The best and worst vendor blogs

Sun shines, IBM lets loose, Microsoft disappoints, Apple is a no-show

We look at blogs of 15 top networking companies and analyze them based on criteria we developed.

At the same time, from corporate IT managers' point of view, vendor blogs can provide important information on industry trends, corporate direction and news about specific products.

We decided to take a look at blogs of 15 top networking companies and analyze them based on criteria we developed.

So, what are the characteristics of a good corporate blog? Customers are looking for "the real scoop" when they check out a corporate blog, says Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging Book. "The first thing you want to see is something you won't get on the regular corporate site. The built-in expectation is something more insider, something more direct, more revealing about the product or about the issue," she says.

In addition, a good corporate blog is easy to find, updated frequently, allows reader comment, analyzes issues important to customers and tells the truth about specific products -- positive or negative.

For example, Dell used its blog in August to smooth over a flap with customers about delays in a motherboard exchange program. Customers got detailed information on the exchange program, and some who complained in the public-comments section received direct responses from a Dell manager.

Some companies aren't as comfortable responding to customer complaints in a blog. HP LaserJet blogger Vince Ferraro answered numerous questions in July about printing problems that occurred when HP equipment was used on Microsoft Windows Vista. His blog posting, however, spurred HP to change its policy about responding to comments about product problems. The blogger now is prohibited from responding directly to comments that can be handled by customer service.

Here's a quick peek at some of the best and worst of the vendor blogs.

The good

Corporate bloggers are often at their most interesting when they write about broad issues that face IT executives.

For example, Cisco employees write a high-tech policy blog examining how government decisions affect technology. IBM master inventor Barry Whyte blogs extensively about storage virtualization.

Sun hosts dozens of blogs on Blogs.sun.com, a space the company says "is accessible to any Sun employee to write about anything."

The bad

Massive Microsoft lists just five blogs on its community blogs main page. Apple doesn't have a blog, unless you count one written by students. The list of blogless vendors includes Avaya and Juniper Networks. Juniper says it plans to launch one soon.

The ugly

Out of the 15 blogs we surveyed, the worst by far is maintained by Foundry Networks. Foundry calls its page on the SecureIT Alliance Web site a blog, but it's just a collection of press releases, product data sheets and white papers. The page contains numerous broken links and has not been updated since February 2006.


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