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Web hosting squabble: Essar Steel Algoma fights to regain control of Algoma.com

With its web account controlled from India, Sault steelmaker worries sensitive corporate information may leak to third parties
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Essar Steel Algoma wants to transfer its web services to GoDaddy.com. But Algoma.com is registered through Essar Steel India Ltd.

There's a new twist in the Essar Steel Algoma saga and it has to do with the company's web services.

On Tuesday, Ontario's Superior Court will be asked to order New Delhi-based Net4 India, an Internet domain registrar and web hosting company, to transfer the Algoma.com registration back to the Sault steelmaker.

The Algoma domain is owned by Essar Steel Algoma, but in 2008 registration was moved to a Net4 account controlled by Jayantha Prabhu, chief information officer at Essar Group.

Court documents suggest that Prabhu has not responded to requests to arrange to have the control of the domain transferred back to Canada.

Essar Algoma wants Algoma.com hosted at GoDaddy instead of Net4, with the account registered to an Algoma employee.

"We are at risk," Anirudh Gohil, Essar Algoma's general manager for information technology and business process improvement, said last month in an internal company email.

All access to Essar Algoma's webmail, mobility gateway, customer portal, virtual private network and other applications goes through the Algoma.com domain, Gohil said.

During the recent sales and and investment solicitation process, great pains were taken to prevent the boards of Essar Steel Algoma and its Indian parent company from exchanging information, as Essar Global was interested in becoming a bidder.

"The Algoma domain is an essential asset in the operation of Algoma's business," said Brenda Stenta, Essar Algoma's manager of corporate communications, in an affidavit sworn last week.  
 
"The Algoma domain serves as the principal gateway for all of Algoma's email, webmail and world wide web facing applications, including Algoma's website and secure customer web interface. Algoma needs the ability to control all material operational elements of the Algoma domain."
 
"Algoma is currently unable to do so because the Algoma domain is registered in Essar India's customer account on Net4, and because the administrative contact on the account, Mr. Prabhu, is not an employee of Algoma," Stenta said.
 
"Mr. Prabhu's unresponsiveness and unwillingness to co-operate in transferring the Algoma domain to a customer account controlled by Algoma is unreasonable and prevents Algoma from exercising its rights as the legal owner of the Algoma domain," said Ashley Taylor, a lawyer acting for Essar Steel Algoma, in a factum filed Monday.
 
"Furthermore, so long as the Algoma domain remains in a customer account controlled by Essar India, [Essar Steel Algoma] may be prejudiced through the disclosure of their sensitive financial and commercial information to third parties, which could have a detrimental effect on [Algoma's] restructuring efforts.

Net4 says it needs a resolution from Essar Steel Algoma's board to transfer the account to GoDaddy, but two company directors are said to be unwilling to participate because board meetings are no longer held and directors are not being paid for their services.

Essar executives are checking to see whether control of other Algoma websites may need to be similarly transferred back to Canada.



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