Strong Tech Support Vital

By Brett Littrell  |  Posted 2008-03-06 Print this article Print


High-Quality Tech Support

Fifth, and most important, is to look at the quality of the tech support. If you have a good working relationship with a company, then you are already one step ahead. But that does not always hold true across product lines. I have had nothing but a good experience with Barracuda spam filters, but that did not equate with their Web filter support.

For example, I would open a ticket and work with a tech for a while. But when they found they could not fix an issue, they would say they had to research it. Then they never called back. Plus, calling them back resulted in a brand-new ticket being generated and a new tech assigned. So, frustratingly, I had to start from the beginning again and again each time. The DOS attack I reported four to five months prior recently recreated the same scenario, while locking up the entire server again. Obviously, tech support dropped the ball on that one.

Lessons Learned

The lesson we learned while choosing our Web filter was that going with a company that makes another good product does not always mean that the Web filter it provides will be as good. Tech support may not be the same across product lines. Good spam filter support does not necessarily equal good Web filter support. Also, just because a company says it supports a format or standard does not mean that the way in which it supports it will work for your company (i.e., Syslog and LDAP).

What comes out in the end is you should first create a detailed list of all the functionality desired and needed by your company. When that list is complete, then you should test, in-depth, each and every option to ensure it works correctly within your environment. Many of the issues I ran into may not have shown up during testing due to the changes that Barracuda made later, which broke some things (like LDAPs), or due to other tasks that take a bit of work on another system such as parsing the Syslog messages via regular expressions to be read by our MARS (Multiuser Archival Retrieval System) box.

Still, other things just have to be learned over time and they are hard to test for-such as tech support and archived logs. Unfortunately, in general, presales tech support always seems to be 500 percent better than postsales support. If companies reversed that trend, they would probably have customers who never went away.

 Brett Littrell is the network manager for the Milpitas Unified School District in California. The school district manages about 10,000 students and 1,000 employees. The network has around 2,000 to 2,500 client computers with three techs to maintain them all. He can be reached at


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