Microsoft has lost the plot!

Everybody knows Microsoft. Most people have been using their products since childhood! Myself, I started using Microsoft products in 1989 when I was posted to RAF Alconbury in the UK with the USAF.

Started off with Windows 3.0 using Word and Powerpoint to write reports, appraisals, directives, maintenance schedules, etc. When Access 2.0 came out, Uncle Sam sent me to school to learn how to build databases. I started building systems to track equipment on hand,  TMDE calibration schedules, and even Superbowl games (but not on government time of course!).

I remember building some intense stuff. Having to call other people who'd taken the courses for help. The internet didn't exsist, so fininding newgroups to get solutions to problems was not an option.

More often than not, I'd be on the phone to Microsoft to get help. Seems back then, once the product was reqistered, you got a years worth of technical support. After all, this stuff was state-of-the-art and getting help was a tad difficult.

But all in all, it was a pleasure to call Microsoft and talk to these guys. They seemed as excited as I was to get the system working. When they found out what I did and where I was, they bent over backwards to help.

Ah...those where the days.

A couple months ago, I talk my boss into forking out £6K to buy Microsoft Exchange to run the email side of our dedicted servers. Seemed like the best choice. The server is running Windows 2003 Server, all my users have Outlook and there's 1 or 2 guys in the Council that have experience running the software.

I am now seriously regretting spending the money! Let me tell you why...

- The software is extremely complex to setup
- Buying the software does not give you technical support from MS any more, That's extra!!
- Backup is problematic at the best of times
- Most viruses seems specifically built for Exchange!
- Microsoft Certified Training classes will run you up to £10K!

It would apear those early days of "helping our customers" are gone.

About a month ago, Windows Active Directory decided to "go south for the winter". Requiring me to reload the server. Now those who know me will think "..well that's a simple task for you!..", and they would be right. Re-loading the server took about 4 hours. Another 2 for related software and controls installation. Easy stuff.

Then it came time to re-install Exchange. And it all went pair shaped from there.

The first time I installed Exchange, I allowed the installer to set everything. Since I'd never done it before, I decided trying to customise this may not be a good idea. So I left it in the hands of the MS Exchange programers who built the setup! Very bad idea.

After I had the software re-installed, it became sickningly clear Microsoft has completely lost the plot. In Exchange, during setup, if you change ANYTHING, even the slightest detail, from a previous install, your backed up data will not re-install!! Can you believe that shit! I mean, here I am with backups going back years, copies of copies to make sure my users don't lose anything, and I can't get it back into the system because the "name of your organisation" is different from the previous installation.

Not "..backup is corrupt..", not "..unrecognised user..", not "...not enough drive space...", oh no, Exchange politly informs me that the "organisation name" currently used does not match what was previously used. Meaning when I reloaded it with CEICTS instead of ICTS (because our name has changed.....duhhhh) my backed up data is now invalid. What a pile of dog-doo!

That's like buying a telephone for your house, then moving house and having the phone company tell you "..the street address you currently have does no match the address that's in the phone. You need a new phone!" WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Furious, I call Microsoft. "WTF" I ask the technicain. "Hold on sir, do you currently purchase technical support from us?".

What?.....Excuse me?......Could you say that again? It sounded like, after spending six grand on this want more money?????? "..well yes sir, we do. Microsoft products do not come with telephone support unless you buy it..."

Gobsmacked....absolutley fucking gobsmacked. So I tell her "..could you hold on a second please?". " problem sir.". And I hang up.

Six grand to buy. A week training myself, reading the manual, test installation and configuration. Another week to get it deployed for my users. Hundreds of man hours to get it running perfect and now I'm being told that "..if you have a problem, we'll help. But you have to buy our help!!".

Ya know, in the movie Titanic, when Jack and Rose are floating on the raft? Rose is trying to wake Jack up. But he's gone. So she slowly slides him off the raft and under he goes? Well that how I felt after that phone call!!!!

To make matters worse! I find out that the Open Source equivilent, which can be bought from suppliers with "extra's", quess what comes "free-of-charge" with their product??? No, come on, think hard. What could it possibly be. Yup...right on the first go. Telephone support.

Well, I have to live with making this bad decision. Exchange is re-installed, but not before having to buy a thrid-party program (at another £500!!!!) that could hack my backups and correct the "organisation name".

Microsoft will no longer be an automatic option. In fact, I now plan to replace all MS products with OpenSource versions at the earliest oportunity.

I know three guys that work in Redding for Microsoft. Having had this discussion with them, they tell me what I've already concluded. OpenSource is the way to go. They tell me "..MS is more concerned about profit, than helping it's customers...". "Why do you think help and training is so expensive from MS? Profit...shear profit!"

Before you spend thousands on a Microsft product, or even hundreds, have a look at what open source can offer. If you must buy a MS product, check what support your getting with it. Because if it all goes pair shapped, even BT gives free telephone support!!