Usenet Provider Reliability Info

  • Four things really matter when choosing binary usenet servers:
  • What you need to know:
    • Because so many providers now claim long retention rates, great completion, and offer similar pricing, Reliability is now the most important factor in choosing a Usenet provider. There’s nothing great about getting 100 days retention if you can’t connect, or it goes down so often that their completion / retention rates yo-yo all the time.
    • Many factors go into our definition of reliability: Authentication server availability, equipment reliability and redundancy, server overloading, bandwidth overloading, billing errors, support responsiveness, and problem notification.
    • Direct providers of usenet service have the greatest control over all these pieces and typically have the best reliability.
    • Nearly all the major newsgroup server companies have redundant equipment, so if a hard drive fails, the system continues operating on the RAID mirror, Or if a server or router fails, user sessions automatically switch to another. All this takes money, lots of money, and only the largest of companies can afford to build in the kind of redundancy needed to keep a Newsgroup Provider available 24X7.

Giganews newsgroup reviews


  • More than you wanted to know
    • Almost all usenet services have some sort of Authentication Server to check users access. Resellers often have a separate authentication server, since they must maintain their own user lists. A failure here means you can’t log on. This is often the weakest part of a reseller’s system – even if the back-end provider has an ultra-reliable service, if the reseller’s authentication system is weak, you may not be able to get on reliably.
    • Equipment reliability and redundancy is what most people think of when they think of reliability. There’s never a slow part of the day with Usenet, so drives, routers, and servers are always working at full speed. Heat, power problems, and age all conspire to make equipment break down eventually, especially as it gets older than 18 or 24 months. A failure of a backend server or hard drive may mean that the service will miss some file segments sent by their peers (reducing completion), even if there is no impact on people accessing the files on the front end servers. A router failure can mean that more people have to be routed through fewer backbones resulting in slower throughput for everyone. And of course a hard drive failure without RAID or mirroring means lost messages. Even RAID drives not in mirror mode take a long time to rebuild after a failure – the best approach is full mirroring if the provider can afford it.
    • Overloaded equipment fails more quickly and results in slower throughput for the user. Also, as Usenet volume has increased, and more firms offer unlimited services, the backend software has had to be improved with new indexing methods. Many firms had catastrophic failures shortly after introducing unlimited access, because the loads on their equipment was greater than anticipated. And, some companies using GPL software, especially those without their own resources to tweak it, must make their equipment work doubly hard to keep up with all the volume. Other providers use commercial software with maintenance agreements, and even these firms have to work hard to keep releases up to date.
    • Bandwidth gets chewed up not only by user downloads (especially as more firms introduce unlimited accounts) but also by the peering relationships they must maintain to get the articles in the first place. Unless a firm really over-buys connection and bandwidth, there will likely be some times of day when a high percentage of their users are downloading that things might slow down. What you have to watch out for is firms that purposely throttle their output to you, either to reduce bandwidth bottlenecks, or for some resellers, to prevent their purchased allotments from getting used up too fast by their users.
    • Most usenet companies have built their own billing systems which not only charge your credit card or paypal account, but also communicate with the Authentication server. A few resellers also use external services like iBill or CCBill. Most work just fine, although we get many, MANY emails from people who report problems with their accounts not getting activated for days after they’d signed up, or get billed for months after they’ve canceled. Remember also that if you pay by credit card, they will have your info on file. If they get hacked, your credit card info could land in criminal hands. This, combined with start and end account problems are the number one reasons we recommend sticking with a major firm that has been around for a while. They’ve usually got their billing systems worked out and keep them up to date against hacks.
    • Support is also a big differentiator. All the firms that actually run the server farms themselves have staff available 7X24, although that doesn’t mean they answer support questions 7X24. Resellers are responsible for answering all their customers’ support requests, although if there is a problem with the actual servers they can’t fix it – they still have to report it to the back-end company they are buying from. And of course, any of these companies can have jerks on staff – seems to come with the territory in the computer business.
    • Problem notification can be by email to users (only very small firms do this) or through some sort of status web page. In the past many usenet providers had their status pages on the same data pipes (or even servers) as their usenet equipment – so when their usenet service was out, so was their status page. Now all the major newsgroup server companies have their status pages in separate locations. We applaud the companies that report all the little problems, even the intermittent ones – everyone has little backend problems that create short access or peering problems – we respect the firms that actually publish this for their users (Newshosting especially)