Intermedia Exchange Hosting – a vendor review


If you are interested in a review of Intermedia, a Microsoft Exchange email hosting service (www.intermedia.net) please continue.

I originally wrote the following review in March of 2009 but waited until now to publish it because I wanted to make sure that what I wrote did not just come off like an angry, bitter person giving a review.  After careful consideration and several re-writes, I don’t believe this review is vindictive.  It is quite simply, a true story.

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After about a year of service, and innumerable “incidents”, our small business made up of 14 people had decided to dump the ridiculousness that is Intermedia and find a company who is truly reputable when it comes to Exchange Server and Blackberry Server Hosting.  In the last week (note: again I wrote this in March 2009), Intermedia has denied any culpability in getting an email server that belongs to them, blacklisted by many ISPs (Internet Service Providers).  This blacklisting prevented our outgoing emails from reaching their destinations because they were coming from a blacklisted server.  Intermedia could not prevent spoofing emails from reaching our Inboxes, and then could not figure out why our Vice President’s email was being delivered to the Junk Email folder of our President.

Of course, this situation was escalated to the highest authority and subject matter experts at Intermedia.  And in typical Intermedia fashion, each and every problem ticket that was opened was first handled by providing the wrong information, followed by just plain bad information, then an escalation to a technician of even higher authority, then the burden of fixing the problem was thrown back at the customer (us), then escalated again, and finally someone who claims to be the head of something calls me and wants to ensure that our relationship stabilizes going forward.  This modus operandi began and has continued since the first days of our conversion to Intermedia in May of 2008.

I had a conference call today with Steve Acheveria and Bill Savage (the grand poobahs of customer service operations at Intermedia- otherwise known as the two men with huge ego’s and small d…s).  They didn’t like my complaints and threatened to drop me as a customer IF I DIDN’T CHANGE MY ATTITUDE.  I thought I was on a conference call with Sonny Corleone.

I enlisted the help of a user forum for Exchange and Blackberry users.  I had to find a replacement Email Hosting provider since our relationship with Intermedia was irreparable.  What I didn’t realize (but found out in the course of my research) was that Intermedia is well known in the industry for their poor customer service.  Where were these opinions a year ago when I was researching Intermedia?  Could it be that at one time Intermedia was a top notch organization and that just in the past year they have become a  black hole of technical support.  I don’t know for sure.  What I do know is that any company representative who threatens you probably isn’t working hard to make sure you are a happy customer.

Now here’s the real kicker.  Intermedia only allows 2 people from our company to be a “contact”.  They say that based on the size of our company, only 2 contacts are “allowed”.  Have you ever heard of such a policy when dealing with tech support because I haven’t?  There are three “categories” of contacts that you can have as an Intermedia customer:  an account contact/owner, a billing contact, and a technical contact.  Three contact types exist in their business model but we’re only allowed 2 contacts based on the size of our company.  Can you see how the math isn’t working already?

Mysteriously, Intermedia sent me a form to complete regarding these contacts and this happened prior to me understanding their tech support model.  According to the form I was supposed to fill in who the different contacts were.  At the time I thought that there could be 2 Account Contacts for each contact type  (i.e. two Owner Contacts, 2 Billing Contacts, and 2 Technical contacts).  I filled it out, copied in all the people in my company who were selected to be on the list, and I forwarded the form Intermedia.  I never received a call or email from Intermedia stating that I had misunderstood the form, and that I needed to correct my contact submission.  The people in my office recall getting their copy via email, just as much as I remember sending it.  But now, nobody can find a copy.  It’s not in anybody’s inbox, sent items, junk mail, outbox, trash, nowhere.  Six people, all of whom have their email account at Intermedia, can not locate this email that I sent with the contact form attached.  This is an honest to goodness true story.  One of my co-workers was going bonkers trying to find it because she knew she received it from me (since she was on the list as a technical contact) and filed it in her email Inbox.  It has mysteriously disappeared form each person’s mail account including my own.  I don’t want to accuse Intermedia of breaking into our mailboxes but I don’t know what else to think.

