Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Death of SBS

I've often wondered when the era of SBS would come to an end.

It was painful in the days of 4.0 and 4.5

It was great in the days of 2000. In fact, it was good enough to have lasted another five years!

The product, in the days of 2003, has been over the top spectacular. A truly unbelievably great package! I can't think of a better bargain anywhere in technology.

So where does SBS end?

We're seen hints. You join the SBS blog and all they can talk about (which isn't much) is getting you to sign up for the Centro beta. The SBS dude, Kevin, is really the Centro dude.

Meanwhile, Exchange has become way too complicated and robust to include in SBS for very long. So you can see that spinning off. Perhaps SBS will become a combo of Server, RWW, and Sharepoint (premium adds SQL and ISA).

But the real DEATH of SBS will come from the shitty, absurdly imcompetent technical support provided by Microsoft.

Note: if your time is worth nothing, and you clients are perfectly forgiving, then you can waste huge amounts of time and labor dealing with morons who are supporting a product they've never seen.

[I'll never forget the a-hole who browsed through the active directory until he came to an empty "users" container and panicked. I thought he was going to hyperventilate. "Where are your users?"]

They destroy computers and they waste money.

I have better luck posting a request on a newsgroup and hoping someone can post a reply at 2:00 AM.

Which makes SBS no better than Linux.

I've complained about the horrible tech support for years. Microsoft's only answers are:
1) Be patient. It takes time to train people.
and
2) Since you're a certified partner, we offer a much higher level of support where you can always talk to someone who's competent. It starts at $7,000 a year.

Here's a memo I just posted to my technicians:


    Beginning immediately, no one is authorized to call Microsoft support for any issues involving SBS.

    They are the most horribly unprofessional, untrained, arrogant, and incompetent technical support we ever deal with in any company whatsoever.

    These bastards admit that they are completely incompetent and don’t know what the f*ck they’re doing, but they refuse to escalate.

    They sign our agreement that they won’t make changes to our system, but they do anyway.

    They put us on hold and then poke around all over the place demonstrating that they don’t know what they’re doing.

    They waste hours and hours and hours of time because they are absolutely incompetent – most of them have never seen SBS before!

    If you want to call Microsoft, remember:
    -- The PSS line will waste a minimum of four hours of your life – which we are paying for – and they will not solve your problem.
    -- If we can hold off the customer, we will contact the alternative support systems we have in place (Vlad, Erique, etc.)
    -- If we can’t hold off the customer, put in CD 1 and reinstall.
    -- If you want to avoid this and call Microsoft, you MUST call me personally to get permission. If you can’t get ahold of me, you are NOT authorized to call Microsoft.

    SBS is an awesome product that will die a slow death because the tech support is the worst it can possibly be.

    Wherever a client does not absolutely *need* RWW or SharePoint, we will stop quoting SBS and quote Server 2003 and Exchange 2007. It’s a little more expensive in the short run, but Microsoft is still providing competent technical support for these products. So, over the course of three years, this will be a much wiser decision.

    I’m sorry that Microsoft has completely given up on the prospect of providing competent technical support for SBS.

    But we cannot continue to dedicate our business to a product with no support.

    And we cannot afford to support SBS without competent support from the manufacturer.

    We’ll discuss at Monday meeting.
    Thanks.


Because of Microsoft's horrible and incompetent technical support, we are considering relying on another Indian-based help desk that does provide competent support: Zenith Infotech.

More about that later.

I welcome your feedback. I've heard of people who've had great support from PSS in India. But more often, I've heard from people who are happy because they've figure out ways to get around the morons in first level support and get to the real superstars in North America.

None of this bodes well for Cougar. You can't cheerlead a product with terrible tech support and expect it to take off. It might even be a better product, but we'll never know unless there's real tech support to back it up.

30 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:59 PM

    I think you refering to the Community lead blog of Kevin Beares not the SBS blog of http://blogs.technet.com/sbs

    And give feedback to the SBS partner newsgroups with the SRX's you've had issues over.

