Over the last several decades, I have often promoted the now Network Solutions E-Commerce product. It was originally a product designed and developed by Nick Matina, a bunch of programmers, and myself included. It was called Website Monster, and later, Monster Commerce. Over time, it was marketed and promoted significantly by Stephanie Lefler, and later sold to Network Solutions in 2005.
Outdated Software / Outdated Manuals
During this time, it was the #1 e-commerce software on the market. It didn’t take long for that to change. Network Solutions developed it into their “cookie-cutter” e-commerce platform as a part of their service offerings. Slowly over time, and the purchase of Network Solutions by Web.com, it became the “red-headed step-child” and was no longer updated. In fact, since 2005, there has only been one significant update to the E-Commerce Manual that accompanies the product. Most of the links within this manual still go to defunct web pages on the old Monster Commerce website. The limited customization ability, written in a code called nsscript has never had a single manual or much more than a few pages of help written by customers within the Network Solutions Forums. Therefore, as a new client wanting to configure the product and start using it, you are basically on your own. Although there is technical support for the product during normal business hours, they are extremely limited in what they will assist you with outside of charging you an arm and a leg for what they would call “custom programming”. Then of course, outside of normal business hours, you have really limited support from the Philippines with people who have no idea about the product and have really limited English skills.
24+ Hour Response Time For Down Websites
So what does this mean as a customer with a down website at 10:00pm at night? Good luck. In fact, you have two options. You can call the Manila staff and get someone who is pretending to be American (as they are told to do) and they will take your information and tell you that your website will be back up within 24 hours. The other solution is to engage a person in their chat client. Oh wait, your website is down so you won’t be able to access your admin panel to get to the chat client, so that is out. It alright though because the guy you get in chat is a “general” customer service representative and knows ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the e-commerce product. Therefore, he will basically give you the same spiel on how he will escalate the problem and someone will get back with you within 24 hours. What will ultimately happen is that your website will eventually go back up, but it is almost guaranteed that you will NOT receive any explanation or call or e-mail from their staff. You should also understand that the industry standard for Shopify, Big Commerce, X-Cart, and others is a 99.9% uptime with redundant servers, which means that your website should never go down. If it does, it should only be for a few seconds, which would be perceivable to the customer. We have had client sites down for days with Network Solutions. This last year, they had server errors which caused an unrecoverable database problem with a large multi-national client. After five days with no solution from Network Solutions, we were able to piece together older versions of the database and get them back online. Network Solutions e-commerce director has still yet to call the client back with a solution. It has been six months. They simply don’t care.
Defunct Trouble Ticket System
Network Solutions does have a online trouble ticket system. This is somewhat amusing at best. If you place a trouble ticket into their system, you will in 99% of all cases, get a form letter response telling you to call their customer service staff during normal business hours. Therefore, this system is simply ludicrous. I have since found out that the trouble tickets for the e-commerce department are routed through to the general customer service staff, who have absolutely nothing to do with the e-commerce product. Therefore, they have a single form letter response for virtually everything.
Are things starting to sound a little scary? They should. Network Solutions claims to be the “the nation’s premier small business experts”.
Let’s get down to “brass tacks” as they say. Does the product work? Well, not really.
No New Features In Numerous Years
Network Solutions has not added a single realistic feature to the product in almost a decade. The only thing they can really point to as adding since they have owned the product is some limited social media features along with a buy-one-get-one discount feature. This is the only thing that has been added realistically since 2005, eleven years ago.
Monthly Server Patches Cause Significant Downtime & Problems
Their staff have monthly “patches” that they do on the servers each month, which take the servers down for almost a day. Therefore, as a small business owner, you have to calculate and expect your gross earnings to be formulated on the basis of losing a day of sales each month. Funny enough, as I write this article, I am waiting for four different client sites to go back up so that I can do daily updates. They have been down since early this morning, which is about 12 hours ago. I don’t expect them to go up before the end of the night, which often costs the client tens of thousands of dollars each month. Network Solutions never really indicates what these patches are doing for the client, much less what impact they will have on the software itself. However, in the last six months, their “patches” have caused numerous problems that have yet to be resolved. What kind of problems? Here are a few examples. Within the product file manager, you can no longer upload more than one product image at a time without having to select each file individually. That means instead of clicking 500 images at a time, you now have to click one, hit the button to accept, and then click two, and hit the button to accept, and so on. A 10 second process now takes hours. Another disturbing example is the way the software handles 404 pages. A 404 page is a page that your website visitor comes to, usually from Google or another search engine, that for some reason no longer exists. Maybe you deleted the product or maybe you changed the name of the web page where it resides. Either way, on all other platforms, when a customer reaches this, they usually send the customer back to the front page of the website or to a specified page that you have set as default. Well, with the Network Solutions product when you hit a 404 page, it now takes you completely off of the website and gives your extremely valuable visitor a server error, making them think that something is wrong with your entire website. According to Google, when this happens, more than 90% of the people receiving this type of page, will ultimately go to another website to purchase the product or service. Thanks Network Solutions! Another customer lost!