Additionally, the President of our company was not receiving email from the Vice President of our company.  This strangeness began shortly after the Vice President’s email address was being spoofed and therefore email coming from the Vice President to the President looked authentic but was actually advertisements for watches, and jewelry.  After I called in a problem ticket, and after about 5 days of hearing nothing about it, this problem was mysteriously fixed – supposedly by making some Spoofing Avoidance changes to our DNS servers.  However, after the “fix” all of the Vice President’s email to the President made it to the President’s, but ended up in the JUNK mail folder – so the President never read it.  For four days Intermedia couldn’t figure out this new problem.  All of a sudden, after I brow beat them, and I admit it I was tough on them out of pure frustration, the problem was solved.  Intermedia “found” an email rule (something we don’t use here – we didn’t know what they were or how to deploy them) on the President’s email account that said, and I’m paraphrasing:  “send all email from the Vice President to Junk Mail”.  AND Intermedia claimed  that someone at our company had to have made that change on the President’s email account.  As I said we don’t even know how to create an email rule, let alone deploy it.  And only the President and I (from our company) had access to the settings on his email account.  Intermedia, of course, has access to all of our mail accounts.

The problems I mention here are just the straws that broke the camel’s back.  Intermedia and its minions like Steve Achevaria and Bill Savage will stand behind what they have said and done, they stand behind the mistakes of their employees and never admit wrong-doing, and they do it all with a “holier-than-thou”  attitude to boot.  This M.O repeated itself time and time and time again over the year or so that we were a client of Intermedia.

Now to “Fax by Email”.  An interesting service in Intermedia’s lineup.  Of course it cost extra but one could send or receive faxes right from the desktop.  This is not new technology but it was new to us.  We signed up for it.  It was only after we signed up for it that we were told Intermedia had no Maine area codes available (there’s only one – 207).  It’s not that they didn’t have any Maine fax numbers left; they just never planned on having a Maine customer so did not get any fax number with a Maine area code.  And they didn’t plan to add any Maine phone numbers. We had to pick a fax number in MASSACHUSETTS.  How do you think that looks on your business cards or letterhead?   We tried it for a while.  Over 50% of the faxes we tried to send never made it to their destination.  Once again, this is another example of the first class service available at Intermedia.  And after numerous inquiries from customers as to why we had a Massachusetts fax number, we pulled the plug.

So for those of you out there looking for an Exchange Hosting provider, skip Intermedia.  I have reported them to Microsoft as I thought Microsoft would want to know the truth about one of their “Certified Partners” (whatever the hell that means).   In my Internet travels I see a lot of vendors with the “Microsoft Certified Partner” emblem on their web site.  I wonder if that has any real meaning whatsoever.   

I promised myself that I would calm down for a while before writing an opinion piece about Intermedia. I had to concentrate on switching Email providers as quickly as possible instead of getting myself all worked up over Intermedia.

During the time we were an Intermedia customer, all 14 of us received tons and tons of junk mail.  I don’t know how they supposedly filtered junk mail from getting to our account but if spoofing our email accounts was pretty easy then what should I have expected concerning excessive junk mail.  I don’t remember who it was that said it, but a wise person once said “If junk email makes it into your email account and is simply put in a separate folder marked “junk mail” then it is not filtering junk mail, it is just redirecting it.  Makes perfect sense to me.  Our new provider uses a third party product called Postini that monitors incoming mail and flags it as junk BEFORE it ever reaches our email accounts.

Our new email hosting/Blackberry Hosting provider is ExchangeMyMail.com.  It’s been 4 months now and while there have been minor bumps along the road, the management team at EMM still operates under the adage that the customer is always right.  Management takes its job of retaining customers very seriously.  They are a top notch organization and very reasonable on their pricing.  In fact, we spend less now than we did while with Intermedia (who literally nickel and dimed us to death).  One quick example:  As the account owner, I have access to our account’s control panel.  If I wanted to personalize the control panel by putting our logo on it (a page that is only seen by me), they will charge your $50, a month.

In conclusion, if you don’t mind getting tons of Junk Mail, and never knowing if your mail account is working correctly, or whether or not your Blackberry device is receiving all of its email, and if you don’t care that your Fax Area Code doesn’t match your location, and if you don’t mind spending several hours on the phone over several days for a problem that should be fixed within the first 5 minutes that you call, and if you don’t mind getting threatened by the Managers for not respecting their staff, and if you don’t mind not being respected by the management and staff, and if you don’t mind the President of your company standing in your office with a scowl on his face, I say, “Go for it, Intermedia is for you”.

I’m kidding of course. Don’t waste your time or money on this company.  ExchangeMyMail (http://www.exchangemymail.com) was our choice and rated hightly by several forums of which I am a member.  In the end, EMM has worked well for us.  But this is just my opinion and you need to do your own research.   But at least I can offer some real life experience in dealing with Intermedia.  I think this type of review is exactly the kind of review I wished i had found when I was looking for an Exchange Hosting Provider instead of the cookie cutter, “everyone’s wonderful” reviews you get from many online sources.