    I personally had a good engineer the other day and it's not because I'm me. But outsourced 'fill in the blank' of any kind has issues. It's called pride of ownership.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Boy Karl - I remember the start of this rant at breakfast at SMBNation East - lol!

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  3. Joe Moore4:41 AM

    Wow! Couldn't agree with you more. And don't believe the BS about Partner support being better. We're a Gold Partner and I've still waited in the same queue as everyone else. I just had an incident in fact where it took 4 days before I even got a call back and the call came in at 4:55PM. Needless to say I told them to "F*** off" and call me at a reasonable time as at that point, I've already been at the office for 10 hours. Anyways, I'm going to track you down in Denver and maybe we can all draft another "open letter"...

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  4. Anonymous7:42 AM

    Karl,

    Three words: "Relax, Focus, Succeed"

    :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous7:43 AM

    why the microsoft don't public the deep technicaly documentation about SBS ?

    from (06-2003)which prepare the PSS SBS Support Group ?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Microsoft does make a huge amount of their support info "public." Every one of my techs carries the cd/dvd version of TechNet.

    We do our research very thoroughly before we call. That's part of the frustration. We don't call every time there's a hickup.

    But too often the solution is in a white paper that hasn't been released, or a patch that's being tested, or a secret fix "we're not supposed to give out."

    Which is why we always get the call rebated: There's no way we could have found the solution on our own.

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  7. What kind of issues are you calling PSS for, anyway? I find problems requiring real-time assistance from a Microsoft technician to be exceedingly rare, on the order of zero to one incident during a server's lifetime. Do you take advantage of the partner newsgroups (both Direct Access and SBSC)? They're not always fast, but they generally get to the bottom of the issue sooner or later, and they don't waste your time or mess up your systems.

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  8. We support just under 100 servers. So, the calculation of one incident per 3-year lifetime of a server is about right. That's roughly 30 incidents per year.

    In our case 10-12 of those result in calls to Microsoft.

    Before we call, we exhaust the resources of technet, msdn, and have multiple senior technicians work on the problem.

    When we call Microsoft, the answer is never going to be solved by running the internet connection wizard.

    In addition, at that point we have a major incident. Usually a company is losing money. Posting a note to a newsgroup is not appropriate under these circumstances. We don't sell Linux for this reason.

    We need professional technical support, and we deserve to talk to someone who knows more than we do about the operating system.

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  9. Henry Craven3:00 PM

    Welcome to my Nightmare.
    However, I don't think SBS is Dead or Dying.

    The issue as I see it is that the current incarnation has become overly convoluted with the SPs, upgrades and patches. Whether India US or China, the base level support only knows the basic "out-of-the-box" install and not the mature batched hairy warts versions on our clients' boxes, and the standard "Uninstall tht component and re-install it" doesn't work any more due to version and dependancy issues.

    The top level guys are brilliant IMHO and can drill down -through- an issue and repair it at the registry/file level. - A bit like a GP who can amputate your arm and tell you to go get an artificial limb and a micro-surgeon who can re-attach it. - The issue is not enough Micro-surgeons, and getting through to them in a timely manner.

    As for SBS, we sorely need that next "Clean" version. - Bring It On !

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  10. You're correct, as usual, Henry.

    But I'm not asking for the Texas Superstars to answer every phone call.

    "Success" has become simply getting someone competent on the phone.

    When a tech asks which machine is the domain controller, they're not trained in SBS.

    When a tech panics because the users container in A.D. is empty, they're not trained in SBS.

    It's not that we have a bunch of GPs. We've got people who flunked out of a diploma mill in the Bahamas.

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  11. The new clothes on the SBS emperor have never matched the pitch for them. Congratulations on pointing that out. SBS has been the focus of some seriously silly stuff both from Microsoft and from the so-called "SBS community" for a long time. As Morpheus says to Neo in Matrix I: "Welcome to the Real World!"

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  12. Henry Craven2:10 PM

    I agree with you karl that first level support of that "quality" isn't support, it's a hindrence and expense both the the IT provider and the client company. Worst of all it's a danger.