Lack Of Updates Cause Significant Problems With Google
What about the software in general? Does it work? Well, yeah it does to some degree. One of the largest problems with it is because they have not updated their software in so long, that it hasn’t kept up with Google search engine requirements for website. We all know that Google is the key to either the success or failure of most online businesses nowadays. Google either rewards or punishes a website for certain aspects of the design of the website. For example, every image on the website requires an “ALT” tag, as it is called. This tag identifies the image in the event that the page does not load the image or the person has images turned off in their browser (usually in a phone with limited capacity). Network Solutions has never updated this feature within the software, so the three standard product images share the same “ALT” tag. Therefore, for one specific client of ours, with 35,000 products online, they are getting punished daily by Google for not having this feature for all of their images. This could mean the difference between being rated #1 on the search engine for that product or being rated #30, tucked away on the third page of results where no one goes. For some, this could be tens of thousands of dollars in sales a day. This is only one example of about a dozen or so that Google requires that Network Solutions does not provide. We have tested this process and created the same website on Shopify and found that in that case, the Shopify website “naturally” listed better on Google than the Network Solutions product in all cases. In a large percentage of the time, often as much of a difference as being listed #1 versus being listed #20 to #30. This is the difference between sales and no sales.
Features? We Have No Features!
There are also so many features that companies like Shopify, Big Commerce, Magento, and others have that Network Solutions just doesn’t, and the way it looks, probably never will. Integration with Amazon and Amazon Fulfillment, integrated SEO tools, CMS integration, one click submission to Google Product Search, fully mobile integration, and on and on.
In turn Network Solutions provides the following:
- Templates that have not been updated in 10 years.
- Reporting system that has not been updated in 20 years.
- A mobile design that looks really cheesy and dated.
- The inability to track how many times you sold something and export it to anything.
- Absolutely no CMS integration or export ability to CMS software (now an industry standard).
- Extremely limited ability to export to Quickbooks or any other accounting software.
- Absolutely no e-commerce analytics of who and when people visited your website (now an industry standard).
- No exportable analytics of search terms used and when they were used on your website.
- No integration with Google Products or Google Product Search (now an industry standard).
- No international language support (now an industry standard).
- and so on…
PCI Compliance/Security Certificate (SSL) Problems – Website Showing Porn Site Security Certificate!
Several of our client sites over the last year have experienced PCI Compliance along with SSL issues. The websites ability to maintain a secure link for customers and their credit cards are paramount above all things. If something goes wrong, your customer no longer trusts that your website is secure. On a half a dozen occasions, one of our national retail client’s website had its Network Solutions Trusted Security Certificate crossed with a porn websites certificate. Therefore, when anyone went to our customer’s website, the link no longer showed secure and in its place was a link to one of their other client’s porn sites selling male cod pieces and other leather related pornography goods. This happened with one client over six times. At no point has Network Solutions ever bothered to offer a reason why this happened, nor any apology for it happening. In fact, it had to be reported to VISA Compliance before they actually got it to stop happening on a regular basis. We were told by VISA Compliance that Web.Com’s Chief Security Officer Geog Birchall lied to them about what was happening and to the extent of the issues with the PCI problems over at Network Solutions.
Credit Card Data Vulnerable
Several months earlier we had found a security hole in the Network Solutions software where the server was generating predictable session ID’s, allowing anyone with an open shopping cart to basically edit the URL manually and change the session ID to someone’s shopping cart. If that other person’s shopping cart contained credit card information, this was made readily available to anyone with a little imagination and creativity in their hacking abilities. Network Solutions denied this over several months before VISA Compliance demanded them to look into it. We used an independent security firm to verify this problem. More on the subject can be found here: https://pdos.csail.mit.edu/archive/cookies/seq_sessionid.html. A snippet of the report is listed here below.
