On Sunday (April 1) I noticed that my email box was rather empty. Now, for some business owners Sunday might be the only day of their week their inbox isn’t flooded with emails, but I usually get a decent amount (mostly newsletter subscriber updates), so to see no new emails was actually unusual for me. After logging into my FuseMail account, it didn’t take long for me to realize that not only was I not receiving emails, I couldn’t send them either! My FuseMail inbox was completely offline! Throughout the day on Sunday I called FuseMail 4-5 times only to get passed to voicemail each time. I went to bed frustrated, but hoped that they were just updating the server (wouldn’t be the first time that has pulled my inbox offline) and that everything would be running again on Monday. I reasoned it was better to be offline on a Sunday afternoon than the last Friday or first Monday of a month.

But guess what? Monday morning (yesterday) rolls around and FuseMail still isn’t working! At 9 AM I called tech support and spoke with a very nice representative that tells me FuseMail had suffered data center outage and they were working to get service restored. He was very apologetic and assured me that FuseMail was moving as fast as they could to get everyone back online. 12 noon rolls around and I still can’t send any emails (only silver lining is that I can now see when I receive an email!), which means that I can’t get any of my first of the month reporting sent to my SEO clients. My staff is also unable to communicate with clients and everything is essentially in a stand-still. I can’t do my job because FuseMail has failed to do theirs!

I took to Twitter to vent my frustration and found I was not the only FuseMail user suffering and angry over the outage. Not only was FuseMail down for 24+ hours, they were hardly addressing the issue at all in a public forum. I got no warning that their data center was down (you have my alternative email address!), nor any idea of how long it would be before they were up and running again. Here are some of the other Twitter comments I saw during the day:

My favorite is probably the tweet that references a FuseMail press release from 2009 that promises a service that “keeps real-time copies of data in two geographically diverse datacenters protecting against natural disasters or other catastrophes.” Looks like they failed that one pretty hard!

The real kicker is that this is not the first time I have been burned by FuseMail. I can understand that every company, even an email hosting company, is going to experience technical difficulties at one time or another, but I kid you not when I say that in the five years I have been a customer of FuseMail, they have experienced major service issues every 5-6 months. Major service issues include things like: inbox folders not loading properly, IMAP email stops working, mobile email won’t synch up properly, emails can’t be sent or received and major latency issues. Just the other week I was getting emails from clients 2-3 hours after they sent them! And while there is nothing so serious in SEO that a few hour delay would cause major issues, it does impact the customer service component of my business—and it’s not even something I can fix! I can’t answer my clients until their emails show up in my inbox. Unless they called or pinged me asking if I got their email, I never knew it was missing.

I realize that I am probably over paying for FuseMail’s services ($150 a month), but I decided to use FuseMail as my email hosting company when I first started Brick Marketing because it was a US-based company with US-based support and they had a pretty good reputation for customer service. I don’t mind paying a little extra each month if it means that I can get a hold of real, live person when I’m having an issue with my inbox (that’s the main reason I won’t switch to Gmail for business.) Brick Marketing is a small business, and we can’t afford the hardware and IT support needed to run our own email server, that’s why I turned to FuseMail for email hosting. It’s so important that your company’s email have a synergy with the rest of your brand, and a free email address is just not going to cut it (even if you’re just starting out you need a branded email address!)

Every time FuseMail has a technical issue I swear that this is the last straw and I’m switching email hosting providers. But here is the catch—I have roughly 15 GB of email in my inbox, all carefully sorted into folders and subfolders. I’ve kept a record of every email conversation I’ve had with any client, vendor, lead and so forth in the past 7 years and that amounts to a lot of email. If I wanted to move from FuseMail to another vendor (which I do!) I was told that the only way to transfer that data would be to move it as a whole, meaning I’d lose any semblance of organization. I’d have to manually sort through 15 GBs of email and rebuild my system—no thanks!

This means that I am stuck between a rock and hard place. I can either stick with FuseMail (and overpay while they under deliver) or change vendors but risk A)losing emails in the process and B)having to rebuild my entire inbox from scratch. Neither looks like a good way out.

How could FuseMail have made this problem (reportedly a power outage in Toronto) any better for themsevles? Here are a few ideas I had throughout the day:

1. Sent a mass email to all their customers explaining the issue right out of the gate.
2. Been updating Fusestatus.com every ten minutes and have it synched to their Twitter account.
3. Get a person in-house personally responding to people on Twitter.
4. Give every one free month as a way of apologizing (especially since this isn’t supposed to happen).
5. Automatically email users whenever there is an update that could effect their inboxes.
6. Be completely transparent and honest every step of the way.

As an email hosting company, FuseMail’s job is keep their customer’s online! They should have had some kind of disaster plan in place for something like a power outage (which isn’t an unheard of issue), especially one that would affect so many users. Personally, I’d rather deal with overcommunication than no communication at all. Don’t leave me in the dark!

I’d love to hear from other FuseMail users. How long was your inbox down? Did you have any luck getting answers from FuseMail? Are you going to be switching vendors because of this?