also not likely that someone in a sales role such as Mark's arrived there after spending years as an admin or developer, steeped in the "give something back to the community" ethos that most of us bloggers share.

    Please understand that I'm not trying to defend Mark/Prominic per se, but I am cautioning against a rush to judgment. Yes, from a certain perspective this looks like one member of the "community" kicking another when they're down, and Mark's approach could have been more sensitive to this. But these are businesses and from that perspective its easy to see how taking advantage of an opportunity to quickly win many new customers is a no-brainer.

    et's not lose sight of the fact that it's not Prominic's fault that DDN went down for an entire day without any apparent effort to get the word out about what was going on.

    BTW - I haven't decided yet what to do about my hosting needs (assuming I don't just host myself). I'm open to suggestions.Kevin Pettitt#
  9. I’m not blaming Prominic for DDN’s issues! That’s a separate subject and I would hope that DDN address matters.

    On the DDN outage front, let’s put this in perspective: DDN had an outage which affected their blog and development servers (at least). My mail aliasing was affected for a short time too. I host my company site on DDN’s business infrastructure, and that was fine. My ’blog is not mission critical, and a day’s outage in five and a half years isn’t too bad as far as I’m concerned. Horses for courses. But none of this is the point…

    Companies should do business how they see fit (within reason). If Prominic want to do things this way, that’s up to them, but I will call them on it if I disagree. Specifically, I think it’s a pretty poor show that Prominic’s latest sale drive is predicated on perceived failings of their main competitor. This doesn’t speak well of them as far as I’m concerned—it also smacks of insecurity. Unfortunately Mark’s follow-up on this site did little to change my mind. In fact, it made the whole thing worse.Ben Poole#
  10. Even in the Domino world, there are a few vendors that I avoid at all costs. This is always due to their aggressive sales tactics and not the quality of their products. There are several vendor booths at Lotusphere that I've learned to stay far away from due to this issue.Ed Maloney#
  11. @Kevin - as I mentioned above, drop Chris Miller a note at Connectria. He *has* spent years in the community, and his company *does* give back to the community. Vendors who treat the community well deserve to be rewarded, at least in my opinion. Prominic does nothing for the community, except spam us with highly questionable sales pitches.

    By the way, contrary to Mark's claims, when DDN's blog server was unavailable, I had no trouble at all reaching their tech support people. And they responded very well, giving me accurate information and realistic time projections for recovery.

    I've never had an ISP contact me when their servers were down (and I've had several ISP in my life, some great, some not-so-good), so I think your expectation there might be unrealistic.

    Oh, and I can't speak for DDN about how widely available Domino 8 is, but the blog server is an 8 server - just look at the template versions. I'm *quite* sure Miller would hook you up with an 8.x server, if that's what you need.Rob McDonagh#
  12. @Ben - Part of my point was precisely the one you make that "our own stuff" is often not that critical so outages like this are tolerable. Where this breaks down though is when that stuff includes mail (yours or your spouse's/client's/friend's), and any sites that may be setup for others. This is where I am now.

    As for the degree of the outage at DDN, it was my understanding that it was not just a blog server (that crashed in isolation a few weeks earlier), but the ENTIRE infrastructure (at least the LA-based parts, apparently owing to a firewall failure). I know that the DDN home page was down for over a day (so I couldn't even lookup the support number), and my blog is on a shared server separate from the blog server, and it was inaccessible all day and then some (wish I still had the replication logs). There is no question of perception here - everything that mattered to a lot of customers was clearly out of commission. And I'm not sure what you mean by DDN's "business infrastructure", but my blog is on a "production" server, so my guess is your company site is hosted in a different data center (in the UK maybe?)

    I do not want to be put in a position of having to explain to my wife or best friend why their email or blog has been down for an hour, let alone a day. It's hard enough convincing people to give Notes/Domino a chance. If I had any "real" clients who were affected by such an outage, I would fully expect to recategorized them as "former clients" soon after.

    @Rob - thanks for the info. I will drop Chris a note. I've said enough about sales tactics, except to note that a single email offering a real and valuable service hardly constitutes spam. Maybe you're lucky and have good spam filters so these kinds of messages stick out. I'm not currently so blessed so I have much lower standards ;-). At the end of the day the only community service I really care about is servers that "just work".Kevin Pettitt#
  13. Kevin, yes you’re right, it was big outage States-side: I believe the US infrastructure was affected pretty much in its entirety due to a firewall problem.

    The blog server outage earlier this year was trivial IMHO, and definitely shouldn’t be a factor in any of these discussions. DDN provide the blog services as a favour to the community, and these are not production level systems.