Corporate Confusion & Disorganization
Overall, Network Solutions has a lot to learn about small business before they claim to be the nation’s expert on it. As a web development company who has numerous clients on their platform, the company has such little communication with us. In fact, it would be easier to change your blood type than to get an explanation from Network Solutions on just about anything. The staff from the old Monster Commerce days” is long gone. Therefore, customer satisfaction went with it. It was a much different company then, and unfortunately a lot of us have hung on, hoping things would change or get better. That simply has not been the case. Over time, we have tried communicating with their “corporate resolution department” and even provided them a 3-4 page list of problems that needed their attention. This was provided to someone there named Kellin Hahn on 12/11/15. To date, it still has not been responded to. Countless additional e-mails and phone calls have been made to her. Here we are six months later and nothing. It speaks volumes to us and it should speak volumes to you. A company’s “corporate resolutions” department is usually the last place you find a company ignoring you. They are usually the ones who respond when you fail to get a response elsewhere. Not the case with Network Solutions aka Web.com.
Network Solutions Website Not Updated In 3 Years!!
On an even more pathetic note, Network Solutions cannot even update their own websites, much less help you market and sell on your own. If you take a look at the Network Solution’s E-commerce Splash Page of their website, you will find that their “case study” for a successful client on Network Solutions is a company called “Thi-Outlet”. This page has been showing for years. The funny thing is that this company has not been in business for the last three years. Here you have Network Solutions, a company with over 2200 employees according to Wikipedia, and they cannot update a significant website page for their company in three years? We brought this to their attention in 2014, again in January of 2015, and again in December of 2015. What does this say about them? I will also note that on Big Commerce’s website, they list dozens of case studies and have multiple links, explanations about the companies as well as quote’s from site owners… big website owners. Shopify lists numerous case studies as well. Network Solutions has one, a defunct Thai furniture store and it hasn’t been in business for three years.
Communication Is Everything. Complete Failure.
In business today, especially e-commerce, communication is EVERYTHING. If you cannot effectively communicate with your e-commerce provider, GET RID OF THEM! It has been killing our client’s businesses and it will kill yours. With Network Solutions, they claim to be the leader in small business and a marketing professional. I challenge you to find a truly successful engaged e-commerce customer of their who isn’t complaining. Look at the comments in their social media pages. One after another after another, complaining. Network Solutions used to host some of the largest names in the United States. They hosted Winn Dixie, the NHRA, NASA, the U.S. Open, and so many others. They have all left due to one problem after another. The Network Solutions Forums are riddled with one comment after another where people are so upset with their service. That is not the “nation’s premier small business experts” as they claim to be on their phone system. Here is an example of their Forum (just on the topic of site speed alone:
Slower Than A Snail Website Speeds
Did I mention that the sites also take up to 60 seconds to load? On average, Google says that a website should load in less than 4-6 seconds. After 10 seconds, you start to lose 50% of the visitors. On average, I would say that most of our client sites on Network Solutions take anywhere from 15-60 seconds to load at times. It isn’t as though we are talking about pages that contain a significant amount of data either. These are pages that contain anywhere from 2mb to 4mb, which should take on an average Wi-Fi connection less than 50ms (under 1/20th of a second) to load. When testing response times for today on three different websites, they all seem to be averaging 550ms. It should also be noted that these three websites reside on different servers at Network Solutions. Therefore, this is accounting for the performance of three servers. It should be around 200ms or less according to Google. The response times are below. This is also right after the server has just been brought up from the maintenance patch, which is when the server should be at “peak” performance. All three sites are more than twice as slow as they should be. Again, appalling performance, at best. If you would like more than the examples I am giving here below, contact me. At best today, one of our client sites loaded at 8.73 seconds. It contained 2.1mb and should have loaded in under a second easily on any other network.
Someone asked me what kind of grade I would give Network Solutions, knowing that we have been working hard to move client sites off of their platform and onto Shopify, Big Commerce, and others. We have also worked with Network Solutions for more than two decades. I cannot emphasize this enough. If there was something worse than a failing grade, I would give it. But for now, the only thing I can say is a resounding FAILURE.