Problem Summary

If you are a Network Solutions customer using their email service, on 13 October 2020, you may have begun noticing certificate errors on your phone, computer, or other devices. The message may say something like: “Mail can’t verify the identity of the server mail.yourwebsite.com”

On mobile devices, like the Apple iPhone, you will be shown an option to view the certificate, cancel, or trust and continue. The message will be looping, so whenever you cancel, it will return a few seconds later. You will need to keep clicking cancel to follow the steps below. If you attempt to continue, you will be told that you won’t have a secure connection with your mail server.

Problem Resolution Instructions

Below are the steps to fix this problem. In summary, you need to remove the email account from your device and add it again using a custom personalized profile provided by Network Solutions as described below.

You will need keep clicking cancel on the alert message to get through step #2 below.

If you have many email accounts, many devices, and/or are a small company with many employee email addresses, you will need to follow these steps for each of your accounts, one-by-one, on every device, which is time consuming and tedious.

Read through this entire document before continuing since some important information is included that may impact what steps you take.

IMPORTANT

These steps assume you have been properly using an IMAP configuration with Network Solutions which synchronizes your device with the mail server. In which case, deleting the email account from your device will not impact the emails that are saved on the server. Your email server and all devices are synchronized and display the same folders and emails. If you have not been using IMAP, and instead have been using POP3, it’s possible your emails are stored locally on your device and not in the server. You should save them locally before continuing, and backup your device to be safe. Read the addendum below “Do I Have POP or IMAP Configured?”

STEP #1 – Delete Account on Device

Remove the impacted email account(s) from your device by following the steps below. IMPORTANT: Do not remove the account from your Network Solutions services, only remove the account and settings on your local device.

Apple iPhone or iPad – Email Account Removal

Follow these steps to remove an email account from an iPhone or iPad:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Tap on Mail
  3. Tap on Accounts
  4. Tap on the account you would like to delete.
  5. Scroll down and tap Delete Account.

Apple Computer – Email Account Removal

On an Apple computer such as MacBook or iMac, you will do one of the following depending on how the account was originally added to the computer.

Profiles. If you had used a Profile to setup your email, you will instead go to Apple Menu (top left of screen) > System Preferences > Profiles find the impacted account and then click the “–” (minus) at the bottom to remove it. If you don’t see an option for Profiles in System Preferences, then the account was likely setup using Internet Accounts which is the more common way to add an account. See the paragraph immediately below.

Internet Accounts. If you had originally setup your email account through the Internet Accounts feature, find the account under Apple Menu (top left of screen) > System Preferences > Internet Accounts > find the impacted account and then click the “–” (minus) at the bottom to remove it.

IMPORTANT: The above steps may break any email rules for Apple Mail software on Apple computers. The rules will still exist, but if rules included moving emails to folders on the server, or account specific rules, the account and folder information will need to be configured again. If you have many rules this could be very time consuming. You may want to correct the rules and initially not apply them to existing emails for this reason. They will only be applied as new emails are received. If you apply the rules after editing them, the Mail program may slow down if it is processing emails with many rules causing the editing to go very slowly.

Windows Computer – Email Account Removal

On a Windows computer, you may be using the Windows Mail software or Microsoft Outlook. You will need to go to the appropriate Settings > Accounts area to remove the impacted account. If you need more specific settings for how to do this, place a request in the comments area at the bottom of this page and more detailed instructions can be added.

STEP #2 – Setup Account on Device

Now you can use the somewhat automated account setup feature provided by Network Solutions to quickly and correctly configure the email client software on your device.

Apple iPhone or iPad – Email Account Setup

Follow these instructions to setup an email account on your iPhone or iPad.

  1. Go to the following web address: mail.yourwebsite.com/ios and provide your email address to get started. Provide your website name in the example given here.
  2. Allow. You will see a message that says, “This website is trying to download a configuration profile. Do you want to allow this?” Tap on Allow.
  3. Close. You will see a message stating: “Profile Downloaded. Review the profile in Settings app if you want to install it.” Tap on Close.
  4. Go to Settings > General > Profile. You may need to scroll down to see the Profile option. Tap on that.
  5. Tap on the Profile associated with the email account.
  6. Tap on Install (at top right).
  7. Enter your iPhone or iPad login PIN code – The one you use to login to your device.
  8. Tap on Install.
  9. The Profile will now be installed. Follow the additional steps below to properly configure the new profile.
  10. Go back to the main Settings screen and choose Mail > Accounts > and then tap on the account you just added.
  11. Notes. If you had previously been using notes synchronized with Network Solutions, leave the notes option turned on. If you were not using notes with Network Solutions, you may wish to disable the Notes feature so you don’t inadvertently start having Notes entries going to the Network Solutions servers. When you tap the switch to turn notes off, you will get a message about deleting notes from your device. If there were notes synchronized with Network Solutions, they should still be on the Network Solutions servers. However, it’s unlikely that you would have been using this feature.
  12. Still on the Account settings screen, under IMAP, tap on Account.
  13. Name. At the top of the screen under IMAP Account Information, next to Name, enter your name or whatever you want people to see as the sender name.
  14. Description. Next to Description, tap and provide a short description for this account.
  15. Tap Done and return to the main Settings screen. Then exit to your device Home screen. Then run the Mail app to make sure everything seems to be working okay.

