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Tech Industry

Microsoft customers sound off on outage

Managers of technology departments around the world unite in anger against the software giant, their enemy of the moment.

    Managers of technology departments around the world united in anger Wednesday against Microsoft, their enemy of the moment.

    The software giant scrambled to find the cause of an extensive outage that blocked traffic to many of its major Web sites, including numerous sites that help developers fix problems on systems they purchased from Microsoft. Many programmers complained that they could not access online reference manuals such as "www.microsoft.com/oem."

    By 5 p.m. PT--nearly 24 hours after the outages began--Microsoft's sites were back online and operating normally, the company said.

    The outages show how problems in the highly interconnected technology industry spread quickly--a widening ripple effect emanating from Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Wash., to information technology departments, customer call centers, offices and homes around the world. The ripples spread particularly swiftly at the world's largest software company, which controls the vast majority of operating systems on desktop computers.

    Scott Parrish is chief executive of The Internet Port, an Internet service provider in Austin, Texas. When Microsoft's site outages began, a torrent of confused and upset customers barraged his call center to complain, under the assumption that it was a failure of the ISP.

    "What pisses me off...is that Microsoft does not seem to be able to get their crap together," Parrish wrote in a scathing e-mail. "If it's not their crappy software, that cost me God knows what to support, it's their network problems. They don't get blamed for this, we do! I personally am really getting tired of it."

    Parrish is dreading the time when he calculates how much the outage has cost him, noting that he has already added two extra employees to handle associated problems.

    Clay Slape owns and operates MicroZone Services, a retail computer sales and services business in Big Spring, Texas. He is a Microsoft OEM system builder and troubleshooting technician and has been unable to download anything from "www.microsoft.com/oem," which contains applications required for building new systems. He has also been locked out of the main site, Microsoft.com, which he relies on for information on Microsoft operating systems and applications software.

    "I use the Microsoft Tech Net for updated information and so on, and could not access it as well," Slape wrote in a long e-mail detailing numerous complaints about Microsoft, ranging from glitches that have complicated his job to outages that have cramped his ability to play interactive games online. "I also have e-mail accounts on Hotmail and have not been able to get info from those accounts!"

    Several other managers complained that Microsoft's outage resulted in a total inability to access information that would ordinarily help them fix technical problems.

    Daniel Ames, the information technology manager at an Internet company in London, said his main source of information for technical solutions is "www.microsoft.com/technet." When his company's Web-based e-mail system malfunctioned around noon, no one in the company could access e-mail.

    "When I attempted to seek advice from TechNet, it became apparent that I could not get the information I needed," Ames wrote. "The fact that Microsoft.com became unavailable prevented me from getting the technical support I needed to keep an Internet company fully operational.

    "These technical failures seem to reflect the trend that confidence in Microsoft software is diminishing within professional circles as more and more competitors are offering viable and often more stable software solutions. Soon, Microsoft will find themselves without their monopoly and will have to revert back to the old-fashioned art of producing stable, reliable and useable products and services," he raged.

    Roger Hawkins, a software developer at an information technology company in Juarez, Mexico, expressed similar concerns. But he has suffered through so many outages that the El Paso, Texas, resident has developed a backup plan to access information when he can't get it through Microsoft Knowledge Base or Microsoft Developers sites. He wasn't angry about the outage, just disappointed.

    "Not having access to the information on the site does hamper my work," Hawkins lamented. "Fortunately there is a workaround to this. Google.com caches Web sites and most of the information I use is accessible through them. All in all this has been more of an inconvenience than a disaster."