BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee [rant]

A lot has been changing in my life over the last 12 months, and it has been a while since I have written a post.  I have been staying pretty busy with work and family, the business has been growing and I’m about to hire a new full-time employee.  My family is also growing, as I my wife and I will be having our first son come August.  Having a growing family means that health coverage has become a new priority for me, where I have been without health insurance for the last ten years or so.  While I can’t say that I know anybody who loves insurance companies or their practices, I can certainly say that of all I have worked with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is the worst so far.

I’ll have to give a bit of a preface and I’ll start by saying that my wife has had health insurance through BlueCross BlueShield of Arkansas for a couple of years.  We had no issues with them when it came to doctors visits, prescriptions such as Nexium for my wife’s chronic heartburn, Advair for her asthma, or anything else that she needed medically.  My wife does have terrible acid reflux to the point of her aspirating acid into her lungs resulting in damage and regular asthma flareups.  She has been on Nexium for about two years and over those two years her asthma has gone from putting her in the hospital almost every few months to almost non-existent.  That is, until we changed to BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee…

My wife went to refill her Nexium prescription at CVS and was told that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee was requiring prior authorization for the prescription.  They claim that without a “level 3 esophagus erosion” that Nexium is not necessary and that over the counter Prilosec, which is effectively half the effectiveness and twice the out of pocket price, is all that she needs.  Keep in mind that she already had chronic acid reflux resulting in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD for short, and now she is pregnant which is known to cause acid reflux in those who have never had heartburn in their lives.

Taking this all a step further with my wife being pregnant, having chronic acid reflux, and asthma she now also has gestational diabetes.  Gestational diabetes is essentially, as the doctor explained it to us, where her body cannot quite keep up with the insulin demand of her and the baby and, as such, she is effectively diabetic for the duration of the pregnancy.  The doctor wrote my wife a prescription for a meter, test strips, etc…  When we went to CVS Pharmacy to fill these prescriptions as they are required to monitor her blood sugar to avoid serious complications such as diabetic coma, damage to her and the baby, and a long list of other side effects of diabetes CVS informed us that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is rejecting the prescriptions and that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee requires “prior authorization.”

For whatever reason BlueCross BlueShield in what appears to be every attempt they can make to keep every penny they are paid, seems to require prior authorization for every prescription my wife has been written.  I am beginning to wonder what the point of having insurance is, if they are going to reject all claims while continuing to accept payments for the insurance coverage.  We never faced this issue with BlueCross BlueShield of Arkansas, so it’s obvious the administrators in Tennessee are, at the least, greedier.  If a doctor writes a patient a prescription for a blood sugar meter and test strips, what does the insurance company think?   Do they think that we are making this up so that we can get one over on them when it comes to a $110 prescription of blood glucose test strips?

Why is BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee requiring prior authorization from the doctor for a brand new treatment on a brand new medical issue, especially gestational diabetes?  None of this makes any sense at all to me.  I thought it was in the best interest of the insurance provider to make sure issues such as these are taken care of to avoid other, bigger issues down the road that result from lack of treatment.

At the end of the day, if you are looking for a health insurance company and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is on your list, you may want to look at alternative options.

Disclaimer: All information contained within is factual to the best of my knowledge.  Any information that is not purely factual is my opinion.  In the event that information is presented as factual when in reality it is not, there is no malice intent and I will be happy to make an update or correction when it is brought to my attention.

Update 1 – 06/13/2012 2:30 PM

The blood glucose meter that my wife was provided by her OBGYN was a OneTouch Ultra Mini, however, the insurance company is absolutely refusing to pay for the test strips for this meter.  They have informed us that our only option is to choose a testing strip that they will pay for (read: cheap) and then to go buy a matching meter out of pocket although we already have a perfectly functional blood glucose tester.

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[Updated] – EzeeLogin Customers Beware – License and Pricing Changes without Notification (Admod.com)

Update 02/17/12 at 10:42 PM EST

We’ve worked all of the issues we faced out with Admod/EzeeLogin.  I’m going to leave this post live as a reminder for Admod/EzeeLogin and other companies who read this post to be as open and transparent about their actions that affect customers as possible.  Had Admod/EzeeLogin gotten in touch with us, and their other customers, and explained the change-over and how it does or does not affect them – this entire post could have been avoided.  On another note, had Admod /EzeeLogin responded to our ticket quickly – this post would have been avoided.  If you have any questions, comments, or concerns – feel free to make them known in the comments.

