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Glitch strands Microsoft business customers

Microsoft's efforts to revamp its licensing Web site have left many customers unable to access their accounts.

Microsoft's efforts to revamp a Web site that handles software licensing for businesses have resulted in hours of frustration for some of the company's most loyal customers.

Problems arose early last month when Microsoft aimed to consolidate three separate Web sites into a single, more secure site. Almost immediately, Microsoft could tell something was wrong as customers were unable to sign into the site.

While unable to log in, business customers and the partners that manage software for businesses can't do things like download software, obtain necessary license keys, and manage volume licenses.

"We certainly know the inconvenience this has caused and we apologize to partners and customers," said Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos.

The software maker says it is not sure how many customers are affected, but said the "vast majority" are able to use the site without issue. Since more than 1 million people access Microsoft's sites, if even a small percentage of users are affected, it still could mean thousands of customers with problems.

Microsoft took down the new site--the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center--for a week last month to better understand the issues people were having. It was able to see the problem, but didn't find a mass solution for it. Instead, Microsoft is having to solve the registration issues on a case-by-case basis, resulting in long waits on its customer support phone lines.

"We know what they are going through and we are working as fast as we can," Gellos said.

One longtime customer, who asked that his name not be used, said that he has been trying for weeks to regain access to his account. The customer, who has several accounts with Microsoft, said one is due to expire shortly and he has been unable to ascertain how much it will cost to renew his contract.

"The disturbing part was and is that while we all have things go wrong, and downtime that incurs from that, they are leaving their very loyal, high paying customers out in the dust," the customer said.