    With regards the big one, something happened at the firewall level in the US, hence why the DDN pages were down too. My business system is hosted in Europe, which is presumably why things were OK for me.

    As for hosting client data, I hear you. If I’m honest, I wouldn’t be happy doing that with anyone, I’m too much of a control freak. I’ve seen what outsourcing can do (it was a contributing factor in my leaving my job earlier this month), so if I had client commitments, I would either buy a dedicated box and host there, or go with someone I could really trust, which is where guys like PSC, Connectria or BE Systems come into play (and how).

    I digress. Bottom line: I like to do business a certain way. I don’t regard the Prominic mail as “spam”, I call it unsolicited commercial email. What sticks in my craw is the way they’re going about all this; whilst I chuckled at the Google ads, the emails crossed a line. Call me dreamy, unrealistic, a soft businessman, whatever. It’s not for me.Ben Poole#
  14. Kevin, as I see it the issue at hand is not DDN's stability or reliability. It is Prominic combing through DDN's hosting directory and going after DDN customers. That DDN had an outage is secondary to the underhanded business practices, at least as far as this discussion is concerned. That's my take on it, anyway, and I'm glad Ben brought this to my attention. I'm working on my site and was considering DDN or Prominic for hosting. Prominic just made the choice a whole lot easier.Charles Robinson#
  15. This is why I consider the message to have been spam.

    1. Spam is defined as "unsolicited bulk email."

    2. The messages were not solicited by the recipients.

    3. The same message was sent to many people (thus, "bulk").

    Ergo, an email blasted to all DDN customers by someone other than DDN is, by definition, spam.

    PS @Kevin - that this email offered "real and valuable service" is obviously your opinion. Since you actually requested information from Prominic, it makes sense that you would think so. Since I have no interest in Prominic, I don't agree.Rob McDonagh#
  16. Just as a tangental to this whole Domino Hosting business. I am with DDN and had an extended outage during September http://giuliocc.dominodeveloper.net/giuliocc/home.nsf/dx/20071008165614BLOW3Q.htm

    Now, I actually paid for the dev plan which is supposed to have a rolling weekly backup. They had no functioning backup when they went down, it appears they committed a cardinal DRP sin, by using the same device/media they are backing up to store the backups. Quite amateur stuff..

    It's all sorted now though, but I doubt I will tolerate another significant outage like that again, seeing as I am paying for the coverage.

    Now seeing this little pearler from Prominic.net is a disappointing development in that they need to snipe at the competition and screen scrape to attract business ? Yeah it's a cut-throat business, but lowering your commercial cred like Ben has pointed out isn't going to help…Giulio#
  17. Marketing aside my 3 years experience with Prominic's hosting services for where exceptionally good. They have a great platform and have added some really sensible features.Andy_D#
  18. Prominic does give back to the community. Jake Howlett's codestore.net site is hosted for free by Prominic, in thanks for the very large contribution that Jake has made and continues to make to the community. I don't know if there are other sites hosted for free.

    Hopefully Prominic and other Domino-related vendors will take this thread to heart and realize that this was not the best marketing choice. For example, a better ad might have focused on the UP time of Prominic, rather than an issue at a competitor.

    Joe Litton#
  19. I have recommended both platforms on occasion for different users, and whilst I find Prominic to be a pretty good company, they have ALWAYS slagged on the competition. Talking to them at their booth, they have always stated how bad DDN are. That always turned me off, and because of that, my professional websites are not hosted there.

    Even though Prominic are probably more solid around downtime and such, the level of "marketing" soured me to them. It's like anything. If you have to tear down your opponents product to make yourself look good, I'm not a fan.

    Now, years ago, Prominic donated hosting to the Chicago user group. That was great, except it took them weeks to answer any email I sent them regarding stuff we needed for the site. They were definitely NOT responsive to the site since it was "free." It was bad enough, I think we just kept our other host.

    Now I'm on DDN and like them but they are not above reproach here. They NEED to have better uptime and definitely better backups. So maybe this conversation will get Dan to invest in some of that a little more…

    -Grey

    Greyhawk68#
  20. @18 Joe, don't you think that hosting Jake Howlett's codestore.net site is a very very good publicity option, that's worth doing it for free ?
    Miguel AngelMiguel Angel#
  21. Ben,

    Do you know what, if anything, has happened to DDN??? I have been trying to contact, with no luck. Have they given up on new customers? If they are still in business, can you help me with how to contact them?

    Alex Wilson
    Alex Wilson#
  22. DDN was down completelly for 24 hours. Their services are horrible. They did not even apologized for that outage. It`s the same story again and again. And broken promises.Jon#
  23. I don`t mind. What DDN is now doing is horror.Pete#

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