The VLSC (Volume Licensing Service Centre) is the newest customer licensing site from Microsoft. It’s fair to say that their licensing websites have never been the best and certainly wouldn’t win any awards…both those for customers and partners. Yes, the Microsoft.com site is pretty great and the new Partner site is pretty good too but it’s the other sites that are lacking:
eOpen is definitely one of the slowest websites I have had to use on a semi-regular basis…slow to load up initially and slow to load up as one navigates around it. This is the site that all OLP (Open Licence) customers must use to access licence information, licence keys etc…It often flakes out half way through a session, leaving you unable to see your keys or add a new agreement. It also suffers from a lack of design love…it’s basic and not particularly pretty.
Explore.MS is for partners to see details of agreements, price files etc. While it always seems to function perfectly well, it’s a very sparse, plain design/layout and not always terribly intuitive.
eAgreements is the site used for the creation of Open Value agreements. We do quite a number of these but I actually can’t login to the site! I’m not sure why…it’s not cache or cookies or anything like that…it just doesn’t seem to like me :-) This is another site that’s clunky, slow and often fails and kicks you out…something of a familiar theme now!
MVLS is the site that Open Value & Select customers use to administer their agreements…find keys, download media, assign roles etc; and it’s by far the best of the sites listed. It’s still not perfect but it’s certainly a step in the right direction :-)
Anyway, a lot of that is almost by the by as eOpen & MVLS are being merged into the VLSC as of the 6th of December 2009. You may have noticed that certain actions in eOpen & MVLS have been taking you to VLSC recently…product downloads for instance?
There is a problem with this though…it’s Monday the 7th of December today…and the site is still down:
This leaves customers unable to access their license info as the other sites have been taken down.
and MVLS gives you the 1st VLSC error page. This is a pretty big #fail by Microsoft and there has been no official word about it at all (at least not that I’ve seen), something which reflects quite badly on Microsoft. *Update* The Microsoft VLSC twitter account (@microsoft_VLSC) are responding to customer tweets:
It’s good to see Redmond responding to customers, especially via Twitter :-)
This also has wider implications for “The Cloud” in general too. Customers are unable to access product downloads, licence keys and more just because a website is down…while it’s not the kind of information that is likely to be needed super urgently…it’s yet another example of Cloud Inconvenience…
I hope the site’s up tomorrow for the sake of Microsoft, customers and me…otherwise I’ll get loads of angry/confused customers calling me tomorrow ;-)
Update – Tuesday 08/12/09
Well, the VLSC website was finally announced as being launched at 01:09 am GMT, but all is not well!
I’m still getting comments on this article from people who are experiencing trouble with the site and am experiencing issues myself…when I sign in, I get the below:
To be fair, when I was at my desk this afternoon for just a few fleeting minutes (it’s been a busy one today!) I took a look and I got in straight away. Now however, it takes a good few minutes of thinking about it…and then gives me the above error screen each time. This could perhaps be down to all those unable to access yesterday hitting the servers but I’m inclined to think otherwise.
The Twitter account of @Microsoft_VLSC shows that it hasn’t been plain sailing:
So it isn’t a complete outage…it seems to be working for some people which is something :-)
I don’t want this post to seem overly critical, or that I’m having a go at the VLSC team but I do think that it’s a situation that warrants attention…and the 100’s & 100’s of hits this post means that users seem to agree :-) If there is one silver lining from this, it’s that the VLSC team are doing a great job of offering support via their Twitter account:
Not only are they keeping people up to date with changes etc; they’re also responding to, and assisting with, individual issues…which is very impressive :-)
Update Monday 14/12/09
It’s now a full week since the new Microsoft Licensing website, VLSC, should have been up & running…and it isn’t. The VLSC Twitter account “@microsoft_VLSC” is still the best place to get information on the situation; yesterday they tweeted:
which would lead you to believe that the site would be back today (Monday) but unfortunately:
It seems that not all people have been experiencing the same problem…some cannot access the site at all, some can access only old licences, some cannot add new licences and so on…but now, with the site completely down, everyone will be affected.
While the Twitter account is doing a good job of communicating with VLSC users, there is still a large amount of ambiguity as to what is behind this:
I think everyone knows there’s an issue so not the most helpful comment! I know there will be various rules as to who can say what via which channels etc, but just a little insight would help a lot.
