When the discs are spinning too fast

Being in the middle of it all, and at least close to the bleeding edge of information technology, I get really frustrated when things don’t work the way they’re supposed to. When you add to that, that one of the biggest storage manufacturers in the world cannot get its act together, frustration turns into serious irritation. We use Seagate Cheetah disks almost exclusively in our servers, and for the most part, they behave as they should. From time to time, however, we seem to run into batches of disks manufactured somewhere between the saturday hangover and early monday morning.

Since these disks are always placed in RAID configurations, it’s no big deal when a single disk in the array fails. The replacement procedure is quick and rather painless, in particular in those systems where we use hot swap enclosures. Given that most Cheetah disks sport a five year warranty, very few disks have to be trashed. Instead, we return them to Seagate for a warranty replacement.

So you log on to the Seagate support site to request an RMA, enter the details of the drive and click “OK”. Their website chews for a while and then spits out an “Internal server error, please contact the site administrator” or some such message. Fine, these things happen. So I drop an e-mail to their webmaster informing them of the problem. Twenty-four hours later I repeat the procedure, and end up with the same result. So I drop another e-mail to their webmaster. This cycle is repeated for a total of three days before I start getting annoyed.

So I drop an e-mail to their support department asking them to please inform them of this problem. Surely, they must want their customers and resellers to utilize the concept of self-service — or so one would think. After the initial automated response from their support department, I actually get a response. The message is telling me that I have sent a message to the support department, which handles warranty returns, and other support issues. If I want help with anything else, I should talk to their customer service. Like I want to call some call-center in neverland and talk to someone who knows nothing at all about the Seagate web site. I reply to the message and ask them to please just drop the web team a message and tell them something needs to be fixed. “Uh, this is technical support, if you want customer service, you can either send an email to wedontcare@seagate.not, or you can call them at CallCenterNeverland.”.

So I throw my hands (and almost the disk) in the air and comply. I call their customer service department and get to talk to a very friendly person who’s just dying to take down the details and process the RMA request. After having spent an hour on the phone, trying to spell my name and shipping address over the phone, the process is complete.

Sixteen hours later, another drive fails and I prepare for the worst. But it turns out the web team has finally gotten out of bed and actually fixed the problem. The drive had four months left on its five year warranty, hooraah!

Footnote: it’s not that I mind talking to people, quite the opposite; but when time is short, one wonders how a company of Seagate’s magnitude can allow a customer support function on their web site to be down for even the shortest of moments.

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