    A week ago when discussing how to bring this degraded and degrading support issue to Microsoft's attention (over a couple of excellent reds) it was suggested that we build a Wiki where people could invoice Microsoft for the Dowwntime, IT costs and loss of productivity/income and have a running total....but sadly that would just make more work for the lawyers :-(

    ....it would make an interesting figure say over a quarter though.

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  13. I know that I posted something a few years ago about wasting way too much time with MS Support, especially from India. It was actually my first experience with the India SBS Support "team" and I definitely learned my lesson. The problem was the individual who took the lead on the call really wanted to help, and in true Indian fashion, was overly courteous... and actually kept coming up with "possibilities" which led me on, and on, and on. For a total of 12 hours over two days!

    My feedback to Microsoft after that experience (which they obviously never listened to) was that each tier of support you reach should have a maximum time limit. If they can't fix the problem within their alloted time, the call automatically escalates. These were my suggested limits:

    Tier 1: 30 minutes
    Tier 2: 60 minutes
    Tier 3: 120 minutes
    Ray Ozzie: 3 minutes

    I did a bit of research on this. Okay... I Googled "Microsoft Support Tiers Escalate" just to see what I'd find and guess what... they apparently do some kind of metrics voodoo regarding this. (Although they also apparently haven't told anyone in PSS yet).

    See: http://snipurl.com/1l5ch for the paper describing it.

    At any rate... I thought it would be best if I just implemented the policy myself and advised the first person I talked to that they had 30 minutes before I was going to request escalation. But I soon found that I was able to figure the answer quicker than they could anyhow so I stopped calling.

    I do agree with Henry that we're dealing with an overpatched system that has turned a finely tuned symphony of components into a frantic cacophony. Anyone who has done a clean R2 Premium install knows this when they are trying to figure out the order of installing ISA, SQL, WSUS, SP2, etc.

    I can say, though, that whenever I've called the "Business Critical - Server Down" team... they have always been helpful. (As long as it was during business hours - so you can be assured of getting the US team).

    FYI, there was an SBS technical document published in 2003 which I have found to be very helpful. I never found it in the TechNet library, so I have it posted on my site for anyone that want's a copy. To my knowledge, it hasn't been updated since the first version, but the basics such as wizard architecture, registry structure, etc are all there on over 500 pages of information.

    http://techsoeasy.com/pdfs/sbs2003tech.pdf

    Jeffrey B. Kane
    TechSoEasy
    San Francisco, CA

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  14. Ofer Shimrat4:19 PM

    Greetings:

    With all due respect to the author and my colleagues in this group – below is one man’s opinion.

    SBS is not dead. Lets drop ALL pretenses here. Allow me to digress.

    Take a moment to think of your metropolitan symphony orchestra at the city where you live. Think of the violins, the violas, the cello, bass, trumpets, clarinets, oboes, the percussion, the piano, et al. Imagine how hard it is to MASTER just one - ONLY one - of those instruments your whole life so that you can be good enough to play at a metropolitan symphony level organization. Now imagine knowing EVERYTHING there is to know about those instruments and when EXACTLY they come in or when they stay quiet, how subtle their tone or how inflective their cadence.

    Are you imagining all this?

    Good – because that is what the orchestra conductor does – and in addition, he has to know the entire ORIGINAL symphony composition, as the composer WROTE it, by heart in order to REALLY excel at what he/she does.

    Rhetorically, what sets symphony conductors APART? Why is the New York Philharmonic Orchestra better than the Fargo Philharmonic Orchestra (no offense to North Dakotans)?

    Why?

    Among other things, talent, practice, mastery of the subject matter, humility and passion - the conductor has to know it ALL – and it HAS to be BY THE BOOK – or score, in this case.

    By the book.

    Metaphorically speaking, as consultants in the SMB space selling, installing, deploying, implementing and maintaining SBS – we ARE conductors. And as good SBS consultants we are akin to good symphony conductors. We have to know MUCH more than the average MCSE in a single particular area of expertise. There are MANY more fields that we have to have robust knowledge of in order to be considered good at what we do.

