A new client approached me today and asked for help updating her site and solving her email dilemma. The changes to web pages were not problem.

However, I couldn’t solve her email issue. She complained that she had to log on to each email account on her system every 33 days or else the hosting service would delete the email box.

I’d never heard of this before.

I have heard of hosting services limiting the amount of stored mail each mailbox could save, and I’ve heard of limits on the total amount of email stored for all accounts. But, I have never heard of an activity requirement for an email account.

But, PowWeb.com indeed has a requirement that each email account be regularly accessed or its suspended and then deleted. Their FAQ says they do this because inactive mail accounts attract spam. When we asked that our client’s account be set up to escape this requirement, tech support said:

On our platform, the mailboxes which are inactive for 90 days or more are disabled automatically. This is an automated process which is done from the backend. Please note that this is being done to provide our customers with the better services and smooth flow of emails on our servers. This is the reason, we suggest our customers to access their mailboxes via WebMail. This is the only option we provide our customers.

Say what? This policy is nuts!

Inactive accounts don’t attract spam — publicly known email addresses attract spam. Besides, PowWeb already has a limit on the amount of disk space each email account can use, so even an inactive spam magnet will fill quickly and not hog additional resources.

More importantly, my client says that this policy is enforced even on email accounts that forward all incoming mail to other addresses hosted elsewhere. Email addresses such as [email protected] forward to the owner’s personal email account where she retrieves all her mail. Those forwarded accounts take no disk space. Yet, PowWeb is insisting that she log on to the phantom [email protected] account every 90 days.

Note: the policy says the email accounts must be accesses every 90 days. My client accessed her email addresses October 8, and she received 5-day deactivation warnings on November 5. That’s more like 33 days.

My client now wants to move hosting services to a place that doesn’t have such an email policy. I recommend Webmasters.com, and they don’t have a policy like that. But, aside from personal experience, I don’t know how I would tell that a hosting service is free from such a squirrelly access requirement.

What are you supposed to do when you’re shopping for hosting services? Ask, “Do you have any incredibly stupid rules that I should know about?”