From my point of view as a Microsoft Licensing reseller, I haven’t heard or seen anything from Microsoft on this subject at all. No heads up so we can pre-warn our customers, or at least be prepared for the questions, no advice on how we can help etc…I find that a little disappointing to be honest.
From my point of view as a blogger, I find it very strange that none of the other Microsoft bloggers have picked up on this VLSC issue. The number of hits this post is getting keeps rising each day and the comments show real frustration on the part of both end users and Microsoft partners.
I’m not sure that there is any other way of being kept up to date on this from MS other than via the Twitter account; the number of people they’re following without profile pics suggests people are joining the micro-blogging service simply to contact Microsoft VLSC!
As mentioned in the comments, there is a new notice on the VLSC page:
Update Wednesday 16-12-09
We have a little more information from Microsoft on the subject today, their latest statement reads:
As you are aware, we recently upgraded three web sites including the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Centre; Volume Licensing Contract Manager, and Explore.MS. These tools are to help you provide services to your customers. In standard systems testing, we encountered an issue with the registration system, which we are currently fixing. The result is that the systems are currently offline.
Our goal is to have the sites available starting late in the day on December 17, 2009 US Pacific Time through to December 18, 2009 Pacific Time. Pacific Time (PST) time is 8 hours behind GMT so late on the 17th will be morning of the 18th for us in the UK :-)
We would like to apologise for the inconvenience this is causing. As a valued partner, we understand that your experience trying to access the site is not optimal.
While there are limited capabilities,
Customers can still retrieve product keys during this maintenance. You can direct customers to the Product Activation Call Centres for assistance You can also find a phone number for your region by visiting http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/existing-customers/activation-centers.aspx
So hopefully Monday 21st will see everything right as rain :-)
Update Friday 18-12-09
The VLSC site is back up…and all seems to be working…Whoo Hoo!
I’ve logged in to take a look around and can’t see anything missing, which is nice.
It’s taken much longer than expected and hasn’t been a great time for MS, it’s partners or it’s customers but hopefully everything is ok now.
Let me know how you’re finding the site…is it in full working order for you?
Update Monday 04-01-10
It’s been a while since my last update and, while the VLSC site is working fine for me, the comments below show that not everyone has seen these issues resolved yet. I’m still working on getting an update from Microsoft on what happened and when all the issues will be resolved but, to be honest, I’m not getting anywhere quickly!
Thanks to everyone who has commented on this post and offered up their advice to other people in the same position…it’s really great to see a small community spring up around my blog :-)
Update Thursday 07-01-10
Bill Snyder over at Infoworld has posted an article about the VLSC issues too. Go check it out here:
Bill’s article has generated a lot of click throughs to this site and so this is clearly an issue that many people are interested in.
Update Sunday 10-01-10
On Friday, I received an email from Microsoft’s PR agency Waggener Edstrom with an official update/response on the subject so far, which is:
“We apologize to our partners and customers for the inconvenience that they have been through during the upgrade improvements for the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) site. In standard systems testing, we encountered an issue with the registration system. While the vast majority of partners and customers are able to access the system, there remain some issues that are causing difficulties for some and it has taken us longer than expected to correct these issues. We are taking all necessary steps to resolve the situation and we are working with each impacted customer or partner to restore permissions if they can’t be resolved online. We understand the inconvenience that this causes and greatly value doing business with our partners and customers.”
It’s good that we’ve had a response but it’s again not that informative. “An issue with the registration system” doesn’t shed much more light on the situation…what do you think?
Update Thursday 04-02-10
The majority of problems with the VLSC seem to have calmed down but it’s still not 100%…in fact this week has probably been the busiest re: VLSC issues for me!
The biggest hurdle now is conflicting information as customers are told that MS can’t help them directly and they need to speak to the reseller; but I also know that resellers are being told that customers should contact MS directly!
The best process seems to be:
Customer -> Reseller -> Distributor -> Microsoft
With the request passed along in that manner, email addresses are being reset etc and all should be well :-)
If you would like to speak with a Microsoft VLSC rep, the number is 0800 917 9016. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you’re still having problems and/or you’ve got a success story (!), please let us all know in the comments…