    On a business level we have to determine the business need, the desired outcome and the methodology to get there. On a technology level we have to master not ONE server product, but SEVERAL server products bundled in SBS. We have to master not ONE piece of hardware but SEVERAL pieces of hardware to corroborate the desired outcome with SBS. We have to master not ONE piece of software but SEVERAL pieces of software in order to make the client machines function PREDICTABLY with SBS – you get the picture.

    Rocket science, perhaps.
    RTFM, definitely.
    Profit, no doubt.
    Common sense, for sure.
    Humility, always helpful.
    The customer’s best LONG TERM interest at heart, YES.

    What makes good SBS consultants like good conductors – what separates application developers from code monkeys – what differentiates people that are GOOD at what they do versus people who are charlatans?

    What?

    It’s the innate ability to recognize when the technology you are offering does NOT match the NEED of the customer NOR the outcome they desire. It’s the silly and somewhat unethical compromises that unfortunately many SMB consultants make in order to sell themselves so that they can cement the DEAL, irrespective of the LONG TERM interest of their client.

    It’s the $ 399 servers – it’s the lets-not-install-all-the-features syndrome because they won’t use it yet so I-can-make-more-money-later – it’s the hardware/software/networking corners they cut at every juncture to maximize the almighty profit – it’s the ATTITUDE that they are in business JUST to make money and the client be damned – it’s the lack of imagination when confronting a tech support problem that almost ALWAYS has been confronted by someone before and SOLVED, and if not at minimum, addressed already in abundant detail in blogs all over the Internet.

    Too often in the field I encounter previous deployments of SBS from people who had NO business even attempting to install it let alone deploy it – bad hardware, enterprise MCSE’s mindset, NO wizards, poor business judgment, just in it for the money, geeky friend-of-a-friend, apprentice-in-training, or SMB charlatans that simply do not take the time to learn and MASTER their trade and do not rise up to their own lack of knowledge.

    That counter-productive behavior will yield lots and LOTS of tech support calls to Tier 1 support at Microsoft – lots and LOTS of frustration at spending HOURS with someone in China, India, the US or Belgium to de-construct BAD decisions made by the consultant EARLY on in the planning phase – decisions, TIME and resources that would have made all the difference had it been done early on PROACTIVELY instead of late-after-the-fact REACTIVELY – decisions that should have been tested in development before being put in production.

    In a perverse kind of way it’s PAYBACK for poor judgment.

    How?

    As good consultants, we have to be able to correctly match the needs of our clients with technology offerings, stay within a reasonable budget and subsequently equal or in most cases strive to EXCEED the prevailing expectations – that enhances our reputation, brings us additional word of mouth business and sets us APART from other run-of-the mill consultants in our SMB space – or ANY space for that matter.

    And for the MOST part, if we have followed Best Practices, did it by the book as Microsoft intended, had good hardware and had our client’s Best Interests at Heart – for the most part – the SBS deployments and server/network operation are flawless. Again, stuff happens, hardware fails, software get corrupted - when it does the good consultant will exhaust the plethora of available resources – Susan, Wayne, Jeff, Andy, Chad, Anne, Vlad, Mariette, etc – before even THINKING about soliciting formal tech support from Tier 1 level from someone who is alarmed – ALARMED – at the fact that there is no users in the usual AD hive as part of the “troubleshooting” process in SBS.

    I manage, by MYSELF, more than 70 servers in over 50 SBS customer sites with hundreds of workstations and I do it by the book – as the designers, planners, developers and programmers intended it. Just for kicks, at the risk of eliciting all kinds of comments from the community, I even have one customer site where their SBS 2003 SP1 server (Gateway hardware) has been up for 504 days – that’s a year and half – without ever being rebooted or going down – yes I did patch it for DST.

    So I will have to agree with select previous posts from Susan, Tony, Anne, Jeff, et al and say that MOST of the issues encountered REACTIVELY are as a result of poor PROACTIVE initial deployment. Because just like a good conductor pays homage to the ORIGINAL composition, a good SBS consultant pays homage to the original designers by planning, deploying, installing, configuring and maintaining SBS by the book.

    Can you imagine an SBS installation that is NOT done by the book and then what a surprise – needs tech support.

