SherWeb - Be wary of

Posted on Saturday, March 16th, 2013 at 7:56pm CDT by 9986f30b

Product: Hosted Exchange

Company: SherWeb

Location: US


Category: Computers, Software

This will be the third negative review I?m posting recently about my experiences with a hosted Exchange provider that occurred a while ago. I apologize about posting all of these reviews at once, especially since some of them are pretty dated, but I feel that potential customers out there have the right to know what kind of bad experiences I went through with these providers.

After having previously used and (1&1) for my hosted Exchange needs (and having major problems with both of these providers), I decided to give SherWeb a shot. It seemed to be relatively well reviewed, and during my research and Q&A with them, they seemed able to support everything I needed. So, in mid-2008, I made the change and began using SherWeb. Unfortunately, despite the old saying ?third times a charm? my experience with SherWeb was definitely not charming and, in fact, they could probably be considered the worst of all the providers I?ve dealt with for hosted Exchange.

At first, things seemed to start off OK. They were very willing to bypass the ActiveSync security policies that 1&1 had been relatively adamant about, and did so very quickly (thus reassuring me at first that I had made the right decision, as well as allowing me to be comfortable in configuring my smartphone to work with their service). One thing I noticed right away, however, was that they advertised Outlook Mobile Access as part of their service (and something I expected to be able to take advantage of), but in reality this had been removed in Exchange 2007 (interestingly enough, it has since been added back in Exchange 2013) and was not available. When I pointed this out to them, and asked them to implement some other mobile solution (there were 3rd party solutions out there that provided the same functionality as Outlook Mobile Access), they declined and simply removed the reference to Outlook Mobile Access from their sales pages. No offer of compensation or a refund was ever mentioned by SherWeb despite this technically being false advertising! However, given that this wasn?t that big of a deal to me, I figured I could just deal with it and move on. Little did I know it was just a sign of bad things to come!

One feature of theirs that was heavily advertised (and that I also expected to be able to use) was spam filtering provided by Barracuda. According to them, they offered the ability to have a quarantine box that would catch potential spam and deliver daily reports about such spam to me. I could then choose to do a lot, including have false positives delivered to me, whitelist/blacklist email addresses and domains, and more. It was meant to be a very customizable interface, and I looked forward to using it to help me cut down on the amount of spam I was receiving. Right after I began to use it, I began to notice some problems with it. First, when I attempted to whitelist an email address automatically (by clicking on a received email in the quarantine box and selecting whitelist), it was adding some really weird email address to the whitelist that ended up causing all sorts of issues. SherWeb repeatedly told me that this was because instead of redirecting my MX records to them, I was forwarding my email to my Exchange mailbox after it was first being delivered to Gmail (I had been doing this for a while now as a fail-safe redundancy in case a similar situation like what had previously happened with occurred again ? that their systems crashed and I lost access to my email ? this way even if SherWeb totally crashed, all my email was safely available in Gmail and I could access it right away and keep on functioning with no downtime). However, many months later, I found out that what I was being told by SherWeb (about the weird whitelisted email addresses being caused by Gmail) was entirely untrue and they had simply been lying to me.

Second, I only had one email account with SherWeb, and therefore should only have had one quarantine box with them as well. However, their Barracuda system kept opening a second quarantine box (despite SherWeb closing it out several times it kept being reopened automatically) and at times my spam was getting delivered randomly to one box or another, but not all the time to the same box. This was another annoying inconvenience that I was experiencing with the Barracuda spam system. Additionally, at least once, SherWeb deleted the second quarantine box without checking with me first, causing me to lose all quarantined messages in there (including some legitimate messages) and then was entirely unable to recover them, nor really offer me any sort of apology or compensation.

What made matters worse regarding these Barracuda issues was that SherWeb seemed to have no real incentive to fix these problems, and kept responding back to me that it was Barracuda that had to resolve them and I would just have to wait. This, despite the fact that I was certainly not being told to wait to provide monthly payment to SherWeb, and was still in fact paying in full every month for an account that was now lacking some of the very features that caused me to sign up with them in the first place.

I began to suspect at this point that I had made a mistake going with SherWeb, as not only was I now experiencing a multitude of technical problems, but I was beginning to notice that their customer support kept getting worse and worse. At one point, I received a response in which the SherWeb representative told me to ?relax? and to ?trust? him, that ?It?s administrator stuff that I do here?, and that he?d be ?out of the office until Monday? but would ?have a deeper look then? ? this seemed like a pretty condescending response when I had requested specifics, and worse it seemed to indicate they weren?t taking my issues seriously, since they were completely fine with putting them off until it suited them.

In addition to all the Barracuda spam quarantine issues I was facing, there had also been numerous outages in the first several months of my using SherWeb, and while none of them lasted that long or resulted in any lost data, it was still another indication as to the quality of service that SherWeb was offering.

