So Your Vendor Admitted Failing. Here's Why You Shouldn't Switch

Paul Mah

The expected rebound in SMB tech spending means that these companies will inevitably be looking for new vendors and suppliers. This could be managed services providers, hosting companies or software-as-a-service providers. And like it or not, finding the right vendor can be a hit-and-miss affair at the best of times.


So what if your vendor has service problems or failed you outright? It might surprise you, but the occasional failure does not necessarily indicate a poor service provider. Allow me to illustrate this point by highlighting my recent experiences with business communications service provider, Intermedia.


I signed up for Intermedia's Exchange 2010 service after deciding that hosting a server myself wasn't worth the time that the occasional hiccup consumed. And yes, I paid for the service as a regular customer.


On April 15, however, Intermedia suffered from an outage that affected a number of customers, essentially hardware failure in the service processor of its SAN. A failover to a redundant controller node was triggered, which proved inadequate to handle the load. This resulted in performance issues with parts of its e-mail subsystems, slowing them down, and taking a day or two to return to normal.


There are many ways that blame could be appropriated here, starting with the inadequate failover capacity. I was impressed, though, with the way the company reacted as its engineers rushed to resolve the issue:


  • The first news of the situation came out once the problem was confirmed - even before the engineers had identified the root of the problem. To be honest, I wasn't even aware there was a problem until I was informed. (I am pretty sure the first communication was via e-mail, but I can't seem to find it now.)
  • The faulty hardware was tracked down within a few hours, though recovery took longer.
  • Regular updates were posted on the company's official blog, such as the blog entries here and here.
  • In a follow-up e-mail sent two days later, the CEO of Intermedia personally apologized for the outage and gave more details of what happened. A comprehensive RFO (Reason for Outage) was also promised within the next three days.
  • RFO was sent via e-mail with a list of corrective actions.
  • A service credit was given for the outage.
  • The company also outlined and went on to implement an out-of-band channel via text messages to keep customers updated in case of any future outage.


Compared to the missteps of a certain well-known security vendor recently, Intermedia's actions proved that it truly values its customers. Ultimately, the outage allowed me to see how the company actually behaved in a crisis, and how it demonstrated transparency and honesty, regardless of the pressure it faced. As a bonus, Intermedia also proved itself willing to review its operational processes and come up with steps to do even better in future.


So the next time your vendor encounters problems, don't just get mad or threaten to jump ship. Take a step back, and observe how it goes about resolving them.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 24, 2010 6:29 PM James Kelleher James Kelleher  says:

As a vendor, I appreciate this advice to companies!


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