    Can you imagine a conductor of an orchestra that is playing a Mozart piece suddenly digress and play Stravinsky?

    Do you think the AUDIENCE or the MUSICIANS would REQUIRE tech support at that juncture?

    SBS is not dead – it’s here and thriving Thank-You-Very-Much - what should be retired ASAP is the concept of poor implementations, lets-wing-it, bad judgment, incompetent work and arrogance.

    My diatribe concludes by saying that it’s all about the BOOK, the WORK ETHIC and PRIDE OF WORKSMANSHIP – all of the other components will magically FALL into place and you WILL make money to boot – RARELY needing formal tech support.

    Which is what separates a cacophony from a symphony and a bad SBS consultant from a good one.

    Regards,

    Ofer Shimrat
    SOUNDOFF Computing
    San Diego, CA

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  15. Ofer,

    So you're under impression that the problems that people call Microsoft for all stem from poor deployment, unprofessionalism and lack of research?

    I could dismiss your arguments one by one quite easilly, but I think you're missing the point of Karl's article and the pain point that we are all experiencing: The technical support is not good enough. I don't care that you don't need it - great for you! Those that do need the support aren't getting it. And thats the point, and the final undoing of SBS bundle - the complexity is skyrocketing while Microsoft's (and ours) ability to effectively support these complex integrated solutions is being marginalized.

    -Vlad

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  16. Ofer, I agree with many of your points. But it does sound as if you believe that everyone should just tough it out and solve their own problems.

    With unlimited time and resources, that might be true.

    We used to virtually never call Microsoft. But as we became busier and more successful, we had to put in strict guidelines about escalation.

    In every support call (to any vendor) there's a point where we can't make money. We need to choose vendors that provide us with success before we reach the point where we lose money.

    Symantec does that.
    HP does that.
    Diskeeper does that.
    Dell does that.
    Sage does that.
    Intuit does that.
    SBC does that.
    Frontier does that.
    ACT! does that.
    PC Law does that.
    Deep Six does that.
    Exchange Defender does that.
    Network Solution does that.

    and truth be told . . .
    MS PSS for SQL does that.
    MS PSS for Server 2003 does that.
    MS PSS for Exchange does that.
    MS PSS for Sharepoint does that.
    MS PSS for Office does that.

    The point is:

    Microsoft PSS for SBS is horrible and wastes our time.

    We cannot make money when anything goes wrong with SBS.

    It might be the single greatest operating system ever invented. But if I can't make money supporting it, I need to support something else.

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  17. Ofer Shimrat11:35 PM

    Greetings Vlad:

    I am under the impression that MANY “problems that people call Microsoft for all stem from poor deployment, unprofessionalism and lack of research” – not ALL problems.

    I am under the impression that people should initially resort to the bevy of online resources before attempting to call Microsoft support, or any OTHER vendor’s support for that matter, because the answer may be closer and faster than waiting for 60 minutes before speaking with someone that may - just may - be competent in SBS matters.

    That is like going to the hospital emergency room for cold symptoms.

    I also have had to endure tech support calls to Microsoft and I concur that it can be improved. My experiences have varied anywhere from the level of incompetence that Karl was experiencing all the way to first rate “guru” level assistance from Microsoft in England, India, Texas and North Carolina.

    I am sure that Microsoft is aware of these issues of inconsistencies in their tech support line up – just like Symantec, Pervasive, Cisco, Netgear, Intel, Sage, Meridian Systems, etc – they ALL have room for improvement and are probably devising strategies to counter negative perceptions as we speak.

    Do you know ANYONE that is cheerfully happy on a CONSISTENT basis with their experiences with tech support with DELL, HP, AMERICAN EXPRESS or AT&T – to pick on a few. I don’t.

    Having said that, Microsoft could GREATLY improve its tech support specific to SBS by doing a better job of what exact SBS centric errors exist and how to solve them - if only the errors and other symptoms in the Event Viewer were a FINITE science that could be quickly looked up and resolved. Perhaps Cougar will address that better.

    But to say SBS is dead for these issues is a stretch – in my opinion.

