When I ran my PR firm, my former colleagues will confirm that I was fanatical in stressing the importance of client service. Regardless of retainer size, I wanted every client to believe that the team supporting their account had no other concern but them. To achieve that impression, it was imperative that all client emails be promptly acknowledged and dealt with.

That meant checking emails incessantly, pretty much 24/7. A delayed email response, particularly from a low maintenance client who rarely reached out, could spark the forever feared agency question, “Why am I paying these guys?”

I folded my firm years ago, but the neurotic need to constantly check my email remained, despite my electronic mailbox being overtaken with messages from companies and people I didn’t want to hear from. But a week ago late Thursday evening my email was disabled, making me among the tens of thousands of victims who mistakenly trusted Rackspace Technology to host and secure our electronic correspondence.

The incident happened about 11 pm California time, when most U.S. residents were sound asleep. I managed to get through to customer service, where I spoke with a clueless young woman whose function was to inform customers it was a system-wide problem and that engineers were diligently working to restore service. The woman sounded like she was working from home, and it was clear she didn’t know details about the outage and seemingly didn’t care. She advised me to keep checking Rackspace systems operations page for updates.

Although Rackspace was once the gold standard in technology customer support, rightly boasting of “fanatical” customer service, my sense was the San Antonio-based company had morphed into a rinky dink operation. Weeks earlier I needed some assistance but the person I spoke with in Mexico couldn’t understand me or my issue. I began beating myself up for not transferring my email to another company, as I try to rely only on companies whose customer support is in the U.S. or Canada. (Some of my best customer support experiences have been with Canadian-based agents.)


When I awoke Friday morning, the dreaded incorrect password message greeted me when I checked my email. There was a feeling of being disconnected from the world, as critical correspondence I rely on daily was no longer available. I texted Cousin Rob, who I correspond with regularly throughout the day, to let him know I couldn’t receive his emails. I also alerted my Chase mortgage rep, who expects instant responses to her queries and demands. I was in the midst of refinancing my mortgage, and the paperwork required is mind boggling, particularly since I had an existing mortgage with the bank that in seven years I never once missed or made a late payment.

Rackspace said they would update their systems operations page every 12 hours, but I was checking every 20 minutes or so hoping to see a notice that things were back up and running. I became more agitated with each passing hour. I went online to see if there had been any news coverage of the outage; a few trade publications had some brief items, but few details.

I was surprised, as Rackspace is a publicly traded company and I mistakenly thought it was still a major player in what is known as the managed hosting space, particularly for small- and medium-sized businesses. My former PR firm used Rackspace for IT support, and as I maintained my former company email address, I continued relying on Rackspace to host it. In my earlier experiences, I could easily get a Rackspace agent on the phone almost instantly if ever I had connectivity issues.

The loss of email gave me some additional time, so I called Apple support for help troubleshooting another problem. For weeks, my ad blocker had mysteriously stopped functioning, nor would any other ad blocker I downloaded. Cousin Rob unexpectedly had experienced the same problem. After spending more than 90 minutes with Apple customer support, my issue still wasn’t resolved despite my call being “escalated” to someone supposedly most knowledgeable. The woman knew less than I do, which is the biggest insult I can hurl.


I awoke to the password error message that had become all too familiar and went online to see if I could get more information. Rackspace was promoting a Band-Aid solution that one needed to be an experienced IT executive to understand and implement. Customers posted online that they couldn’t reach Rackspace’s IT support; some claimed their calls were dropped after holding for six hours or more.

As the day progressed, I checked Rackspace’s operating system’s page less and less. Cousin Rob dropped by and implemented a solution that instantly solved my ad blocking problem. It’s pathetic that Cousin Rob could troubleshoot an issue that supposedly the best and the brightest customer support people at a company valued at $2.3 trillion couldn’t. Cousin Rob’s expertise is accounting and finance.

I read up on Rackspace and learned the company was taken private in 2016 by the giant private equity firm Apollo Global Management and that it had slashed jobs the following three years. Apollo took Rackspace public again in 2020 but maintained a majority interest in the company.

In early 2020, Rackspace laid off about 700 employees, or 10 percent of its workforce, although it said 85 percent of the eliminated positions would be filled with offshore employees.

Here’s how Apollo explains its business on the firm’s website.


God, grant me the serenity I to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve long regarded the serenity prayer as the wisest counsel one could follow. When I awoke Sunday morning, I knew that even if Rackspace could restore my email, it would take days. My instincts told me there was an excellent possibility Rackspace would never restore my email. Knowing there was nothing more I could do, I accepted the disruption and likely permanent email loss.

And so began one of the most glorious and relaxing days I enjoyed in recent memory. Rather than feeling disconnected from the world, I suddenly felt more connected than ever.

Walking my dog, I typically checked my email during his incessant pausing to smell flowers and other items that pleased his olfactory senses. Suddenly I was trying to imagine the pleasure dogs derive because of their superior sense of smell. I also noticed changes in my neighborhood, including a new house that was constructed without me ever taking note that the previous one had been torn down.

Waiting in line at the supermarket I noticed the looks on the faces of other people in the store, which made clear they hated shopping at Ralph’s as much as I do. Driving my car there was no glancing away at my iPhone when I got stuck in traffic or was stopped at a traffic light. At home, I noticed piles of dust that had previously escaped my attention. My reading and writing were uninterrupted, allowing me to process and retain information more quickly. And when I needed Cousin Rob’s assistance, I called him, allowing me a real human interaction.

There was no checking mail before going to bed. I was certain Rackspace’s exchange hosting was still disabled. I went to sleep feeling a sense of peace I had long ago stopped experiencing.


When I awoke Monday morning, I glanced at my email, but it was still flashing the familiar error message. I didn’t have to spend ten minutes or so deleting the myriad overnight emails I’ve repeatedly unsubscribed to. It was a liberating feeling.

A part of me wanted to declare email bankruptcy and just start anew with a new email address and service. What stopped me is my previous email was the address I used to register with myriad businesses and publications; I often forget my password, and the link to reset would go to my disabled email. As well, family, friends, and old colleagues frequently send messages to the disabled address.

I was forced to reach out yet again to Jacob, my friend and former colleague. Jake is one of the few persons I’ve known who truly understands technology and can explain it in terms I can understand. He works 24/7 on his startup and I dreaded asking him for help, particularly as I was forced to call him multiple times in recent weeks because of other tech issues.

The proper and simplest way to resolve my issue would be to log into Rackspace and redirect my email to another service. But Rackspace was disabled, which meant I couldn’t log into my control panel. Jake readily had a work around solution: Redirecting my email from the company where my corporate domain was registered. The process was more complicated because I learned the outfit I registered my domain with had transferred my account to what they said was a sister company. The tech support person at the sister company said Jake’s solution wasn’t possible, but he made it happen.

Monday, December 12, 2022

It’s been more than a week since Rackspace’s hosted exchange service went down and it’s still disabled. The company reported that it experienced a ransomware attack, which doesn’t come as a surprise. No doubt among all the layoffs and cutbacks were individuals responsible for the company’s IT security and maintenance. A trade publication speculated the extortionists who compromised Rackspace’s site possibly were able to do so because the company didn’t address vulnerabilities that Microsoft recently warned about.

The San Antonio Report

According to Barron’s, “tens of thousands” of small and medium-sized businesses have been impacted by outage. The Jacobs of the tech world are frighteningly scarce, which means most Rackspace customers likely will be crippled for some time.

Learn from my mistake and heed this warning: Avoid technology businesses controlled by private equity and offshore their tech support.

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