Understanding Hosting Terms of Service: Part Three

In our previous columns, we began taking a look at a basic terms of service agreement from one of the industry leaders. In Part Three, we’ll continue where we left off on Provision 3 which is entitled Prohibited Use of Products of Services. If you missed our previous articles in this series, you can get up to speed with Part One and Part Two.

3.3. Billing

3.3.1. Furnishing false or incorrect data on the order form, contract or online application, including fraudulent use of credit card numbers.

3.3.2. Attempting to circumvent or alter the processes any billing procedures or procedures to measure time, bandwidth utilization, or other methods to document “use” of the Company’s Services and Products.

This provision protects the hosting company in the event that one of their customers uses someone else’s credit card without their permission, or if one of their customers attempts to defraud the company by providing them with false data. The second paragraph deals with persons who may attempt to hack into company records to alter data, or try to manipulate the service in any way.

These are standards provisions in this type of document and shouldn’t affect 99% of the consumers. If you do plan on using someone else’s credit card, and you have their permission, it is recommended that you inform the hosting company and have the card holder contact them as well to insure that you don’t run into any problems.

3.4. Mail

3.4.1. Sending unsolicited commercial email messages (UCE), including the sending of “junk mail” or other advertising material to individuals who did not specifically request such material, who were not previous customers of Customer or with whom Customer does not have an existing business relationship (“email spam”).

3.4.2. Sending UCE referencing an email address for any domain hosted by the Company;

3.4.3. Sending UCE referencing a domain hosted by the Company;

3.4.4. Sending UCE referencing an IP address hosted by the Company;

3.4.5. Posting advertisements on IRC, ICQ, or any other public chat system containing an email address hosted by the Company, a domain hosted by the Company, an IP address belonging to the Company;

3.4.6. The Company will be the sole arbiter as to what constitutes a violation of these provisions.

3.4.7. Harassment, whether through language, frequency or size of messages.

3.4.8. Unauthorized use, or forging, of mail header information.

3.4.9. Solicitations of mail for any other E-mail address other than that of the poster’s account or service with the intent to harass or to collect replies.

3.4.10. Creating or forwarding “chain letters” or other “pyramid schemes” of any type.

3.4.11. Use of unsolicited email originating from within the Company’s network or networks of other Internet Service Providers on behalf of, or to advertise, any service hosted by the Company, or connected via the Company’s network.

3.4.12. Activities deemed to be unsolicited marketing efforts or otherwise harassing in any way.

3.4.13. Customer will be charged a minimum $300.00 service charge for each instance of a verifiable UCE that is reported to the Company and faces immediate account suspension and/or termination, as well as further penalties.

3.4.14. Email messages received by our mail servers are only guaranteed retention for a maximum of 90 days. Emails older than 90 days are subject to removal.

This section deals heavily with SPAM and is intended to make sure that the hosting company will not be liable if any of their customers use their account to send unsolicited bulk email. This section also prohibits the inclusion of your domain name in any spam or your IP address.

This can be an area of contention for customers who purchase double opt-in email addresses to promote a service or a product. If too many receipients complain, you may end up having your site disabled.

In fact, if your account shows a large number of emails, spam or not, many hosting companies may contact you to complain. If you frequently send out mass-mailings to customers, be aware of this provision and do all that you can to ensure that you are not breaking any part of this section. You can do this by using double opt-in lists, and providing your receipients with a notice in the email that they did in fact request to be added to the list. You should also include a way for them to easily unsubscribe from your list. This should protect you in most cases.

3.5. Customer Support

3.5.1. The Company promotes a mutually-professional relationship with its customers. Abusive, threatening, obscene or otherwise harassing communications with agents of the Company, via telephone, email, online chat or other means will result in immediate account termination not withstanding any other terms of this agreement. Violation of this or any section of this Agreement will result in refund ineligibility.