Finally, after attempting to push SherWeb for some time to have Barracuda resolve the on-going issues, I received an email in which they told me that there was nothing further SherWeb could do, that they had to leave things in the hands of Barracuda, and that their sys-admins were getting tired of my requests for the issue to be fixed. They basically gave me an ultimatum of either sticking with them until Barracuda released a patch/new version, or finding a new provider. When I responded asking that they provide me with some of their contact information for Barracuda and that I could try and push Barracuda to resolve the matter further, they basically called such a request unreasonable and ridiculous and outright refused.

Unfortunately, at that point, I didn?t have the time available to me that would be required for me to find another hosted Exchange provider and move my services over. Further, prior to this ultimatum, when things seemed to be going OK with SherWeb, I had actually moved some of my clients on to their services, and would then have to migrate these clients elsewhere as well (something I also didn?t have the time to do right then and there). As such, I was forced to simply have them disable the Barracuda spam filter altogether (despite this being one of the selling points for their services and despite the fact that I was still going to be paying for this each month despite the fact that I couldn?t reliably use it) and deal with not having it available to me (and thus receiving a lot more spam which Outlook only did an OK job of filtering, and then only locally).

The only reason that I was slightly optimistic about continuing with SherWeb was because I was promised time and time again that when Barracuda released their 4.0 firmware upgrade, my issues would be solved and I could once again being using their anti-spam service. One other thing that I found out during this time frame, and which once again made me very angry at SherWeb, was that despite being told that I had control over my spam settings, and despite being told that now all email would come in to me due to the disabling of the Barracuda system, I found out that this wasn?t true and that SherWeb actually filtered out some email before it even hit the Barracuda system (and/or my mailbox), which at one point caused me to miss some legitimate email. Despite requesting that they disable this so that there wouldn?t be any email delivery issues in the future, SherWeb refused.

Now, during the time that I was waiting for Barracuda to release the 4.0 firmware upgrade, other issues cropped up as well. One of my clients that I had referred to SherWeb (and was pretty much managing their accounts on SherWeb), actually somehow ended up getting flagged by Barracuda as a spammer. How this happened is beyond me (and Barracuda and SherWeb refused to provide me with any details), but it occurred while I was on vacation which made matters even worse. I requested that SherWeb immediately contact Barracuda (since my clients were customers of SherWeb and SherWeb was a customer of Barracuda) to have my clients spammer status removed (and to allow emails to once again flow properly to and from them). Of course (surprise, surprise), SherWeb refused to assist, and despite my clients and I having no official business relationship with Barracuda, we were forced to interface with them directly to resolve the problem.

At another point, this same client began to experience the same issue with whitelisting false positives in their Barracuda spam quarantine that I had experienced months before (and which was blamed on Gmail by SherWeb). However, these clients were not having their email routed through Gmail first, so it was pretty apparent that SherWeb?s explanation of the issue from months ago (that it was Gmail?s fault), was a bunch of B.S. SherWeb next tried to place the blame on mass mailing addresses. They said that if you tried to whitelist an email that came from a mass emailer (i.e. Overstock ([email protected])), even though it looked as if that was the FROM: address, the actual FROM: address was something else. This sounded very much like B.S. to me also, and I confirmed it in 3 separate ways (1 ? by attempting to whitelist an email address that was just from another individual and not a mass mailer ? and in that instance a weird email address would show up in the whitelist also, 2 ? by contacting some of these mass mailers, such as Overstock, and confirming that their emails really were sent from a regular email address and not some weirdly formatted one, and 3 ? by actually looking at the full headers of some of these emails we were whitelisting and seeing that they were really coming from regular email addresses and not weirdly formatted ones). Once again I tried to call SherWeb out on this issue, and their ultimate response was pretty much the same as previously ? wait until the 4.0 firmware upgrade comes out or leave.

And at another point, this same client experienced some issues with their quarantine box that ultimately led to SherWeb deleting it and re-creating it without their consent, causing the loss of all emails contained in it, including numerous legitimate ones. Again, SherWeb could not recover any of those emails, and offered no apology or compensation for doing this.

Also, once more during this timeframe (as had occurred to me months before), the server that my clients accounts were on experienced numerous outages and downtime, causing a lot of issues for my clients. SherWeb never did anything to resolve these matters, and simply dealt with each one on an individual basis and never bothered to realize that the aggregate effect of all this downtime was creating a real problem for my clients. In an attempt to provide the same redundancy I had with Gmail to my clients, I thought I could at least implement a forward so that any email delivered to their Exchange mailboxes would also be delivered to a Gmail inbox. While this would not necessarily be the same as the redundancy I had, and would not work if the servers that were supposed to be implementing the forward were down, at least it would perhaps provide some help and peace of mind to my clients. However, lo and behold, SherWeb charged for this forwarding service, and despite me pointing out a ridiculous amount of outages impacting my clients, would not waive the fees initially (they finally agreed to waive them for 2 months, but that was all, despite my repeated requests for them to be waived permanently).

