Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Don't Rule Out MS Support For Help

Someone Call Redmond

SharePoint 2007 has been out for over two years now. Even though I'm a fan of the product, I'd be the last one to tell you that there haven't been glaring bugs with some of the more prominent features. The good news is that over time, hot fix by hot fix, these are slowly getting resolved.

Depending on what you've been using SharePoint for, your mileage may have varied significantly. Until a couple days ago, all of the solutions and workarounds I'd ever applied to the product had come from forums, blogs, white papers, and books. Last week we ran into a problem that we’d flailed at for long enough and decided to enlist the help of Microsoft Support. This is a recount of that experience.

Issues with Content Deployment

We were running MOSS 2007 SP1 and were having problems with incremental content deployments. We were considering deploying the SharePoint Infrastructure Update which supposedly addresses the issue. We were reluctant to deploy the updated because of the related downtime our farm would incur (this particular farm is public facing and gets tens of thousands of visitors a day). If possible we wanted to find another way.

So we decided we’d push the problem onto The Soft and let MS Support deal with it. $250 later, a support ticket was opened. Contrary to the complaints I’d found online there was little to no wait, and within a couple business days someone from MS Support was calling me every morning asking me when we could start working on the ticket.

Although it was probably a different story when the product first launched, it doesn’t seem like there are Black Friday style wait lists for support these days. We also read this post by Eric to help us properly characterize the problem for MS Support. It’s of note that even though we provided a fair amount of detail in the opening emails, I ended up repeating the details back to the support agent anyways.

The troubleshoot went surprisingly well. The support engineer was attentive to our concerns and very thorough in her diagnosis. Although she had a very distinct accent, she was on our time zone (PST) and had exceptional product knowledge. What’s even better is they were willing to work around my extremely varied schedule and were relatively high touch. Someone from the support team phoned and emailed me at least every day, even if I forgot to return their emails. At times I felt like they wanted to fix our issues more than we did. All in all I’d give the experience an 8/10 and recommend it to anyone who feels like they’re grasping at straws.

The money ($250) is relatively cheap compared to your time, and you’ll get a chance to ask a ton of product related questions. What’s even better is that if your problem ends up being fixed by a patch (hot fix/update/service pack) or is related to a product deficiency (you use a work around to resolve it) there’s a strong chance that you’ll be refunded the $250. Ultimately the decision is supposed to be up to the support engineer’s manager. All this is from the mouth of a support engineer, so give it the same credence as you would most hearsay.

I guess the point of all this is to not rule out MS Support when it comes to SharePoint issues. By all means exhaust your regular avenues first, but don’t be afraid to ask for help from Microsoft Support when you start to feel all alone. The process requires a lot of patience, but depending on the problem it may be the cheapest way to fix the problem. Ideally having good support is one of the reasons your company decided to go with a well known vendor in the first place.

One Less Problem,
Tyler

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