Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bad Websites and Crappy Images

I don't know what the problem is. Such a huge company, surely they have come QA folks who review the site for usability. Right? Another of those little things that I miss about working for a large company that creeps up on you. If I had a question about a service contract, we had a team of talented product professionals who took care of that for us. I had no idea how squirrely it is to navigate those waters until this week when I began trying to track down the warranty information for our firewalls. I was looking for two simple pieces of information: did we have a contract, and when did it expire.

Cisco's site is difficult to navigate, and that's putting it mildly. I wound up sending a request yesterday to have my login tied to my company so that I could view service contracts, if there were any. That happened relatively quickly thanks to the magic of email and dealing with a person. However, when I tried to use that access today to actually get any information about the contract, it failed. Miserably. I was unable to gather anything from the main page. There were no obvious links to getting any kind of warranty status. The only way I was able to even view that I had coverage was by starting the process of creating a TAC request, a little hint that I picked up from searching the web.

I finally wound up calling them and asking for the information. The rep I spoke with first was pretty rude to me, going so far as to remark that she'd never had to call a woman by a guy's name before (I suppose she's never heard of Stevie Nicks or Billie Holliday). Thanks for sharing. She then directed me to a website, Now I'm the first person to second-guess myself and wonder if I simply missed something, so I asked if this was linked to on their website and I had simply overlooked it. Nope, she said. They'd taken it down on purpose. I was too confused and surprised to even ask why in the world they would take down a link to something so useful. Maybe to make room for more flash animation.

After ending our unpleasant conversation I went to that site and attempted to use the Tool link to access my contract info. I got an error page instead. I tried again. Same error. Wound up calling Cisco again. This time I spoke to a much more pleasant woman who both gave me the support end date for our firewalls and also answered my questions about the site in a professional manner. Turns out whomever set up my access forgot to tick the box that actually allows me to view the contracts online. Sweet.

Last but not least I wanted to see if we'd had any support calls on these devices since they'd been covered. Seemed like a pretty typical request to me. She was unable to help me but transferred me to the support team. Wow. Seriously, you'd think I'd asked him if I could get a tech onsite to help me jump my car. He seemed confused by the request, and the end result was that you apparently can only view a support history by the name of the person who logged the incident, and not by the support contract. Seems weird, right? Every incident would be, I imagine, linked to my support contract (otherwise how would you know that I had the right to the support), but you can't simply look at my support contract and tell me what tickets have been opened. I can do this through my ISP, but I can't do this through my world-renowned network equipment provider. Mind-boggling. If I can come up with the login credentials for my predecessor though they'll give me all the info I want about past cases. Again I say: sweet.

On to imaging. For whatever reason, the simple imaging solution as offered by one Curtis Preston alas does not work. At this point I have spent more time trying to get it to work than it deserves, and have officially called it quits on this experiment. I have moved on to another, more promising alternative with Mondo Rescue. Also free, also able to image a live server. We'll see how this pans out.

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