Continue reading if you desire, but our issues that resulted in this post have been fully rectified.


If you’re currently using EzeeLogin and you signed up before the new “EzeeLogin.com” – be aware that when your current license expires there will be no option to renew it at Admod.com leaving you with no gateway.  This is apparently due them moving all of the EzeeLogin functionality / billing / licensing over to their new EzeeLogin.com domain.  While this is not a major issue in and of itself, it does require action by customers using their service prior to the new domain – and they sent no notices out making their existing customers aware of action required on their part.

When you try to log in at EzeeLogin.com using your email address from Admod.com, your address will not be found (i.e. they did not migrate over your license *or* your billing account).  This means when your license does expire – your EzeeLogin Gateway will effectively be rendered useless with no way to renew.  Had Admod/EzeeLogin contacted their existing client base to let them know they needed to sign up for a new billing account at EzeeLogin.com – then this post wouldn’t exist.

Upon searching Admod.com for any public notices of action required by their clients, the only information I could come across was less than detailed and did not indicate that any action was required:

 2011-08-08 07:07:54
New website for Ezeelogin
New website lauched @ www.ezeelogin.com

Taking this all a step further pricing has also increased without notice.  Prior you could get a license to connect to up to 50 servers for $42/quarter where as now $40 will only get you 10 servers on a monthly lease.  Increasing pricing is not a problem – when you let your existing customers aware of the price change.  When you increase prices without prior notice for existing customers it has the side-effect of pissing them off.

In my personal opinion, EzeeLogin/Admod are taking these steps because they’re too comfortable.  Their actions (and lack of notifications) alone have resulted in at least three larger providers I’m aware of saying “Hell, we’ll just develop and market our own product for less then EzeeLogin.”  While Admod/EzeeLogin likely had a monopoly on this niche need due to their product working well, their apparent failure at customer notification and public relations may very well have cost them their top spot in this market.  The providers that I know of that are going to develop their own gateways have the funds and capabilities to push a product out very quickly that not only is superior, but will be priced lower.

We reached out to Adod/EzeeLogin over 2.5 hours ago and have yet to receive a response from representatives of either site.

Admod/Ezee – you’ve made a seriously glaring error by not notifying your (previously) quite loyal customer base of these changes.  We ourselves have been customers since July 1st, 2010.

…. /facepalm

Update 02/15/12 at 10:00 PM EST

We finally did hear back from them, the representative that responded seems to believe that the “login” feature being removed from the old site is an oversight. They stated that we could maintain our old license through the old site although we would not be able to upgrade through the old site. Any changes to the plan would require moving to the new site/pricing (at roughly a 1500% increase).

I’m waiting to hear from a higher member of management to confirm this and to get some additional details as well as waiting to see if the “login” button does come back to the old site.

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iPhone 4 S, and Siri

iPhone 4 SI went to the Keystone Apple Store on the north side of Indianapolis, Indiana today to have them check the battery on my iPhone 4.  I felt as though the battery had been lasting me less and less time throughout the day and knowing that lithium ion batteries degrade over time I figured the battery life was just getting short.  It turns out that the battery was fine ( well within spec, considering it’s age ) and I opted not to pay $79 to have it replaced.

While talking with the technician I was informed that at 6 P.M. they were going to be releasing any pre-ordered iPhone 4 S’ that had not been picked up and that the line was starting by the door.  At this point it was only 5:15 PM so I walked to the outer door to find that I was only second in line.  I chatted with the person in front of me whom was a very nice woman and over the next 30 minutes the line behind me grew quite quickly up to about 45 individuals. Continue reading

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Intellectual Property, Copyright, and “HostYourDream.net” – Site Ripper and Thief

It was just two weeks ago when I brought to light that the provider “Coomme Hosting” was using our design illegally and today I find another provider about to use our design, again, illegally.  While it is flattering that our design is so good that everybody else is deciding to use it without permission, it is very depressing that these “providers” would sink to the level of blatantly stealing a design rather than creating their own or having one created for them.

Here is the ripped version of our site (that is not live, yet, as of this posting), side-by-side with their current site, and the MDDHosting Site.  Click on the links for full-size.

