Microsoft is a common target for rants, dislikes, and disdain. And the negative views and opinions are frequently justified. But Microsoft can also be surprising, and I had that experience this week.
I have only ever contacted Microsoft Support twice, both in regards to my home network. The first occurrence was a year and a half ago. I had made some significant network changes, upgrading my home servers to Windows Server 2003, installing a new firewall, changing how Active Directory was configured, completely revamping DHCP and how IP addresses are assigned, and more, and I ended up with a rather bizarre Active Directory/WINS/DHCP/DNS issue which was causing painfully slow network login times for many clients. I spent hours, many hours, trying to figure it all out. And finally, in frustration, I paid $99 and opened an e-mail based support case with Microsoft. The case was assigned to a support engineer named Ewen Tang who sent me a long e-mail with things to try so as to report back to him. I collected the information for him, and he then followed up with utilities that he wanted me to run to help diagnose the problem. In the course of a lengthy e-mail thread that ran for several days (the delay caused by my traveling), Ewen figured out what the problem was, and offered me a series of solutions. I opted for the quick hack workaround solution just to get things working, and Ewen offered to leave the case open for a while (it ended up being months) until I had the time to implement his other suggestions. Yes, I paid for support, but time is money, and that was $99 very well spent.
But did I just luck out, or is Microsoft’s e-mail based support actually as good as my experience seemed to indicate?
This week I ran into another issue, this time with Terminal Server licenses that I was relying on to manage my headless servers. After wasting many hours tinkering, I paid the $99 and opened another e-mail based support case. This time the case as assigned to Steven Shao, who immediately sent me an e-mail telling me that he’d look into my issue, and then sent me a detailed follow-up e-mail that essentially explained that I had misunderstood Terminal Server licensing and requirements, providing me with links to clarify things, and explaining what I needed to do to fix the situation, saving me money by pointing out the configuration I need so as to not have to buy additional TS client licenses. Steven’s advice did indeed help me solve my problem (and he saved me money, too), but he didn’t actually have to do any real technical troubleshooting. And so he offered to refund the $99 I had paid, and I then received several follow-ups to confirm that all was now well, and to ensure that I was indeed getting my refund.
Bashing Microsoft is a common occurrence, and is sometimes lots of fun. And yes, there is definitely a lot to bash and make fun of. But, at the same time, when a company like Microsoft gets something right, that really should be noted. And Microsoft Support has indeed impressed me.