This is an interesting provision and is in place to protect the employee’s of a hosting company and give the host the right to terminate your account should you break this rule. While it can be tempting to get nasty with a slow or unresponsive tech support agent, if you have this provision in your agreement, you will need to make sure that you follow the rules. Again, this should not affect most customers, but is in place to make sure that the hosting company is protecting its interests.

Next up, we have the one area in a hosting terms of service agreement that is most likely going to vary, depending on the hosting company. This is also the section that you should pay the most attention to, particularly if you have a busy site.

4. Bandwidth and Utilization

In addition to the other terms of this agreement, which apply to all plans, bandwidth and utilization, by its nature, is subject to a number of differing and/or additional terms.

4.1 The Company provides the space and unlimited transfer in good faith to our Customers so that they may create their WebSites without the fear of running over their Web traffic allocation. While most Customers will use the space and traffic for their legitimate WebSite needs, we recognize that others may try to take advantage of our offer and use the space and traffic in ways for which it is not intended. In the best interests of our Customers and in an effort to maintain the integrity of our service, the following common sense rules will apply:

This is obviously a hosting company that offers “unlimited” bandwidth. As you will soon see however, the definition the hosting company uses for “unlimited” will doubt vary greatly from your own. In the event that you select a hosting company that offers “unlimited” bandwidth, you will need to make sure that your site is not in violation of any of the terms contained in this section.

As a side note, your hosting terms of service agreement may also include a provision on bandwidth throttling. We will cover this issue in a separate article.

4.1.1. Customer’s site must use and store only the information and data that relates to the WebSite, at the IP address provided by the Company.

4.1.2. Customer may not resell or give away Web space under a domain name, nor may Customer build WebSites that house “sub domain” WebSites on behalf of other companies, groups or individuals. Customers who wish to resell the Company’s Web space should utilize the Company’s Reseller Program;

The first paragraph deals with the type of information that you are allowed to store on the server that you are renting. This means that you cannot use this server as a “gateway” to another site, and that you cannot offer additional storage space for other people on your site.

This is an area of concern for free graphic sites, since many people still “hot link” images. If this is a problem, you may need to set-up an anti-hot linking system to ensure that this does not occur.

The second paragraph states that you will not be allowed to resell any space on your server. This basically means that you cannot parcel out your server space to anyone else, even through the use of subdomains. This particular agreement does not cover giving away free hosting on your site, but as common sense goes, this would not be recommended with this type of TOS.

4.1.3. Customer may not use Customer’s WebSite to store Web pages, files or data for other IP addresses or domain names, nor may Customer use its WebSite as a repository for file, data or “Warez group” download transfers. The Company reserves the right to make this determination, in its sole and absolute discretion.

Once again, this paragraph references data that is allowed and not allowed on your server. To make this section easier to understand, let’s say that you have a friend who asked you to upload an image to your server. This friend than links to the image to display it on their own site. If you did this, you would be in violation of this TOS. This can also be a problem if you use badges to promote your site, or if you have banners that are stored on your server and referenced elsewhere. To make sure that you do not unintentionally violate this provision, always make sure that anyone who uses graphics or components from your site saves the graphic to their own computer first and then uploads it to their own site.

The second section of this paragraph deals once again with Warez. We covered this earlier in this series, in Part Two. However, since this paragraph specifically states that the hosting company will be allowed to define prohibited files at their own discretion, this could be an issue for sites that offer programs or applications from their server. If you do intend to offer such programs, and this provision is in your TOS, contact the host before you begin to make sure that you will not be in violation of this agreement.

In Part Four of this series, we’ll continue with Bandwidth and Utilization.

Related Posts:
03/13/2006 Web Hosting Information Podcast
Understanding Hosting Terms of Service: Part Two
Understanding Hosting Terms of Service: Part One
Hosting Industry Daily Briefing for 03/14/2006
Benefits of Understanding HTML

Posted on 03/9/06 1:40 AM

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