Our 1and1 Nightmare, A Bad Registrar Can Ruin Your Day
I had to write a post about this. We do our best to protect our clients and make sure their sites remain online at all times. As web designers we work with many different domain registrars. These are the companies you use to register a domain name. Most also provide web hosting services but it’s by no means required to use them (in many cases we don’t suggest it). GoDaddy has become the largest and most recognizable name in this industry. We personally like to use Namecheap internally, but there are many other decent providers.
Some are good, some are bad, and some just get the job done. Then there is 1and1. We cringe when we hear that a client uses 1and1’s registrar because we know it’s going to be an uphill battle to push servers live, do migrations, set up a CDN, or change even simple DNS A records.
For 1and1, it’s best to explain the travesty we’re going through. One of our clients, Armed Gamer (http://armedgamer.com, offline at this time), experiences large spikes in traffic throughout the day when he makes or promotes new posts. A way to help mitigate slowdowns and lower the server load is to CDN the site, we chose CloudFlare in this case. For this to work, the nameservers for the domain need to be changed from 1and1 to Cloudflare. It’s normally a trivial task and it takes maybe up to 10 minutes on slower registrars. But not on 1and1.
We pushed the change on 1and1 and waited. Generally registrars put up warnings letting users know that locations may cache the old records up to a day. It’s normal and fine in this case; this minority of users just wouldn’t pass through the CDN network. We waited an hour or so for the status to change, then the client contacted us. Site reported down. Users reporting it down. Not good. We checked again, pending update.
This is where things went from bad to worse. We queried the DNS, it didn’t report back an ip. No error, just blank. So we then queried 1and1’s DNS servers directly since they held the records prior. Blank. We surmise that while the updates were “pending”, 1and1 wiped the records on their own servers and left us high and dry with the site offline. So we called in to support. After a 20 minute hold, we finally spoke to a CSR that told us this was normal and could take up to 48 hours. We responded that it is not normal at all, normal registrars do not wipe their nameservers even after delegating to an external provider… then the call was disconnected.
We then started to coordinate with Stephen at Armed Gamer to get the domain off of 1and1 as soon as possible as they were unwilling to provide support other than “just wait, it’s normal” (as he’s losing revenue and followers from an offlined site we have no way to fix). Both Armed Gamer and Uber Motif have reached out to 1and1’s support via phone and Twitter without results.
Most registrars take a few hours to transfer out of, 1and1 holds a domain hostage for 5 days because that’s the max allowed under ICANN regulation. We don’t support holding clients hostage, especially when they are currently incurring damages as a result of incompetence.
To sum up:
1. Simple nameserver delegation change that takes 10 minutes at most on the majority of registrars is claimed to take up to 2 days on 1and1.
2. Above simple change does not wipe records on normal registrars, no downtime occurs. Not on 1and1.
3. Transferring a domain out of 1and1 takes 5 days. Most registrars complete the request same day.
4. Support has long hold times, does not acknowledge the above behavior as damaging to our client and atypical for a registrar to engage in.
It’s been over 17 hours downtime as of the writing of this post with no end in sight. We would have been furious over a few hours of downtime,
we’re now at war until this gets resolved. If you or your company has experienced a nightmare like this at the hands of 1and1, please share this along and comment below. If you’re looking to move your domains off of their system, we will provide assistance free of charge.
We’ll update this post below as things progress (times in EDT):
18:29, Stephen reports that a support tech at 1&1 just took notice of this blog post (sort of obvious since we linked it on twitter) and claims this has been forwarded along to DNS administrators for investigation. Let’s see if anything happens.
20:15, Just got off the phone with Aaron at 1&1. They are working to provide a solution and insist they can complete it by 4AM. I requested that our transfer ticket go through to move this out to Namecheap before that. Armed Gamer is at near 21 hours down and will be near 30 hours by that time. This is really the only thing they can do at this point to mitigate further damage.
~3:00, Domain transfer processed.
7:16, Aaron notifies us of the processed transfer.
8:38, Updating nameserver delegation at Namecheap.
8:39, Update fully propagated.
It’s possible this may have been an issue at 1&1 in their system because they provide a free CloudFlare-supported CDN service and we are using the CloudFlare’s standalone paid service. But it doesn’t excuse it from working and our client shouldn’t have had to suffer through their troubleshooting.
I’d like to thank Aaron at 1and1 for reaching out to us to gain a resolution in this matter. If it were not for him, we’d likely still be waiting.
Update 12/2: 1&1 actually reached out to us again last month to provide us with more specialized contact information for anyone stuck with a DNS issue. While we’re fairly sure the underlying technical issues have not been resolved yet, this is at least a positive step from them, information is as follows:
1&1 Internet, Inc. (they likely got rid of this team, if they ever really had it, so they could invest more advertising money into deceiving people)
The Solutions Team
Please write back into our comments or send us an email to let us know if this helped you out!
Update 12/9: Nameserver is not responding on a client using 1and1’s nameservers. We tried the above contact info, the number was busy and we have not received an email in over an hour. Fun.
Update 1/17/2016: We still continue to receive reports that 1and1 hasn’t changed its sleazy business practices. I decided to research a bit, and it appears 1and1 is under the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement from ICANN. This means they need to provide a clear description of their customer support procedures. I would argue providing us with false information like the above constitutes a violation of this agreement, but alas I am not a lawyer. Here’s a link to information and a complaint form should you want to file a complaint with ICANN: https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/customer-service-2013-05-03-en