While I sincerely hope that this “provider” chooses not to use our design illegally, if they do – I will do my best to make sure any of their potential clients are aware of their illegal use of our copyrighted intellectual property.

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Intellectual Property, Copyright, and “Coomme Hosting” – Updated August 11, 6:47 PM EDT

At MDDHosting we have worked hard over the years to build our reputation and we always put quality of service and support above appearances.  We eventually, after over 3 years in business, hired a designer to professionally create a new design for us.  The design itself was very expensive and was created by vReplay.com over the course of several months.

Recently an individual associated with the domain “xthosts.com” decided to rip a copy of our design and make it available for public download.  While they haven’t realistically done anything that anybody with basic skills couldn’t do if they spent some time doing it, they did make our copyrighted intellectual property illegally available to others in a fashion which proliferates the illegal use of our design. Continue reading

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Seeing the big picture… Why most hosting providers fail.

ServersIt’s no surprise that there are hundreds, if not thousands of new hosting providers that are started every day as there is simply little to no barrier to entry.  Anybody who has $5 to $15 can sign up for a reseller account and be their very own hosting company within minutes and this has some very unfortunate side-effects for the industry as a whole.

Many think that selling hosting is as simple as taking the disk and transfer allocations, splitting them up into their individual plans, and then sitting back and waiting for the money to come rolling in.  This usually ends up in the person who tried to start said company realizing, after a few months, that they aren’t going to get rich quick like they expected and that hosting really is a lot of work.  What happens to somebody who starts a business to get rich instead of because it’s what they are passionate about do you ask?  The answer is simple: the business folds.

Most new hosting companies are operated by individuals who have little to no business sense or experience and many times they fail to plan or to even see the big picture.  These individuals purchase a $5 to $15 per month plan and then expect to compete with the larger providers purely by cost but they fail to realize that in this industry that the less somebody pays, the more they expect from you and your service.  The individual who jumps from provider to provider looking for the best possible price tends to be the person who causes the most trouble and due to the naivety of these new hosting companies they become overwhelmed by cheap customers.

New hosting companies that manage to stick it out more than a year or two have a small chance of actually becoming profitable if they plan accordingly and make all of the right decisions.  Too many times have I seen a provider that appeared to know what they were doing but in reality they had no technical know-how and relied heavily upon friends and others in the industry to essentially run their business for them.  These hosting companies often will go from design to design mimicking as closely as possible, without directly copying, the providers that they themselves see as successful.  What these hosting companies don’t realize is that it’s not just the site design that makes the provider successful but the whole package.

I’ve said numerous times in the past that any company can try to copy what we do but more often than not they will fail to see the big picture and simply copying one aspect of how we operate our business will not give them the reputation and growth that we’ve worked hard to obtain over the years.  You can copy a design, you can copy an advertisement, you can post in the same forums, but none of this in and of itself will lead to success.

At the end of the day if you have a solid business plan, the time, the money, the desire, and the passion for running your own hosting company then you very well may succeed.  If you’re simply starting a provider in an attempt to make some quick and easy money, I suggest you stop now before you damage our industry any more than it already has been by the countless before you.

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R1Soft – CDP 2.0, CDP 3.0, cPanel Integration, Delays, and Poor Support (Updated)

R1SoftLet me start by saying that R1Soft, when it works, is an excellent solution that has on a few occasions saved us from partial or complete data loss in the event of an unexpected hardware failure or other unexpected data issue.  That is about the extent of what I have to say good about R1Soft which is extremely unfortunate.

My experiences with R1Soft formally began on March 12th, 2009 when we first obtained our trial R1Soft license.  I was in contact with David Wells from R1Soft after having faced an issue with some lost MySQL databases due to a mistake made by a technician when performing some maintenance on a server.  When discussing the issue with David he made it clear that with R1Soft backing up the server not only could we have restored those destroyed databases but we would also be protected against total data loss such as a catastrophic server failure.

We used the original trial license until March 30th, 2009 when we purchased the R1Soft Linux CDP starter pack for $500 including 5 Linux CDP agents, 1 MySQL addon, and 1 Archiving addon.  This was an excellent deal and up until this point R1Soft had lived up to every promise and we were very happy with the software.

