WHMCS – Half Implementing Features since 2007

I’ve been using WHMCS as a billing and support platform for web hosting since 2007, for over 13 years now, and as near as I can tell WHMCS was founded in 2005. There have been issues over the years where there was unexpected behavior or unexpected changes during upgrades but every software vendor is going to roll out a bug here or there. Even companies with the best quality assurance and testing are bound to have something slip by – and I understand this.

While I do not and have not ever expected perfection and I do understand that bugs can happen sometimes feature implementation is just poor at best or processes are not well thought-out and planned. The most recent instance of this that has caused me problems is Premium Domain Support in WHMCS. This feature was added to WHMCS in version 7.1 which was released over 4 years ago.

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The Small Business Administration – The Disaster during The Covid-19 Disaster

U.S. Small Business Administration Logo

I’ll start by saying that the company I own and operate has been in business since late 2007. In nearly 13 years of being in business we have never applied for funding through the SBA or anywhere else as we didn’t need it. Personally I absolutely hate owing money be it to a person or to an organization.

I have heard from other business owners that working with the Small Business Administration, or the SBA for short, isn’t easy and that even if you qualify you’ve got a 50% chance of approval. I do know a few small businesses that have SBA loans for business property.

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AT&T Business Internet [u-Verse] – Slow to replace lightning-damaged equipment

Dead AT&T DSL ModemAt the office where I work unfortunately there are no fiber optic options.  Before we signed the lease we reached out to the local ISP that provides fiber connections for our area and confirmed that they serviced the location we were looking at leasing.  The ISP told us they did service our building and we didn’t find out until after we signed our lease and arranged to set up service that they do not actually service this location.  Sadly enough the only option we have here is AT&T vDSL [AT&T uVerse Business Internet DSL].

We experienced some pretty intense storms today / this evening and experienced several very close lightning strikes.  At least a couple of strikes were within several hundred feet of our office and one of them managed to take out our AT&T uVerse DSL Modem.  Being that AT&T has numerous corporate stores within a short driving distance I really didn’t imagine getting this damaged equipment replaced would be an issue.

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If at first they refuse – harass, harass, harass, and threaten! [Updated 07/11/19]

Brick WallIt has been roughly 10 weeks since “The Professor” sent a Cease and Desist letter to the company I work for concerning content on one of our client’s sites. We refused to bow to this individual’s demands and that was the beginning of the harassment.  At this point I count no less than 20 individual messages in my inbox.  The Professor has called the company I worked for numerous times and asked the same questions and received the same answers.

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Goodbye MediaLayer, Rest in peace Gupreet.

Gupreet VirdiWhile I was not close to the founder of MediaLayer, Gupreet Virdi, I was always very familiar with their name and their services.  For the past 7 years MediaLayer has been competition for my company’s premium offerings and they’ve always done an excellent job of maintaining their reputation.  The owner has always taken care of customers first and made speed and reliability priorities.  It is unfortunate that Gupreet passed away unexpectedly and the industry as a whole will miss him as well as his company.

We have helped dozens of MediaLayer customers transition over to our services and while this has been good for our company it does sadden me to know why these new customers are heading our way.  Growth is good for us obviously but I wish there was more continuity planning at MediaLayer so that their customers did not have to scramble to find new services.

I hope that everybody affected by the closure of MediaLayer is able to transition to a competent and reliable provider quickly and easily.  It is my understanding that the MediaLayer servers should remain online for a week or two.  This will give MediaLayer’s customers some time to transition out but I generally would still advise downloading a backup immediately regardless.

Rest in peace Gupreet.

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PayPal – Billing Agreements and Disputes

PayPalLet me start by saying that my organization has been using PayPal since 2007 and in all of this time we’ve generally been very happy with the service provided.  I have, over the years, seen where others were unhappy with PayPal for various reasons from accounts being locked to withdrawals being prohibited or delayed.  I’ve seen some complaints about PayPal disputes but by and large the dispute process has been good to us the few times we have had to use it.  Most disputes we have faced were resolved directly with the client as my organization has a refund policy and a general stance that we won’t hold onto funds for a service you do not need or want.

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Don’t post it to Twitter if you don’t want it used… [Updated 05/12/15]

FacepalmAt the company where I work an individual that claims to be a Professor has sent us a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter.  In the letter the individual claims that one of our customers is using their their Twitter messages without their permission.  They demand we delete the customer’s data immediately and provide them all of the customer’s contact information.  I’m not sure what the laws say over in the UK where this individual is based but we will obviously not violate our Privacy Policy and reveal client information to a third party just because they demand it.