As I?m sure you can imagine, by this point not only did I have a real issue with SherWeb, but my clients were really beginning to question the validity of my recommendation, and SherWeb was making me look increasingly bad in the eyes of my clients. I finally convinced my clients to trust me and stick with SherWeb for a little bit longer in the hopes that I could either get SherWeb to address all of their problems, or at least plan a migration instead of conducting an emergency one and dealing with all the issues that would bring.

A little while later, SherWeb finally announced the implementation of the 4.0 firmware upgrade for Barracuda. I finally thought that this was it and that all of my problems would now be solved and things would get better. As I?m sure you can imagine by the tone of this review, that obviously wasn?t the case. While the 4.0 firmware upgrade did seem to finally resolve the multiple quarantine box issue, it did not resolve the whitelisting issue for my clients or I, despite repeated promises from SherWeb that it would. Of course, SherWeb?s response to this was that they had to go back to Barracuda and I would just have to wait until Barracuda resolved these issues (despite them having been telling me that for months now).

Shortly after this, another issue cropped up for me, and that was how well SherWeb took the privacy of clients. For some unknown reason, an email that SherWeb sent me in response to one of my many customer/technical concerns was also sent to another customer of SherWeb. Thankfully, the email they sent that included this other individual didn?t include any confidential or sensitive information, but it just as easily could have. This made me wonder how many times in the past had this occurred, and what other breaches of privacy might be occurring with my data. While it turned out that me and this other individual ended up corresponding (they even turned me on to my next hosted Exchange provider) since they were also experiencing issues and ended up leaving SherWeb as well (for some of the very same reasons mentioned in this review), I think this is what really turned the tide for me in realizing that I needed to get rid of SherWeb for both myself and my clients.

The ?straw that broke the camel?s back? though was receiving emails a short time later from a customer service manager. Basically, these emails informed me that most of my problems were either non-existent or were of my own doing, that it wasn?t constructive for me to point out all of the issues that have occurred in the past, and that pretty much nothing further would be done to assist me on these ?problems? that both myself and my clients were facing. Despite me responding back to them with concrete evidence about these ongoing problems and to take issue with how they were handling things currently, their decision seemed to stand.

At this point, it became clear to me that SherWeb no longer wanted myself or my clients as customers, was going to do the absolute bare minimum to assist us going forward, and seemed to be actively trying to get us to leave their service. Based on this, I had no choice but to move my hosted Exchange services and those of my clients away from SherWeb (thankfully, I had a new provider to go to as a result of SherWeb?s own screw-up), and in reflecting back on my time with SherWeb, I have since realized that I most likely should have moved away from their services and company much much sooner!

While I?d like this to be the ends, it?s worth noting two additional things. First, after I had made the decision to move away from SherWeb, but before I actually begin implementing it, and while SherWeb was still serving myself and my clients as our hosted Exchange provider, they sent me an email stating they were processing my cancellation request. Of course, I sent them back an emergency response stating that I had not initiated any such request (since if they did cancel my account and delete my data I would be in a bad position with respect to loss of data and services) and they responded stating they were cancelling the request and would look into how it had ?mysteriously? occurred (of course, I never heard back from them, and I have a feeling this was just another attempt to get me to leave their company). Second, after I finally did cancel my account with them (and those of my clients), I sent them an email requesting at least some sort of refund (even a pro-rated one for the time remaining on the month that I would not be using any further), and explaining that I felt I deserved at least this much given how poorly they had treated me as a customer and how horrible their service had been. Obviously, I?m sure you can all guess how they responded ? they refused my request (which I sort of figured they would), and had the nerve to state: ?We are sorry that you are considering cancelling your service with SherWeb. If it is because of an unresolved issue or concern, please let us know, as we are dedicated to resolving any outstanding issues you may have experienced.?

That about sums up my experience with SherWeb. I?m sorry this review has run so long, but it was relatively cathartic for me to be able to get this all out, as I feel that they royally screwed me over and there was nothing I could do about it. As with all my reviews, I stand by what I stated here 100%, and have all of the evidence available to prove that everything stated in this review is absolutely true and accurate. I do hope that this review helps those out there looking for a hosted Exchange provider. Thanks.

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure (which I?m always in favor of), the above situations occurred while I was a customer of Sherweb from mid-2008 to end of 2009. I know this is a long time ago, and it?s very possible that Sherweb now operates differently and/or has corrected the issues I experienced, but the fact remains that I did experience all of the above problems and I wanted to warn other potential customers out there to be wary when dealing with Sherweb.


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