    And after all this, Karl’s blog, is a forum of opinions, so go ahead and dismiss my “arguments one by one quite easily” – if I do not have a retort I will probably learn something new.

    Respectfully,

    Ofer Shimrat

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  18. Ofer Shimrat12:40 AM

    Thanks Karl:

    Your original post got me thinking about what I more often than not encounter in the field with so-called experts and “solution” providers. Probably not much different than what you encounter in your area by the same sort of “consultants” and why you and your company are successful.

    Your assertion that SBS is dead was, in my opinion, addressing the symptom and not one or more of the underlying problems associated with planning, initial deployment and implementation.

    Hence the overall tone of my post directed at those problems and why I thought that SBS is not dead. After reading the follow ups I think we are coming at different conclusions based on two different perspectives.

    I am currently a one man shop offering multiple networking and database services with plans to expand in the very near future.

    As such, I can appreciate your comments about “With unlimited time and resources, that might be true” since the resources are after all, just me.

    So it is my time as an owner, sometimes billable and sometimes not, that we are talking about when I make these Microsoft tech support ventures after I have exhausted all alternative Internet sites, peer groups, blogs and the like.

    As you can imagine, I adhere to the break-fix model and to date, I am bucking the trend regarding managed services.

    If I feel it is a problem caused by something I did or omitted then I do not bill the client – it is my responsibility. If the problem was caused by other outside factors, including patches, other software interactions or improper staff use or the like then I most definitely bill the client and verbosely explain in detailed invoices what the nature of the problem was and its resolution – my clients know that I was there and trust that I resolve it.

    Your comments about setting “strict guidelines about escalation” as you “became busier and more successful” intrigue me, since presumably you started out like me – by yourself – and grew into a larger organization. As such, time is money in terms of paying out hourly fees or overtime to YOUR staff for unsolved and lengthy episodes with Microsoft, Symantec, Cisco, et al.

    I am assuming that applies to your business now – regardless of whether you adhere to the break-fix modicum or managed services modicum – or both. I also have to assume that you absolutely exhaust all possible avenues with the available resources before you actually call Microsoft and toil with their Tier 1 PSS for SBS support.

    Therefore, for now, I can not possibly compare my business model to yours – that would not be fair – since your costs in terms of payroll are adversely impacted by any and all of these episodes, whereas my time is spent commensurate with what the issue is and I make the determination to bill or not.

    What I can do, moving forward, is to devise a model for my expansion plans where I very SERIOUSLY take a look at the balance of work that my larger company will be doing – the balance being what portion will be break-fix and what portion will be managed services.

    What model lends itself to better handle the situation you are describing with SBS PSS – what happens when tech support form other vendors is equally incompetent – how is my client BEST served by the decision that my company makes.

    When I cross that juncture I will have to report back to you so we can compare apples to apples – until then, I will keep the break fix model and continue to fanatically plan, implement and deploy SBS installations as perfectly as I possibly can – to minimize my exposure to what you describe as “horrible” support from PSS.

    Respectfully,

    Ofer Shimrat
    SOUNDOFF Computing
    San Diego, CA

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  19. We have also experienced greatly diminished expertise in the SBS PSS support. Our average resolution time this year is roughly 9 hours, with 1 call-back the next day (again, usually at around 4pm EST, which is incredibly frustrating).

    We've pretty much given up on PSS (which may be Microsoft's passive-aggressive cost-cutting strategy, for all I know).

    Our go-to strategy so far is to
    1. Refer to our internal kb
    2. Refer to TechNet DVD
    3. Refer to http://experts-exchange.com and http://event-id.net
    4. Hit the groups.

    PSS is a last-resort process, however we use an entry-level tech or intern to man the phone call and keep the lead engineer researching and working the problem. If the intern encounters a question they don't know how to answer, they put PSS on hold and counsel with our engineer. We thought this a suitable policy given that this is what we're subjected to.

    If we can't resolve it with them by 30 minutes we demand an escalation (sometimes we have to throw out the "We're a Gold Certified Partner, send us up please").

    If we get to Level 3 (which is usually Texas) then the Engineer taks over the call again. That usually gets it solved within 15-20 minutes.

