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July 22nd, 2002

Cyberwings

A few months ago I found myself in need of more webspace. My personal site was taking on more of a visual approach, and I simply needed more space than I had through my (fine!) IPP, WebServePro. I started perusing various sites for others’ opinions.

I checked out the forums for Movable Type and there, a few people spoke of a host called Cyberwings. They were nearly fanatical in regards to the company: I was told they not only had great prices, but incredible service and a total respect for the customer. Given that I’m big on good customer service, you can imagine that this resonated well with me. So I hopped over to Cyberwings’ site and was amazed. They were offering webspace for as low as $1/year. A year! Most IPPs charge $5 to $10 a month for basic webspace. I checked out the Cyberwings forums for a few weeks to get a feel for their business, and it was all good. The CEO himself was responding to many messages, and others helped others left and right.

I was looking to do some more web goodness, so I signed up for three domains through Go Daddy and bought space from Cyberwings. Three packages cost a total of $11.70 for the year. Not a large investment, but still a slight gamble. And things were wonderful for the first two months or so: no downtime that I could see, fast servers, good service and great support. Spectacular.

Roughly two months into my hosting package, though, things began to turn sour. My sites were down for a few hours one day. That can happen, so I gave Cyberwings the benefit of the doubt. But then I started noticing that it was getting very, very difficult to access my sites – via the web or FTP. It was consistent. And Cyberwings’ sites? They were down, too. I started to sweat a bit.

But I stuck with it until about three weeks ago. My sites had been down for a solid day – something rather rare for an IPP – and I was fed up. I waited for the Cyberwings sites to come back for some verification. The downtime was attributed to Lightship, the upstream provider for Cyberwings, and would be resolved. But what was posted next shocked me: Cyberwings was moving its oft-trumpeted data center from Maine to Virginia, and all servers would be offline for a whole weekend! All servers. It was astounding, to say the least, and the reaction was surprisingly mixed. Some devotees held on and looked towards the future, telling disgruntled customers to leave. I did.

What unfolded next was nothing short of astounding. A separate site, cwstatus.com, was established to update people on Cyberwings. Customers were told fantastic tales of a new data center with biometric security, triple-redundant connectivity, and free upgrades for all. A golden age of Cyberwings was forthcoming, people were told. But someone at the WebHostingTalk forum uncovered that Cyberwings was in default. Comments poured forth, saying that this couldn’t be true, but it ultimately was. The CEO of Cyberwings, Shawn White, threatened legal action against people at the forum – and later threatening people in the CW support chat room.

But the final plug was pulled yesterday. One of the two data centers affiliated with Cyberwings shut down its CW sites yesterday, leaving customers officially out in the cold. Everything was officially off the Internet and showed no signs of coming back. And Shawn? He walked away with the money of a lot of people.

Patrick Grote wrote a two-part series on Cyberwings. Read part one and part two. Part one links to some interesting information from the Wayback Machine; part two summarizes the madcap fraudulent activity that occurred once everything went down.

Posted in Miscellaneous

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