Thursday, July 5, 2007

Rant #1

Rant Subject: Captaris, the company that makes RightFax.

The company I work at uses an outdated version of RightFax. It decided to start doing something recently that I haven't seen in the year and a half I've been charged with supporting it. None of the usual troubleshooting or correction methods used in the past seem to fix the problem, and I haven't for the life of me been able to see anything out of the ordinary either in fax delivery, any of the mail server queues, the Exchange connector, Event logs or anywhere else.

I tried a Google search to see if other people had this problem, and a funny thing happened. There's next to no information about RightFax troubleshooting available via a standard Google search. It all seems to come up with either problems specific to obscure systems and software we don't use or it's all marketing sites describing all the problems that you can prevent by purchasing their software.

I decided to try the direct approach next, perhaps there was a Captaris forum designed to save a poor wretch like me. Turns out they do have one, but you need a "Valid Support Contract Number" to see any of their knowledge base articles. As I said, we haven't needed features used in the later versions of RightFax, so they let the subscription lapse a couple years ago, and nothing unsolvable has come up until now. The site did point to a phone number that would let you speak with an actual person about your faxing problems.

I called the number, tried to reach support, but it asked for a Valid Support Contract Number. I called back and tried the option for renewing a support contract, and to get through it asked for, I swear to God, a Valid Support Contract Number. To renew an expired fucking support contract.

I called a third time and just pressed zero to speak to a person. An actual person should be able to help with this. Surely they'd understand that I have several dozen people outside my door with torches and pitchforks asking all kinds of pointed questions about why the ancient software they refuse to pay to upgrade doesn't work nicely with anything written in the past 7 years. Surely.

As an aside, I'd like to say that an actual part of my well-being hinges on the hope that sanity exists somewhere. Not in incredible amounts, or even enough to become politically viable, but I like to believe that it does exist. Call it my own adult fairy tale.

I told the woman who picked up the call about the issue I was having, hoping for sympathy, I guess, if not a solution. She asked for a Valid Support Contract Number. I said mine had expired, and that I tried all the phone system options for renewing it, but they all asked for a Valid Support Contract Number. She repeated that that's because I needed a Valid Support Contract Number. Getting a mite testy, I asked how someone goes about renewing a support contract over the phone without a Valid Support Contract Number up front, and she proceeded to repeat to me, louder and slower, that I need a Valid Support Contract Number before I can renew. I asked about getting into the knowledge base, to which she replied that I needed a Valid Support Contract Number for that.

I know that most companies that offer tech support will have a script to make sure that troubleshooting is thorough before elevating real problems to higher tiers of tech support. Either this phone call was a psychological experiment being performed on me or her script was two lines long.

Obviously, being direct wasn't working. I changed tack.

I asked if there were still knowledge base articles for older versions of RightFax, and she said yes. I asked why they bothered keeping a tight rein on knowledge base articles for outdated versions of their software that they don't support, and she said that Captaris saw too many things being quoted in other forums and decided to lock everything away on their own site. She also said that they were in progress of getting rid of the older knowledge base articles.

I suppose that if you're that paranoid about your revenues and you assume further that quick access to solutions problem-solving techniques that save time for everyone capable of reading is a bad thing, then it makes a desperate sort of sense from a business perspective. I guess.

I asked if there was a motivation for Captaris not only locking down but deleting knowledge base articles for prior versions of their software which wasn't pure spite, and she didn't know that either.

I asked about a price for buying a new support contract just for knowledge base access, my last-ditch attempt at getting a Valid Support Contract Number, and she said they wouldn't sell me one (or even give me a price) because they don't support the version we have. I thanked her for her time and hung up.

I then found a printer in the office with fax capability, carried it over to the fax area, plugged it in and went back to my office to count the days until Captaris gets bought out. I estimate it within a year or so if that business model is accurate.