    We ONLY call PSS about 10% of the time, as our initial 4 procedures usually solves the problem within 1 hour. PSS currently is only successful in resolving the problem around 25% of the time, the other 75% is "reinstall the SBS server". We always continue to research the problem after a reinstallation (and use our backup on a similar lab machine) in order to populate our kb in our free time, and we end up resolving the problem around 1/2 the time, thereby proving that there is indeed a resolution other than a rebuild.

    Thank the Lord Jeff Middleton that a Swing Migration is relatively fast, as this is our LAST DITCH fix (and usually successful).

    It's a shame that PSS has tanked - they used to be top-notch a few years ago.

    Rick Wohleber
    Central Florida Technology

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  20. Ofer,
    Please let me be very clear. I love the SBS product.

    But, as Vlad points out, it is complicated. And, as Henry points out, it is not a bit of a Frankenstein.

    SBS's death will come because Microsoft is no longer making an effort to support this product.

    I did start out as a sole proprietor. My time was worth nothing because I could work twelve hours on a problem and it "cost" me the same.

    I don't think managed service vs. break/fix is a major factor here. When you're paying a tech by the hour, not billing for his time, and not billing any other clients, you're losing money.

    That's why escalation matters so much. You have to put limits on how much money you can waste.

    One way to set these limits is to sell products with excellent support.

    That means stop selling SBS.

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  21. Anonymous9:28 AM

    A really good SBS consultant does not need technical support. I have been working with SBS from its beginnings in the late 90's via SBS 4.0 (beta) and I've contacted Microsoft support only twice in my carrier of working with this product (it was once with 4.0 and once with 4.5 – contacting support with regards to these two releases was simply unavoidable! ). I have never needed to call support for the 2000 / 2003 products. Follow best practices and your team of techies will have the same experience. SBS is not the problem...it's the people who attempt to deploy it incorrectly. Being a truly good SBSer is a real art form. You can’t apply the knowledge of the individual components that comprise SBS in the same way…you must do it the SBS way. An MCSE who has never worked with SBS before is the guaranteed quickest way to break an SBS system. It is SO important not only know what to do, but what NOT to do with SBS. Knowing will almost (if not completely) eliminate the need for Microsoft tech support regardless of how good or bad it may be.

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  22. Anonymous9:52 AM

    Karl,

    In one of your posts you made the following statement:

    "We used to virtually never call Microsoft. But as we became busier and more successful, we had to put in strict guidelines about escalation."

    To me, it appears you grew, had to hire techs that don't have the skills they need, and you are now dependant on Microsoft PSS too much.

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  23. With all due respect, Anon, you don't the level of my technicians. Let me tell you, they're awesome.

    It is absolutely incorrect that SBS does not require outside support.

    With "brute force" and unlimited time, a decent technician can solve any problem.

    But when I've got a technician standing in front of a server down, and we're past the point where we can charge the client, I need a higher level of support to get the system up ASAP.

    It's pure arrogance to say that you don't ever need to call for help.

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  24. Isilra2:41 PM

    Hello. I am quite glad that I came across this blog and the opportunity to read your post along with accompanying comments on the same. Before I say anything on the topic, I want to mention that I am an insider at the SBS India Support Business though not of the engineer role and would like to share my point of view from the other side of the fence. I will try to address the majority of points raised in your post and the comments, with an intention of defending the excellent work that Microsoft SBS India is doing.

    Putting things in perspective is very important. Undoubtedly you all have had bad experiences with the Level 1 support in India but who is counting the number of satisfied customers who go home every day after a Microsoft SBS support call, and am not talking about the run CEICW and fix it types but of the registry hacks and ntfs cracks ones.

    Would you agree that an engineer on a support call is quite capable of identifying when a customer is not happy with the way the support is proceeding, even if the customer is not being vocal about it? If yes, then I would like to point out that customers with your level of dissatisfaction would be below 3% of the entire support satisfaction spectrum. From where I stand, it seems that 97% of the people who call us go back very satisfied with the support and that bodes quite well for the SBS support in India, the SBS product and all its future iterations.