Apple Computer – Email Account Setup

Follow these steps to setup an email account on an Apple computer.

  1. Go to the following web address: mail.yourwebsite.com/ios and provide your email address. Provide your website name in the example given here.
  2. A Profile file will be downloaded to your computer, probably in the Downloads folder. It will be a filed named netsol.mobileconfig. Subsequent downloaded profiles will have the same name but include a sequential number after it such as netsol-1.mobileconfig. You may want to rename each profile as it downloads so you can more easily distinguish them. Then save them for future reference in case you need to install the profiles again. It will save some time. When you rename the profile, consider a name such as netsol-email.mobileconfig where email is replaced with the portion of the email address before @domain-name.com. So, netsol-sales.mobileconfig or netsol-bob-smith.mobileconfig, for example.
  3. Double-click on that file and the profile will be added to System Preferences > Profiles. You will need to enter your password to complete the process.
  4. Your email account will now be setup and available from the Apple Mail app. However, the automated setup does not configure the mailboxes properly. So all of your server mailboxes will show up under Inbox, including sent, junk, etc. This is not compliant with the Apple Mail standard to have them under their iconized sections in Mail. You need to continue with the following steps to correct this.
  5. Exit the Apple Mail program if it’s running.
  6. From the Apple Menu (top left of your screen) click on System Preferences.
  7. Click on Internet Accounts.
  8. In the left column, where accounts are listed, click on the account you just created.
  9. Description. For the Description entry, provide a short description for this account which is how it will show up in the Mail app and elsewhere for you.
  10. Name. The name entry should be your name or whatever you want displayed as the sender name.
  11. Advanced. Click on the Advanced button, and for Path Prefix, type INBOX and then press the OK button.
  12. Start the Mail program, and you should see a folder for the new account under Inbox. The other folders for the account should be available in the left Mailboxes column when you scroll down.

Windows Computer – Email Account Setup

Follow the instructions on this Network Solutions (web.com) support page for your specific Windows software configuration: https://knowledge.web.com/subjects/article/KA-01009

Question: “Do I Have POP or IMAP Configured?”

My only reservation in suggesting the ‘delete account’ option above is that some people have POP email setup and that removes emails from the server and saves them on the local device over time. Some email clients will delete ALL the saved emails when you delete the account from your computer or device. But these days POP setup is less common.

An IMAP configured system is designed to synchronize everything from your devices with the server. So, a way to test it is to move or delete a message and see if it goes from other devices that are synched. Also try sending a message and make sure it and all your other sent emails show up on all your devices in the sent folder.

Also, while some systems are setup to use IMAP and synchronize the inbox, I’ve seen some situations where the email client is configured to save sent messages locally and not on the server. On an iPhone or iPad, this setting is found under Settings > Mail > Accounts > tap on account > you should see under IMAP the account name, tap on that > tap Advanced > Here you will see Mailbox Behaviors. This normally is setup automatically and correctly. The idea is that your Sent messages for example should be saved on the server in the Sent Messages folder. However, some people may have them saved “On My Phone” in which case they will get deleted when the account is deleted.

Question: “How do I Save Emails Locally?”

Given concerns about possibly losing emails, it’s important to make sure they are saved on your computer and also backed up to an external drive. On a Windows computer, using Microsoft Outlook, you can create a PST file that is saved on your local computer and copied to an external drive for safekeeping. In the left column where you see one or more email accounts, you would also see the PST file where you can click and drag emails for local storage.

It’s a very reassuring feature because you can test it by putting the PST file on an external drive and then opening the PST file using Outlook on another computer. Another good reason to backup emails this way is to avoid losing information if your account is hacked. Also, some people will move emails off an account and onto their computer for security and to avoid exposure. If the account gets hacked, the hacker only has access to several months of emails left on the server and not 10 years of emails in your account. It also helps avoid paying for more storage space on the server.

When using the Apple Mail program you can use the “On My Mac” storage area (found in the left column) to create local folders. Emails stored in those local folders remain even after you delete the account from your device.

