HP's Sudden Firmware Update Policy Revision Shakes Customer Trust

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-02-17 Print this article Print

While taking a longterm approach may not start bringing in the bucks for McCoy immediately, it will eventually have the same end, but without alienating customers. Likewise, providing some warning in advance that there would be new support requirements, tied to a date that makes budgeting sense, would also have been much more fair to customers. Had the charge been announced in February 2014, as it was, but timed to take effect at an obvious budget start date such as Oct. 1 or Jan. 1, 2015, it would have been far more palatable.

In reality, the actual impact on most businesses is probably minimal. I've owned HP servers for decades, and by the time a server is out of its normal support time, firmware updates that aren't tied to safety or security requirements are rare to the point of being nonexistent. While some businesses do keep their servers for a long time, there just aren't many updates of any kind.

As an example, I own two HP ProLiant ML310 servers. One is an ancient G2 machine for which there have been no meaningful updates for years. Even the drive controller, which can't recognize more than 130GB, hard drives hasn't been updated. There's no need to have to worry about the cost of firmware updates, because there haven't been any for years.

My other server is a fairly new ML 310 Gen 8, which is still under warranty. I can get any firmware update for free until the warranty runs out. When that happens the new support agreement will cost about $70 per year, and it covers a lot more than just firmware updates. As a small business owner, I can afford that. Larger businesses with more servers will be able to negotiate much lower support rates on a per-server basis than I can. So we're not talking about a huge expense for most companies.

But this isn't really about the cost. This is about McCoy's seeming lack of concern for her customers and about changing a practice that's been in place for years without warning and with no notice. In a sense, McCoy has broken the trust of HP's customers, which means that she's told those customers that she doesn't really care how this affects them. In their view, all she sees is a desire for more money.

Speaking again as a business owner, I would do anything to avoid breaking the trust of my customers, even if it cost me a little money. In the long run, all you really have is trust.


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