    For the sake of argument, I am going to concede the fact that you are all gentlemen with very high levels of preparedness and thoroughness in researching an issue before you call Microsoft. So much so that it is on very rare occasions that you have to resort to calling Microsoft and when you do, it's nothing less than the escalation team in Texas who can help you out. However, do realize that it is the ground work done by the first level in gathering data and getting all the tried and tested methods out of the way that it enables the escalation team to deliver the quick and efficient resolutions that they do. If an escalation engineer were to start from scratch with a support call without the aid of the first level's data gathering and method elimination you would see the 20 minutes increase to a considerable time. Nevertheless, I would agree on the wonderful team that they are and the invaluable support they provide to the first levels.

    With regards to the engineer and his case of the missing users, believe me when I say that if Identified he would be as much an object of ridicule and laughter in the support team as he is on this blog. Such engineers are exceptionally rare and when present either shape up or ship out.

    In response to cft, rebuilds are suggested not with the opinion that “nothing can be done now, this server is dead!”, but with the consideration that a server down needs to be brought up ASAP without any further loss of business for the customer/consultant and his client. If a rebuild is going to be faster than a troubleshooting trial and error that is going to last a good part of the day, then a rebuild is suggested with the customer still having a choice of continuing the troubleshooting unless it’s an abject and proven hardware failure.

    SBS Support in India is still young and It won’t be fair to reminisce about the support two years ago you used to get from North American engineers and then compare it with the one in India. The product has grown, the product has become more complicated and most importantly there are more and more users using the product and as a result requiring support. As the support requirement increased, the handful engineers in NA were not enough to satisfy that demand and more importantly it was difficult for them to filter out the basic issues that could be solved by a first level from the ones that gentlemen like you came up with requiring their expertise. For now, SBS India is acting as that filter with over 500 engineers deployed over multiple sites and as these engineers’s gain in experience and expertise(not at your cost) they will eventually become as good as the ones in NA. That means hundreds of engineers who could be in the escalation line instead of the handful now. In consequence, I can only see the future for SBS and its support improving with each passing day instead of the doom that you predict.

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  25. Anonymous3:48 PM

    If SBS support really sucks .. then why the F***k we call the support line .. we do our own research as we do have subscribed to TechNet (CD/DVD) .... most of the guys who call in the Suppot are insane and they do R&D and after something is broken we call SBS .. as if they are some GODs and gonna work out some miracle to resolve the issue .... Some of us are actually Morons .. bec without knowing the cause of the issues we call the support line ....

    So who cares howz the support line but we still use the same Junk .. and call the same ppl to get our issues resolved.

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  26. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  27. Just for the record, a user an a known ip address posted the comments at 241pm, which are very well reasoned and rational.

    That person, or another person at the same machine then posted the rude comments posted at 348pm and a series of much more rude and abusive comments to several different posts.

    The posts that were purely abusive were deleted.

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  28. This is in response to the comments posted at 241pm.

    Isilra:

    First, I believe the system you describe, in which support technicians give an impression of how happy their clients are is a system prone to exaggeration. It's human nature.

    Second, I understand that the support in MS India is young. But that is not my problem. That is Microsoft's problem.

    I know the people in MS India are hard working. And I know that they're not the superstars in Texas.

    Third, I believe that any consultant will eventually need assistance with SBS.

    Fourth, if that consultant is competent, he needs to have a way to get escalated to a level of competent support in a timely manner.

    Right now Microsoft can't do that.

    Right now competent technicians have zero first level support. It takes hours of frustration to get to real help.

    Again, that's not your fault. That's not my fault. That's Microsoft's fault. They have a system that focuses entirely on incompetent end users.

    And provides no real support for comptetent technicians.

    Consultants can't fix Microsoft's support system.

    And the bottom line for a business is simple: If we can't get support on a product, we need to sell something else.

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  29. I have removed a comment posted from one of the Microsoft support engineers.

    The post disclosed information from our support calls to Microsoft.

    The post also included a threat against me personally.

    As none of this contributes to an intelligent discussion of product support, I removed the comment.

    ReplyDelete

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