[Updated 2013] No Longer Recommending Fastmail.fm

[This post seems to come up in search engines, so I've updated in 2013. It was written in 2006. I left Fastmail.fm for three years and hosted my own email. During that time, my wife and father both remained on Fastmail, and it was acquired by Opera Software, which makes browsers. In 2009, I decided to stop the hassle of running my own email again, returned to Fastmail, and have been generally delighted for four years! So I can again re-recommend them, and even provide a referral link. I leave the post below for historical reasons. I don't like to change history.]

I can no longer recommend Fastmail.fm, a service provider specializing in email that I have been using for years, and that I have found generally reliable until recent months. Probably through growth and some wonky hardware, they have had intermittent downtime that sometimes stretches into hours over the last few months. Today, I am finally fed up. Why? Because a new server, designed to help them avoid downtime and replicate their email, failed, and they revealed that all the new server equipment they purchased doesn't meet their spec, so months after the previous outage, they have only future plans in progress for providing robust replication.

In addition, they have no "software" backup plan. After being told for hours this morning that it would take "two hours" to rebuild a filesystem and start mail back up, they now believe it will be a full day. Great. I understand how that can happen, of course. (You can read their statement about this on their forums along with my reply.)

But they have nothing in place to help their users. After previous outages, you'd think they might have developed a replicated configuration system, so they could replicate just our accounts (not our email) to receive email in the meantime. A Webmail interface that would allow us to look at new queued email. A tool to redirect email temporarily to an off-Fastmail.fm account. A new account set up on a non-affected server to redirect email to.

They apparently have nothing.

I'm afraid this is what comes of trusting a niche player that I thought could handle this kind of performance and load. I can understand when a firm is plagued by hardware troubles, and they have had more than their share. However, having put apparently no effort over the last several months into any kind of contingency plan for their users is unacceptable.

I'm working to migrate my incoming email elsewhere so I can actually get work done today. Fat chance.

Another update: I finally had my account restored on Sunday night. This was 3 1/2 days of downtime, with no good communication except for brief, typically inaccurate estimates of the time completion. Their solution at the end was to use a procedure that copied account settings and stored email over to a new server. They recovered all the data, but despite their consistent statement that incoming email to our accounts was queuing, all email sent after the crash and before I migrated to my own servers was bounced.

I liked Fastmail.fm very much. But this was too much. After significant outages and failures, they had not established a total failure position. Fortunately, this was a single partition on a single server (apparently one of four servers). I thought these folks had the resources and expertise to cope with problem and even respond.

I will give them credit for ultimately being able to recover the data. That's great. But their ability to communicate a position, apologize, and explain were very poor. They weren't listening to the discussions at the forums to which they point for talking about their service. They didn't try to do anything interim that would have allowed short-term access to new email.

I'll be helping to move all other folks I know that I've recommended to Fastmail.fm off to other services.