David at R1Soft mentioned CDP 3.0 was coming out soon and mentioned, if memory serves, within the next quarter.  Promises were made such as faster backups, faster restorations, more reliable operation, cPanel integration, a more streamlined interface, and a lot of other features that surely anybody else running R1Soft 2.0 would love to see.  I’ll cut straight to the point – it was nearly 2 years before the 3.0 version of the R1Soft CDP was released in beta and even then it didn’t include all of the features that were promised and was even missing many of the key features of 2.0.

R1Soft 3.0 beta was released as a “standard edition” which only allowed backing up to the same server on either a secondary disk or network mounted storage.  There was no centralized backup server and when I looked into it no bare metal restoration – both features that had been available in 2.0 for over 2 years.  When the “enterprise edition” was finally released in beta, years after it was promised, it did not include bare metal restore or cPanel integration.  You are reading this correct – basic 2.0 features were totally absent from the 3.0 version of the R1Soft CDP even with it having been released nearly 2 years after it was originally promised.

With version 2.0 over the years and 3.0 the short period that we’ve been using it – we’ve always had strange issues that we’ve reported that have been entirely ignored.  We’ve had issues where 2.0 would cause kernel panics, would simply fail to back up, or would fail to restore that support either stated they could not replicate, that they claim don’t exist, or that they claim will be fixed in “the next release” or “sometime soon” that still happen.  We’ve had tickets where we gave them full and complete access to a server to diagnose and reproduce the issue, view and download logs, or anything else they needed to do and gotten back canned responses telling us how to do things on WINDOWS R1Soft backup servers or agents when we run exclusively Linux and made it clear in the ticket.

One issue that we, as well as several providers I network with, have faced with CDP 2.0 is when an end user starts a restoration and does not select the “overwrite files” option and “overwrite failed” errors cause the agent to fail on the restoration.  Now it wouldn’t be quite as bad if the agent just failed out and quit – but it actually fails “on” and consumes a full CPU core indefinitely until an administrator manually kills the restoration process.  There are several valid reasons to do a restoration without overwriting such as if you wish to replace any deleted files inside of a directory tree from a backup without overwriting any files not deleted – this error makes this impossible.  One provider I speak with opened a ticket about this on or around April 9th, 2009 and this issue has yet to be resolved.

Right now R1Soft 3.0 is extremely unstable on OpenVZ kernels, and has been since it has been released.  I know of approximately 5 kernel issues that R1Soft 3.0 has on various CentOS, CloudLinux, and OpenVZ kernels that cause the backups to either simply fail, or worse, for the entire server to hang or lock up.  Not only are R1Soft agent licensed extremely expensive, but they will take your production servers OFFLINE which is unacceptable.  I’ve gotten word that these issues have been resolved and will need to go through 10 business days of QA testing meaning, at minimum, 2 weeks before these serious kernel incompatibilities are resolved assuming all of their testing goes well.

With what R1Soft charges for new licenses, charges for maintenance, and the number of licenses they’ve sold, I simply do not understand how they cannot have a solid development team that can resolve issues in a timely fashion as well as building the new revisions of the software that have been promised.  Why does it take R1Soft 2 years to go from 2.0 to 3.0 when it was promised and why is the software so ridiculously unreliable, buggy, and incomplete when it finally makes it to the market?

Update 02/17/2011

R1Soft 3.0 has some “kernel” issues that occasionally causes a server under specific circumstances to lock up entirely forcing a reboot.  Their development team apparently has recently just finished finding and fixing all of these issues however the next step is to push those updates through “Quality Assurance” and then they’ll be available to those using the software.  While I am all for “QA”, I’m more for us not having to reboot servers twice a week due to the backup process causing the server to hang.

Last night the R1Soft process killed one of our servers at around 5 AM EST and unfortunately it occurred during a period of time that did not have staff coverage. The staff member who was supposed to be watching the process that decided to go awol which meant that bringing the server back online quickly fell onto my shoulders.  Coincidentally, knowing that we had staff coverage, I set my phone on silent for the first time in over two years and it just so happens that this is the night that R1Soft causes the server to hang up, while a staff member is not working like they should, and my phone is on silent.  I’m not trying to make excuses as the staff member should have been doing their job and that is definitely a failure on our part.