Feel free to post any questions in the comments area below and I’ll try to answer for your specific situation. I’ll also update this support document based on some of the questions and comments that are coming in.

Official Email Setup Documentation

The official email setup documentation is here: https://knowledge.web.com/subjects/article/KA-01009

That page offers options for Mac Mail, iPhone and iPad: https://knowledge.web.com/subjects/article/KA-01943

However, the instructions offered above on this page are important to have when correcting email issues. Also, Network Solutions has many support documents available and it’s hard to know which is the most current. The above links, as of 13 Oct 2020, are the most up-to-date.

You Are Not Alone

The maps below show recent visitors who came to this page seeking assistance. The maps suggest that the problem is wide-spread and impacting many people.

Notice of Issue Still Not Easily Found

Despite the severity and broad impact of this issue, there is no mention of it on the Network Solutions Blog or on their home page. Companies typically like to minimize these problems and keep them from public view. Network Solutions has subsequently put a notification on their website, but not immediately visible to the public. It is only visible when you visit the login page of their site (shown below). It shows up in a small announcement box that some people may overlook.

Support Document Now Available

If you click on the Click here link shown in the image above, you will be taken to a support page (shown below). For those only peripherally familiar with Network Solutions, they may be a bit confused about being sent to a support document on the web.com website instead of a support document on the Network Solutions website. The reason for this is because Network Solutions was purchased by Web.com many years ago.

While the support document provides helpful screenshots, it is not as comprehensive as it could be and should be. There are also typos in the document, which suggests the document was written in haste. For example, this statement: “If you are provided with the option to trust the new certificate, select the option to true.” That should be “trust” not “true.” People who are not technically proficient can get confused by such errors.


Scope Of Problem and Impact

The scope ad impact of this problem could have been greater, but, today many people for personal and business email are using email services from Google or paying for Microsoft Exchange cloud accounts. Such systems are very robust and reliable. A basic Gmail account is free, full featured, and offers plenty of features. Some businesses list a Gmail address as their company contact email. Others use Google services with a domain-specific address.

With so many other email services available, fewer people are opting for the simplistic free email accounts that are typically included with hosting packages. Such accounts are sometimes hard to setup, they usually don’t provide advanced junk mail filtering, and they generally have very limited storage.

Teachable Moment

There are many stereotypes about tech support professionals (called nerds, geeks, and dorks). They are considered to be socially awkward and poor communicators. Shows like Big Bang Theory reinforce these stereotypes. As someone with a life-long career in tech support, I can attest that sometimes those stereotypes can be true. I’ve worked at larger enterprises, businesses, and institutions where decisions were made and disruptive actions were taken without consulting with or notifying the users or customers who were impacted. It’s something that happens when tech developers live in a bubble and implement change without thinking of others.

In this situation, Network Solutions did not notify customers in advance that this disruptive change would be taking place. As a result, thousands of customers were likely impacted. If you’ve used Google Gmail, or Microsoft Outlook email accounts, you know that they continue working from one year to the next without problems like this. Unfortunately, Network Solutions seems to be using an email implementation that does not provide a smooth transition during security certificate renewals or changes. You also know that setting up email is normally a very simple process that involves provide your email address and password for automatic configuration. Network Solutions has implemented an email service that has a complicated setup process. They offer Microsoft Exchange Server service that offers a similar automated setup, but it is expensive.

Had customers been notified ahead of time, people could be prepared and know what the recovery and setup process would be. So, this is a good teachable moment for Network Solutions and others involved in customer service.

The cliche we’ve heard in the support industry is that customers having trouble with their phone are told to call customer service, and those having trouble with their email are told to send an email to customer service. In this case, because communications are hindered, one would want to make sure that support is provided in a way that is easily discovered and easy to access.

The above conditions combined with a persisting cultural attitude of “move fast and break things” results in compounding disruptions.

An apology should be issued to customers, but it probably won’t be issued – given the typical operating practices of most big companies.

Document History

  • 13 Oct 2020 at 10:42 AM – This support document was first created on 13 Oct 2020 at 10:42 AM.
  • 15 Oct 2020 at 2:30 PM – Additional information was added, found under the headings “Do I Have POP or IMAP Configured?” and “How do I Save Emails Locally” in response to a reader question. The maps have also been updated.
  • 15 Oct 2020 at 5:58 PM – The formatting of this page was modified to be more easily read by using large headers for each section.
  • 15 Oct 2020 at 7:16 PM – Several additions were made at the bottom of the page under the headings “Teachable Moment” and “Notice of Issue Still Not Easily Found” and “Support Document Now Available.”