Thursday, April 3, 2014

Verizon Business: The Devil

I used to believe that Verizon was the devil. What I know now, having dealt with them in some capacity for the last year, is that they are not the devil, they are worse. What they are is a corporation that's gotten too big for it's britches. They have effectively grown for the sake of growth and never stopped to look and say hey, can we actually perform this way? Why am I posting this here? With the hope that someone, somewhere will read it and avoid the same pitfalls we ended up in. If someone from Verizon were to read it and be in a position to change this horrid organization around, that would be even better.

Long story short. Verizon put a small, regional non-profit on the line for a service that used to cost $400/month to a service (that we don't even want) that costs $2,500 without absolutely NO options. Then, they refuse to install new circuitry so that we can update our service, run our business effectively and efficiently and purposefully jerk us around with other vendors - because they can.

I don't know about you - but that business tactic is definitely not ethical. If it's not - it should be illegal.

Timeline for anyone interested below:

January  2013 - We initiate a contract for a high-speed hand-off to replace our existing point-to-point T1, 11 months before it's expiry.
February 2013 - Update that the order is progressing.
March 2013 - Requested Status Update - heard nothing.
April 2013 - We find out that the build cost will be $15,000 and they asked if we would pay a portion. We agreed.
May 2013 - They agreed to pay $5,000 worth of the cost, we say fine, ask if our original contract is still applicable due to Verizon's delay. They told us that our initial contract was incorrect. Then they changed our monthly cost by over $100 in addition to having to pay $10,000 for build-out and having to pay for some managed router and lease. They also said we could not do a 3 year agreement, as originally ordered but had to do a 2 year, increasing our cost.
May 2013 - They called offering 3 year pricing at our original price, $5,000 to cover construction and waived installation and router fees.  No termination on our existing circuit. We accepted.
May 2013 - New contract comes - They added $13/month for router maintenance with no credit for installation costs over $1,200.  We questioned the charges.  They said they would reimburse us for the installation fees but that they would not put that in writing.
May 2013-  We reach out to another Verizon rep, unhappy with current.
June 2013 - The rep we reached out to never called back, but we did receive a call from another. This, Rep3 - explained that the router maintenance charges are optional and should not have been added without our consent, he said he would try to help.
June 2013 - We cancelled the order because Rep1 was adding things to the contract without our consent.
July 2013 - Receive a bill for $1,600 for cancelling the new - never installed, never agreed upon circuit.
Bill was disputed and credit issued.
August 2013 - We reach out to a rep that called about our renewal on the current T1 contract (as it is expiring).
September 2013- Rep tells us our only option is to renew what we have under contract or go month to month for $2,000 more per month than what we were paying and the only option was a 2 year renewal.
October 2013 - We try again for a contract for more than 1.5 MB of service and start paying an EXORBITANT amount of money because "tariff rates"  - the document for which, incidentally on their website leads you absolutely nowhere. This - to the tune of what once cost us $400/month now cost us $2,500/month.
October 2013 - I finally get to someone from billing, after getting a quote for a renewal on our crap T1. They put us in touch with a manager of something - who tells me, in no uncertain terms that since we don't spend $15,000 a month - we do not get a sales rep and that there's no way for them to honor their quotes for $1,300/month on our existing T1.  That we will either pay $2,500 out of contract or $2,300 in contract for 2 years.
November 2013 - We start a new contract with Verizon for a 10 MB circuit, they say they will call us with build out quote probably 10 times or more - we never hear anything.
December 2013 - Hear nothing, except that they are working on it (after we send 6-10 prompting emails).
January 2014 - They keep telling us to sign a 2 year contract for our current T1 - promising that they will move that - with no fees to the 10 MB circuit when it gets installed - but they won't put that in writing. Still waiting for build costs.
February 2014 - waiting for build costs
March 2014 - waiting for build costs
April 2014 -We contact Level3 - who was AMAZING to work with and initiated a contract with them. They had to contact Verizon for the build-out (MONOPOLY). Verizon told them that this was the 4th request for a quote from us and that they would never ever, in no uncertain terms waive the build-out fees. So here we are -  waiting 6 months for Verizon to give us a contract - that is never going to come.  Silly us.

This is in no uncertain terms a very brief recap of the ridiculous number of communications and man-hours spent fighting with Verizon. They definitely don't want your business, I think we should oblige.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Financial Edge and Mapped Drives

Financial Edge has a few "quirks" shall we call them?
This one was a lot of fun. I had a user who exported lots of reports from FE. The user, while connected to the network, would export a report from FE and browse file explorer (as it prompts) to save.  The network drives she had mapped would all show with red x's over them (while in Computer they look fine) and one specific drive wouldn't come up at all.

Blackbaud support told me to contact my IT person - because there must be a setting there that they had set.
My response was: I am the IT person and can you tell me exactly what kind of setting I would choose to make sure that ONLY Financial Edge could not access a personal drive and that the other drives show with red x's?

