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Flummoxed by lessons

Feb 16, 20064 mins
Backup and RecoveryComputers

* One reader's backup falls into Keystone Kops mode

This cautionary tale about the need to keep track of key suppliers comes from reader Mike in Arizona. Mike uses the Iomega REV 35 cartridges for backup, the same ones I discussed back in October. The cartridges hold 35 gigabytes (more than double that with compression) and read and write faster than tapes, so I believe they provide a good back-up option. Mike said they do a great job for him and have for over 18 months.

The sad story starts, as so many do, with a server crash. Mike’s Windows 2000 Small Business Server domain controller crashed, and Mike restored it. Here comes Lesson No. 1: when Mike reinstalled his Veritas back-up software, he discovered the previous IT person (Lesson No. 2) had lost the license keys.

No problem, thought Mike, just call Veritas and explain the situation. Lesson No. 3: Veritas was no more after being eaten (excuse me, business majors, I mean acquired) by Symantec.

Mike has the original packaging and the original CD but no license keys. Symantec support people told him they had no record of him (I count transferred records as Lesson No. 4) and no record of the online product registration for Mike’s company. Sorry, Mike, they said, we won’t help you.

Needing backups, Mike purchased the newest version of his Veritas software, now called Symantec Backup Exec Version 10d. New software version counts as Lesson No. 5. He frankly was unthrilled with the support he didn’t get from Veritas/Symantec, and this is when he sent me a note.

Version 10d installed easily, but didn’t work with the Iomega REV drives. In two years, Mike’s company had bought two software packages from two different resellers, who were helpful but had no ability to investigate hardware drivers in software packages. Support problems like this must always go back to the vendor.

I contacted people I know at Symantec and Iomega. Although I feel I’m a wonderful guy, I know companies respond because I write this column, not because of my wonderfulness. Mike’s problem jumped up a support level or two, and he started to get some real service. Shame he didn’t get real support after buying two full software packages, but this is the modern world in which we live.

Covering my bases, I verified with Mike that all the cables were connected and hardware tested. Iomega walked Mike through some tests, and his REV 35 drive passed completely. Never overlook the possibility an unplugged cable or wrong switch setting when troubleshooting.

Turns out Symantec Backup Exec Version 10d and Iomega REV 35 drives don’t work well together on Windows 2000 Small Business Server. Mike moved everything to a server running Windows 2003 SBS, and all ran like champs. So Lesson No. 6, a server operating system upgrade, stops the Keystone Kops movie and Mike can once again sleep easily knowing his data backups actually write data to the Iomega REV 35 disks.

Moral of this story? I think we can learn three things from Mike’s mess.

First, don’t give up when you deserve some action. I don’t think I would have bought a new software package as soon as Mike did, but he waited three weeks for vendor support to help and couldn’t skip his backups any more. I understand that pressure.

Second, keep your license keys safe, and verify you have them. Veritas included the license keys on stickers in the box, but not on the actual CD sleeve like many vendors. Lost license key stickers can lead to trouble, as Mike can tell you. Vendors should put the stickers on the CD sleeve, because the CD and sleeve gets more attention than loose stickers in the box.

Third, if a primary vendor gets acquired, check your support status before things fall apart. Easy to say now, isn’t it, but finding the time to do so during a normal hectic work day isn’t so easy. Rely on your resellers if you can, or call yourself if you have a support contract, but check when you have a spare moment.

If you have an unfolding Keystone Kops situation, let me know. Customers deserve support, but if that doesn’t work, my readers certainly deserve service, and I’ll do what I can to help.