Thursday, May 17, 2007

Microsoft's Terrible Tech Support Forces us to Consider Alternatives

First, Let me be very clear. I am not opposed to tech support from India, South America, or anywhere else.

Fifteen years ago I was supporting HP 3000's. Pretty big iron. When something went wrong, you called HP. And, depending on the time of day, you might be talking to someone in Australia, India, Taiwan, etc. Every single technician was qualified. No one floundered around, poking at this or that. They knew what they were doing and they fixed things.

Second, not all Microsoft support in India (or other countries) sucks. SQL, Exchange, and Server 2003 are awesome.

Third, Microsoft's support of Small Business Server is deplorable. Until you can escalate your call to one of the superstars in North America, you are just as likely to have them burn your server to the ground as to get a solution.


So a few weeks ago I'm having dinner with a Partner whose business is much larger than mine. More than 50 techs. And I express my frustration with Microsoft's horrible tech support. He says "We don't call them anymore. We call Zenith Infotech."

Zenith provides outsourced helpdesk and managed services for about $37 per server per month.

So when this partner works on a problem in-house for the allotted period of time, they don't escalate to Microsoft's incompetent tech support and hope to talk their way up to the competent technicians.

They call Zenith. And the very competent technicians in India "Just solve the problem."

We're going to give this a try. We have absolutely nothing to lose. At $37 per month, $444 per year to support a server, Zenith will pay for itself the first time I don't have to waste 1-2 hours sitting on hold working my way through the Microsoft jungle to talk to someone who has never see the product before.


I've recieved back-channel requests to "work this out" and "report the problems."

The reason I'm so pissed off is not that we've had one or two incidents. We've been communicating with the PSS people for years. They've made promises and begged us to be patient. In early 2005 I was told that it takes time to train competent technicians.

So now, two years later, I'm still waiting.

How long does it take to train a competent technician? SBS 2003 has been out for 3.5 years. And you still can't call the support line and talk to someone who can do anything except run the internet connection wizard.

Bottom line for us:

  • With every call to MS Support, we know we will waste at least 1-2 hours before we get to someone who can actually help us. Nowadays they simply refuse to escalate.

  • As my business grows, and I rely on SBS2003, I have to budget this wasted time. Because we've already spent so much time on the issue, we are almost invariably not billing our client. Which means that 2 hours is costing me labor plus lost opportunity to be billing someone else. It is very frustrating, as I hire more techs, that I have to budget thousands of dollars for sitting on the phone wasting time, waiting to be put in touch with someone who can help. It is truly unacceptable.

  • If I have ten incidents in a year, I'm looking at perhaps 20 hours of lost labor, which has direct costs of about $1,000. If I could be billing half of that at $120-150, that's another $1,200-1,500. So, my real costs (not counting frustration and customer relations) are in the range of $2,200-$2,500.

  • AND then there's the cost of cleaning up after the incompetent tech support. That costs even more.

  • As I continue to grow, my budget for flushing money down this hole will have to increase. I don't have to do this with Dell, HP, Veritas, Symantec, Diskeeper, or any other product we work with.

We can't switch away from Microsoft for the core O.S.

But that core O.S. doesn't have to be SBS.

Microsoft still provides competent first-line tech support for Server 2003. So rather than switching vendors, we could switch operating systems.

We love SBS. But Microsoft has not properly supported this product. They will continue to make promises they have no intention of keeping. They will continue to beg for more time. The product is about to be replaced with the next version! How much more time do they want?

You think support for SBS2003 sucks now? Wait until they take the "good" technicians and put them on Cougar. The 2003 line will be populated by people who've never seen Windows before.

Strategically, we can't continue to sell a product that Microsoft won't/can't support.

Looking forward to a better experience with Zenith.


  1. Anonymous2:26 PM

    We ditched Microsoft Small business Server last year and replaced it with a fully managed Linux based Network Appliance from the guys at Sharp Technology ( It provides a comprehensive offering for collaboration, security and IT services and it actually supports/integrates with Windows & Active Directory environments.

  2. Anonymous2:27 PM


  3. Anonymous1:58 PM

    I wouldn't say that Microsoft's Win2K3 support is anything to brag about either. I still have to wade through the language barrier for 1-2 hours while I rattling off my contact information 5 times to 5 different people. Seriously, they already have this information in front of them, why go through the pains of reading it back to me in broken English? We are considering other sources of support as well.

  4. Anonymous6:04 AM

    I like it when I call, go through the long process of being transferred around, and then get 'accidentally' hung up on during one of the transfers, with no way of getting that person back except to go through the process tree again. I almost broke my phone after that.


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