Microsoft apologizes for, but doesn't really fix, software validation snafu

Problems with the volume licensing server have left some customers unable to use their apps for more than a month

Problems with the licensing server has left some customers unable to use their apps for more than a month

Microsoft today apologized and explained why its Volume Licensing Service Center has been refusing to allow some legitimate users to access their Microsoft software for about the past month. Microsoft updated its VLSC in December and since then, some resellers and users have been reporting problems. Those affected include businesses purchasing Microsoft software, or resellers and integrators handling newly-purchased software for business customers, according to Computerworld.

On Monday, a blog post on the Microsoft SMB Community Blog from Eric Ligman, Global Partner Experience Lead, said, "... we sincerely apologize to our partners and customers for the inconvenience that they have had during the upgrade improvements for the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) site."

He then went on to explain that the update to the VLSC site had three major changes, and, although he never came out and blamed these new features, hinted that they are the source of the problem. The site now forces business users to grant permission rights to a reseller before a reseller can access the VLSC on the customer's behalf. The reason for this? Microsoft wants customers to know that they are legally responsible for the terms of the license, even if that license was sold, implemented and administered by their reseller.

Explains Ligman, "While it may be inconvenient, the customer is legally responsible for the terms and conditions of the agreement and this protects the organization’s assets and confirms that a partner is representing on behalf of the customer."

Ligman says it comes down to the fact that Microsoft wants valid e-mail addresses for both customers and reseller in the VLSC. But that's not all. Microsoft requires a valid Windows LiveID address, too. Ligman says that Microsoft validates the e-mail address by mailing a validation invitation to the address given that users would have to open. Nothing unusual in that. He then hints that some of the problems are from people that either never before had an e-mail address, or couldn't remember the e-mail address they used to activate their volume license agreements. (Although I have no direct knowledge about the workings or non-workings of this system, I'm not buying that. How many people who buy volume licenses of software are somehow incapable of figuring out an e-mail validation scheme -- if said scheme was working properly?)

The third change is the addition of an ID that indicates the user has administrator privileges. Customers need these privileges in order to see their licensing information. The customer (an administrator, presumably) needs to log into the VLSC and set permissions in order to get the permissions to see their VLSC settings.

For the folks locked out of the software, the solution isn't an easy one. Microsoft it still trying to handle each situation on a case-by-case basis and that means, sorry, waiting in the long phone queue with all the others still locked out. Ligman says, "As with any new experience, we anticipate that many partners or customers may have questions, which can cause a longer than average hold time in some regions. We apologize for this inconvenience."

On the plus side, Ligman says that if you are one of the companies having problems and you post a private comment to his blog , he'll review it personally.

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