John Croson's Blog Home: 03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sunbelt VIPRE Enterprise and MY story

This post was prompted by a couple of off-line inquiries into my experience with a recent VIPRE Enterprise deployment.

I should point out that this is NOT my first deployment of anti-virus software. I've rolled out McAfee, Trend, and Symantec server/client solutions.

I was probably found because of my activity on Twitter, since I was whining about it one day...

In any case, here's my story.

My client, a 3 shift manufacturing bakery with 90 clients and 5 servers, was looking to me and another consultant for suggestions for a replacement to Trend CSM, since it was expiring. It was suggested that we try VIPRE. I hadn't used it, did a bit of research, and eventually agreed to that it would be a good fit.

It was easy to roll out, and even easier to manage. One issue I immediately called SunBelt about was the Admin UI, and it's inability to list the known vulnerability list without bogging down, and eventually bringing the server to it's knees. NOT a good thing when the server is relied upon for other services, like say, ALL YOUR COMPANY FILES. Needless to say, I nor my client and his production staff were very happy with this interruption.

I was assured by the support staff that the next revision would correct that problem, and I shouldn't touch that "feature" again.

I do have to point out that all tech support staff I spoke with were American, and VERY helpful.

The next major issue was on the management server again, but this time the server spontaneously rebooted twice. No reason, other than a SunBelt module failure. I didn't bother to call them, since it only exhibited this behavior in one day, and never again. This didn't however, make me any more confident in the product.

The next fiasco was the 5018 and 5019 definition update. All you have to do is Google 'VIPRE 5018' and you'll find numerous posts. This major update caused problems with a number of my clients workstations, rendering them literally unusable. CPU utilization on workstations with 2.4ghz/1gb RAM pc's spiked to 100% for extended periods of time. My only recourse was to completely reinstall the client on 8 workstations, and disable definition updates at the management console until the weekend when production was thankfully shut down.

This issue was felt throughout the SunBelt customer base, and resulted in a letter of apology sent by the president of the company assuring us all that this would never happen again, and steps were being taken to improve internal processes.

The last straw was issues with our Terminal Server and a faulting module, again. This caused the machine to become unresponsive, and ultimately we removed the agent from this server, and deployed Trend to it.

We decided that this product was lacking in a few areas. One is QA. If a real-life environment was used as a test-bed for application and definition update tests, the 5018 issue would have never occurred. The other is stability, IMHO. It's touted to be light weight, yet it brought two Dell 2950 servers with 4gb of RAM to their knees, along with a slew of workstations.

Our ultimate decision was to ditch VIPRE, and update our Trend CSM solution to the new "Worry Free"... Geez, did they have to use such a wishy-washy name????

I cannot, with good conscience, recommend this product to anyone.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Time Warner Customer Service

Customer service these days seems to be lacking, when they should be excelling. I was talking about this topic with a co-worker yesterday over lunch. We both agreed that providers of goods and services need to be even more attentive to their customer base these days, especially in light of the fact that the economy is in such a mess.

Time Warner Inc.Image via Wikipedia

My wife had received a call from our local Time Warner sales staff, suggesting we could save money by purchasing their bundled voice/data/cable package. We looked at the numbers and decided we could. At that time we used Dish Network for TV, Vonage for voice, and Time Warner/Earthlink for data. It seemed like a no-brainer to her. She pays the bills, and it makes her life easier to pay fewer, especially when a 3 year old is demanding your undevided attention, or the laundry needs to get done, or the house needs to be cleaned, etc, etc, etc.

Our Dish contract at that time had 2 more months before it expired, so it was suggested by our helpful sales person that we cut over our phone immediately, along with data, then TV when Dish expired. This seemed the easiest path to take.

It so happens our tennant upstairs (we own a two-family) decided to move out around the same time. Steve cancelled his service, and moved to the other side of town.

CUSTOMER SERVICE FAUX PAS #1: Make sure the people remaining in the house don't still have service with you before you decide to clip the $%*(@#$ cables to the house.

CUSTOMER SERVICE FAUX PAS #2: Make a better effort to restore servcies to said customer, instead of making them wait 24 hours, on a weekday.

During one of our discussions, it was determined by our sales person that our data service cancellation needed to be confirmed with Earthlink. I called them, got my confirmation number, and reported it to Time Warner. I find it interesting that even though Time Warner resells Road Runner and Earthlink, and can START services through either one easily enough, they cannot access Earthlink customer service data, and consistently push their customers to Earthlink for ANY service questions.

CUSTOMER SERVICE FAUX PAS #3: Don't make your customers do the footwork you should be doing, or impliment a system THAT WORKS.

My wife discovered that she wasn't able to pay Time Warner via Bill Pay, her preferred method, since Time Warner didn't have our correct account number or something to that effect. She asked them to send paper statements until it could be figured out.

Two months passed, and a couple of contacts made by us to obtain a bill, until it was discovered that Steve (our old tenant) was getting our bills at his new address. Graciously, they allowed us to pay the mounting debt in installments, and corrected our mailing address. This process probably only caused a loss of 4 hours of my wifes life.

We also seemed to initially have issues with the phone service dropping off, and poor signal quality on certain channels. It took numerous phone calls to get them to come out to the house, and when they finally did, they determined that the service at the telephone pole was old, and needed to be replaced.

That was the nearly the last straw for my wife. What pushed her over the edge was when we wanted to have another room added. They wanted $60 for this service. Two days later, we had Direct TV installed, and Time Warner was dead.

CUSTOMER SERVICE FAUX PAS #4: When you view the service screen during your customer support call, and you see multiple accounts of past service issues, ASSUME THE CUSTOMER MAY LEAVE YOU AT ANY POINT.

Just recently my wife called Time Warner on a billing principle issue. Seems that $6 has been following our month to month bill, and she's NOT going to pay it. Why? Because she paid what they wanted, when they asked for it. The service person actually started elevating her voice level when she was trying to explain that she felt she paid what we owed, and didn't want to pay another dime.

Needless to say, it's likely that my wife will be switching us to another ISP, and also voice. They WILL loose our business, due to their apathetic view on customer service.

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