It is however a bad situation that should never have happened – if the R1Soft CDP Agent and Kernel Module would work like they’re supposed to the server never would have crashed and been offline.  While yes, the staff member certainly should have been doing their job which would have involved rebooting the server within minutes and avoiding extended downtime, ultimately the failure is due to the R1Soft Software.  I hope for R1Soft’s sake that no competitor brings a quality product to market although I dream about it every night.

It’s bad that a backup system that we rely on to protect our customers’ data also causes us to have to make sure we have somebody awake and watching in case the backup system takes one of our servers offline.  Hopefully R1Soft will have the fixes for these issues pushed out within the next two weeks although I won’t be holding my breath.

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Comcast – EXTREME Lack of Customer Service

Comcast Bill showing $50 "Unbilled Activity"

Let me first begin by saying that I’ve had Comcast Internet and Television service for well over 4 years and for the most part I’ve been satisfied with the service itself.  I’ve rarely had to use customer service as generally I’ve not had issues with any of my services and when I did for the most part Comcast fixed those issues in a timely fashion.  I’m not entirely sure what has changed over the last year or so, but things have gone seriously down hill when it comes to customer service.  I’m going to do my absolute best to detail exactly what happened, how it happened, and why it happened so that you can hopefully make an informed decision as to whether you wish to go with Comcast, to continue your existing Comcast service, or to shift to/choose another provider.

On September 27th, 2010 my wife and I moved in to our new apartment a couple of minutes away from our old apartment and we had previously called to schedule Comcast to come out and perform a transfer of service to get our DVR Box and our Cable box online in our new apartment.  Comcast came out and performed the transfer of service free of charge and since we were moving into a larger apartment we opted to go ahead and get another digital box for one of our bedrooms while we were at it.  The technician that came out explained to me that this was his first installation where he was on his own and apologized ahead of time if it took longer than we expected.  I told the technician that I understood and that it wasn’t an issue. Continue reading

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From Leasing to Owning and Colocation

Dual 5620 ServerFor over three years my company has always leased its hardware from the facility in which our services were located.  For a long time we felt that it was better to pay a little more over time for the hardware in exchange for not having to make the large initial investment, not having to recycle old hardware when we upgrade, and not having to cover the parts and labor for replacing failed hardware.

Not too long ago we decided to re-evaluate our decision to lease our hardware and ultimately decided to obtain our own fully owned hardware and to colocate that hardware in a data center facility.  The initial cost is one of the largest barriers to get over when going from leased to owned and as an example we’ve spent nearly $25,000 in new equipment alone.  We’ve bought server chassis, processors, motherboards, RAM, raid controllers, hard disks, power distribution units, and switches in order to bring our systems online at a new facility.

There is a lot that goes into deciding which facility you’re going to go with and it requires a lot more research and time than choosing a leased provider.  When you’re leasing you can simply order new servers somewhere else, cancel the old servers at the old provider, and shift your data over.  When you colocate your own hardware it’s not so easy to make a change like this.  You either have to double your hardware to do live transfers or you have to take the sites and services offline to physically transport the hardware from one facility to another.  All of this makes it very important for you to make sure that you’ve chosen a facility you can trust and one that you plan on doing business with for a very long time.

We researched facilities for several months and looked at the pricing, power, cooling, transit providers, locations, redundancy, and remote hands and ultimately settled upon HandyNetworks LLC based out of Denver, Colorado.  This is going to be a learning experience for myself as well as those who work for me so I’m going to do my best to post my experiences, expectations, and any surprises we face along the way.  The hardware will be online on or around November 15th, 2010 and we’ll begin transitioning customers over to the new facility starting on November 18th.

If there is anything particular you’d like to know about the process of choosing the facility, the transfer process, or anything else having to do with obtaining hardware and colocating – feel free to comment this post or any future posts on the subject and I’ll do my best to address your questions.

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WordPress “Yet Another Related Post Plugin” or “YARPP”…

# Query_time: 9 Lock_time: 0 Rows_sent: 0 Rows_examined: 4281017

Now if you’re not a webmaster, server administrator, or developer the above line may not mean too much to you.  I understand that many people who install WordPress and dozens or more plugins really have no idea what it takes for that to all “work”.  In this particular case the above line is one single query made by the “Yet Another Related Post Plugin” on a WordPress database.  The query took 9 seconds and examined over 4.2 MILLION rows of data – and this was done on a shared web hosting server. Continue reading

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