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Fasthosts, The UK's largest web hosting company, has had a complete email failure, leaving hundreds of companies which run their Web sites on its servers fuming.

One in particular, Skyco International Food Club - a company which specialises in American food - says it has lost thousands of pounds worth of orders over Thanksgiving, its busiest time of the year.

Problems with Fasthosts customers started at the weekend and were unresolved at time of writing. The Web sites are still up and email can be sent from accounts but none are being received.

We spoke to a director of Sodaweb, Nick Slack, who has around 50 clients running on Fasthosts servers and he told us that he called the company first thing on Monday, having received hundreds of emails over the weekend.

"I eventually got through after an hour and a half, and was told they didn't know what wrong but would be back as soon as possible - at least within 24 hours," he told us. "But that was on Monday and I've heard nothing. When I called just now, I was number 26 in the queue. This is not a good use of my time."

We had no more luck either. Eventually we got through to the company and were told that the managing director Andrew Michael was on holiday this week and the marketing director Phil Doherty had already left the office. No one else was qualified to talk about the situation, we were told.

Fasthosts suffered a similar meltdown in May. Then, all email was put out for 36 hours and at a cost of £400,000, according to Mr Michael. With email down for at least four days this time, the cost could be much higher.

In May, Fasthosts put the blame on BT, saying a routing software bug or a denial of service attack at BT's Reading exchange may be to blame. BT denied any responsibility.

When we spoke to BT this morning, a spokesman told us that the company had heard nothing about Fasthosts current problem. ®

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