Email outage affects Shenandoah County businesses

Published: Jan. 15, 2022 at 7:50 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 15, 2022 at 8:36 PM EST
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STRASBURG, Va. (WHSV) - UPDATE: As of Sunday Shentel says email service is back up for some customers and the outage should be completely over within 24 hours, many accounts have been unlocked and emails from the four-day outage should all trickle in within in the next day.

The email outage began on Wednesday and affected many residents and businesses in Shenandoah County.

“All my reservation requests that people submit on my website come through my email. I get the email, I put the reservation in, and they get a confirmation, so at that point nothing happens if I have no email,” said Tammy Orndorff, owner of the Creature Comfort Inn in Strasburg.

The Creature Comfort Inn hasn’t gotten any reservations or training requests since Tuesday, as the business has been unable to access its Shentel email account.

Elaine Cheng, Shentel’s chief information officer, said their third party provider is working to fix the issue.

“The outage is still going on. We have a third party that provides this service for us to our customers, and they have been out since Wednesday. They’ve been working very diligently 24/7 and hope to have it back up soon,” said Cheng.

The third party provider, Mail2World, attributes the outage to a ransomware attack on the company that has affected thousands of Shentel email accounts and millions of other email accounts across the globe.

Pot Town Organics in Strasburg said that while the outage hasn’t affected their sales, it has caused big problems behind the scenes.

“We don’t know when we have orders coming in. We get email alerts, so if we’ve got a big truck or something that’s coming, we don’t know when it’s coming and we’re not prepared,” said Janet Heishman, owner of Pot Town Organics.

The inability to communicate with drivers making deliveries has made things hectic for the business that has a relatively small staff.

“All of a sudden a truck shows up back here with a delivery and, depending on how many people might be working, we may have to close the front door to get the forklift out to unload the truck,” said Heishman.

Orndorff said this isn’t the first time she’s had trouble with her Shentel account, but it is the longest outage she’s seen to date.

“This is not really the first time this has happened. It’s happened a number of times over the last few years. It’s been outages, sometimes just of incoming mail, and sometimes both outgoing and incoming,” she said.

The ransomware attack is not directly affecting Shentel or any of its other services, and the company said all their customers incoming mail should be available when service is restored.

“Our third party provider has assured us that the customer email itself is safe and secure and they are collecting the incoming mail, and that will be available to customers as soon as the service is back up,” said Cheng.

Shentel has been providing updates to customers on its website, but is unsure when the outage will end.

“We’ll just patiently wait until this is resolved. I just can’t imagine what it’s gonna be like going through four or five days worth of emails,” said Heishman.

Businesses with Shentel emails don’t know what customers who have tried to email them have gotten in response or how behind they’ll be when service is restored.

“They’re kind of just hanging out in the wind and I have no idea that they need a reservation, so we’re just kind of winging it for now,” said Orndorff.

Shentel says it understands its customers frustrations and apologizes for the inconvenience.

“We do understand that this a critical issue for our customers and we understand they’re frustrated, and we are very sorry for that inconvenience and do hope that our third party can get that service up as quickly as possible,” said Cheng.

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