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Guardlex – DMCA Takedown Notifications over hyperlinks to non-infringing content

As I am sure many of you know, stealing another individual or business’ copyrighted intellectual property is theft with damages up to $150,000 per incident.  To fight online piracy of intellectual property the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA for short, was signed into law on October 28, 1998 by President Bill Clinton.  The DMCA outlines methods for reporting copyright infringement such as “DMCA Notifications” as well as what those methods must contain:

  1. 512(c)(3)(i)A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
  2. (ii)Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.
  3. (iii)Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material.
  4. (iv)Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted.
  5. (v)A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
  6. (vi)A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

In simple terms, the notification must contain a statement that the notification is made in good faith, by an authorized agent, that it clearly lists the infringing content and that the information in the notification is accurate, that the individual or company submitting the notification is the copyright owner of the copyright or an authorized agent, the location of the original works that are being infringed upon, and a physical or electronic signature.

A DMCA notification, to be valid, there has to be infringement of a copyright.  When there is not infringement, a DMCA Notification in and of itself is not valid.

We have received two DMCA notifications [so far] from Guardlex.com where the DMCA Notice is centered on a simple hyperlink on the site of a customer of ours.  The link in and of itself is not infringing, the page in which the link is contained is not infringing, and the destination of the link is not infringing.  Guardlex.com apparently feels that they can supersede the First Amendment Right to Free Speech by submitting invalid DMCA Notifications.

This is unfortunately likely to be a growing trend due to Google penalizing sites for overzealous Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO”.  Companies who wish to have their sites listed high in Search Engine Result Pages, or SERPS, hire “SEO Agencies” to improve their search ranking.  There are positive and organic “SEO” methods that can be conducted such as optimizing the layout of a site and usability, creating quality content that others will want to link to, etc and there are negative and inorganic “SEO” methods that should not be condoned.  Negative and inorganic “SEO” generally consists of obtaining backlinks from as many sites as possible, often web directories and blogs, and keyword stuffing among other methods.

The end result is that there are millions of companies out there that have hired “SEO Professionals” to optimize their SERPS without a clue as to what is actually being done, and now that the Google Panda update is live, we are going to see these companies fighting to have all of these negative SEO practices reversed.  Some companies are doing this the legal way by summating cease and desist letters or simply contacting the site administrators and requesting the links to be removed, but the downside is that the site operator has no obligation to comply with a cease and desist or a simple request.  When these companies are being told, “No,” they are then turning to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to have the links removed.

Now the issue comes down to a simple question, “Is a link that does not point to infringing content, infringing?”  I believe the answer to this question to be a plain and simple, “No.”  Unfortunately these DMCA notifications demanding that the allegedly infringing links be removed are not valid as the links themselves are not infringement.  There is no way to demonstrate what work is being infringed upon as no intellectual property is being stolen or infringed upon.  This can be equated to me giving directions and a means of travel to the nearest Wal-Mart as infringing upon Wal-Mart.  Just because I give you the location, and an easy way to get there – does not mean that infringement has happened.

Here is an example, with personal and identifiable information redacted, of an invalid DMCA Notification:

Hello,

My name is Redacted Redacted, I work in the Anti Piracy Department of Redacted (http://www.Redacted.com), we provide anti-piracy and Intellectual Property protection services for Redacted company (http://redacted-site-hosted-elsewhere).

As such I am personally authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the aforementioned company.

It has come to our attention that your website (or website hosted by your company) contains links to the Redacted company website (http://redacted-site-hosted-elsewhere) which results in material financial loses to the company we represent.

This material financial loss is due to search engine penalties resulting from the links originating under your control.

I request you please remove from the following website http://redacted-site-hosted-with-us all links to http://redacted-site-hosted-elsewhere website as soon as possible. Please see the list of website pages in question:
http://redacted-site-hosted-with-us

In order to find those links, please do following:

1) If this is an online website directory. Use directory’s search system to look for http://redacted-site-hosted-elsewhere links.

2) If there are any hidden links in the source code of website. Open the website’s home page and view its source code. Search for http://redacted-site-hosted-elsewhere in the source code. This will reveal any hidden links.

It is our understanding; the links in question have not been authorized for use by our client, its agents, or the law.

Therefore, this letter is an official notification to effect removal of the detected infringement listed above.

I further declare under penalty of perjury that I am authorized to act on behalf of the trademark holder and that the information in this letter is accurate.

Please, remove all links to http://redacted-site-hosted-elsewhere website within the next 48 hours.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are at all unsure how to remove the links. We will be happy to assist you in any way to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

I ask, what is it going to take for this abuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to end?  I also ask, what law is there that states that one site operator must obtain prior authorization from another site operator in order to hyperlink?  Do we really want to live in a world where creating a hyperlink to a good site or useful resource requires an attorney?

Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney, this is not legal advice, this post contains the facts to the best of my knowledge at the time of publication.  Should any information represented as fact be demonstrated to be inaccurate or non-factual I will be happy to make adjustments.  Any information not explicitly presented as a statement of fact is my opinion.

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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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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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