At any rate, the long story short, this user had UAC set on their machine - to a mid-level I might add, and that was causing all all the issue.

Raiser's Edge & Patron Edge Inte-not-so-greation

Working in a nonprofit organization tends to come with its own set of challenges. One of which is working with Blackbaud's software.  I don't want to talk a bunch of smack - but I do want to say that their core packages could use an upgrade from oh, I don't know, DOS? 

Without futher ado. Here is an issue we ran into with Patron's Edge and Raiser's Edge "integration". 

1.       PE matches funds not based on their ID’s in RE but based on the description (which is ridiculous).
2.       PE has a 50 character limit on the Fund Description Field in PE
3.       RE has no character limit on the Fund Description
4.       When integration runs, PEUser is disabling Funds, but only the same 4 specific funds – why?
a) Our Funds in RE were named something like “111222333 - Donor Name and Specific Purpose for 2014 and beyond" and "111222333 - Donor Name and Specific Purpose for 2014 and beyond - Notes"
a.       As you can see – the issue is that since PE only looks at the first 50 Characters and they are exactly the same, it’s disabling one.
b.      Renaming the fund so that something is different within the first 50 characters resolves the issue.

So i'm not sure if any of you out there are using RE this way with PE integration, but it took me 6 months of random troubleshooting and finally turning off integration (at TopTix's request) to figure it out. So if I save you even a few minutes, I've done my duty!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

McAfee SAAS and Server 2012 R2

I have a bunch of freshly minted Microsoft Server 2012 R2 virtual machines up and raring to go. During my initial setup, I install antivirus. We are currently using McAfee SAAS AV for our environment. So far, it's been working out pretty well.
The issue began with these new Server 2012 R2 boxes.
Got on the phone with McAfee - and about an hour later here's what to do. You can thank me for your time saved by letting me know if this was useful to you.

Error: Unable to create event sink object. Agent may not be installed properly.

1. If you've already tried, make sure to run McAfee's uninstall agent.
2. Reboot.
3. Download the silent version of your installer.
4. Store on root of C:\ (ie: dont run from downloads folder or network share).
5. Install McAfee with silent version of installed.
6. Try to update it (right click on shield, update)
7. If the error persists:
7a. Open command prompt as admin - type following: net stop myagtsvc (enter), net start myagtsvc (enter), net stop mcshield (enter), net start mcshield (enter).
7b. Reset Internet Explorer to default settings.
7c. Try updating defs again.

Hope that saves someone somewhere some trouble.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Vendor Management

Lately, I've been feeling that "vendor management" is a joke. This is mostly because in order to manage someone or something, you need to actually come in contact with them/it. Try getting someone at Verizon to talk to you! I dare you.

 Most recently, I received a promotion for Sysaid for a free cloud trial and migration. I was interested. I emailed them to get the ball rolling and right away, they sent me the info I needed. As I'm running the tool, I realize I don't have a key piece of information that was supposed to be in the email but was not. I emailed back to them right away.
That was on Wednesday the 22nd.  As of posting, I have not heard back from them. I sent them a message stating that I was really excited to use the product but that if this was what service was like when trying to "buy" something, I would hate to see what it's like after purchase. 

PS. I've loved this product since it was released to the public years ago.  I'm feeling pretty slighted. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

ArcGIS (10.1 SP1) and Sonicwall Global VPN Client

New Post! Holy Smokes!
Ran into a doozie of a technical problem at work today. Thought I'd share and maybe save someone some hassle. 

We have Esri's ARCGIS server and desktop (10.1 SP1).
Our Dell Precision Laptops (only 2 models)  were experiencing the issue pretty consistently but the desktops were fine and a few of the newer laptops we had were fine as well.  
Our GIS Administrator was working with ESRI since FEBRUARY to resolve the issue. 
Here is the error: 

One or more layers failed to draw: 

Failure to access the DBMS server [[Microsoft][SQL Server Native Client 10.0]The connection is no longer usable because the server response for a previously executed statement was incorrectly formatted.]” 

At first I thought it was a NIC card issue - tried full-duplexing, reinstalling the driver, reinstalling GIS, installing SP2, rolling back the NIC card driver, enabling jumbo packets etc - nothing worked. Uninstalled microsoft updates just in case, disabled all firewalls and did just about everything I could think of otherwise. 

Finally, I realized that it very well may be the SonicWall Global VPN client and took a shot. Wouldn't you know that uninstalling it did the trick? 

Hope someone out there finds this useful. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boring Porridge

Whoa! A blog! I forgot I had a blog. I guess I should probably write something here but alas my world is strangely devoid of eventfulness right at the moment and I'm not feeling particularly witty however I'm going to work at it a little and get back to you.

boring porridge