While some time has passed since the WGA temporary service outage we had back in August, I wanted to share some more about what we’ve learned since then and the steps we’ve been taking to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.
First off, we’ve been taking another hard look at our operations and the tools and processes we use to run the validation service for WGA, and we’ve made some changes including to how we roll out updates to the back-end servers (it was a specific upgrade to our system that analyzes product keys that caused the issue in August) and we’ve been adding to and improving the tools used to make sure our infrastructure is solid. As part of that, we’ve revamped the monitoring that is used to track what’s happening within our server infrastructure so that we can identify potential problems faster – ideally before any customer gets impacted. But also as part of that, we’ve been making changes in how we can help our customers when an issue does arise that impacts them. In addition to Web based support, live support is also available worldwide. In North America, we are implementing 24×7 customer support and phone based technical support, so customers can log an issue, check the status of an issue, and get information at any time. Outside North America, we are looking into implementing the same 24×7 schedule – more to come on that later. Free support for WGA-related issues is provided worldwide (at least Microsoft won’t charge you but your phone company might for the call) for all customers as well.
Second, beyond the strict operations processes we’ve also been looking again at how we can prepare ourselves better to respond to critical situations like an outage or problem. Since August we have conducted more than a dozen ‘fire-drills’ designed to improve our ability to respond to issues affecting customers or that could impact the quality of the service. These ‘fire drills’ are practice scenarios that prepare people for action in the event of an actual problem. These ‘fire drills’ have been done in several different manners, including carefully planned drills, surprise drills, and even drills in the middle of the night. Unfortunately for me, this means sometimes participating in phone calls very late at night or early in the morning. One recent call happened on a Tuesday at about 1 am. This particular drill did expose a an area for improvement and the call continued until after 2 am so we could document the issue (we have since followed up on that issue).. I know my wife wasn’t crazy about my cell phone ringing next to the bed at 1am, nor was I, but I am glad we’re doing the drills. The team is now better prepared overall to take the right action and take it quickly.
The third thing we’ve been giving a hard look at is how we help customers who discover that they have inadvertently purchased non genuine copies of Windows, so that they can get genuine. Back in October, we announced some new legalization offerings for Windows XP customers, but another thing we’ve done is made changes in how quickly customers can get legalization kits from us, so that we can promptly deliver these kits anywhere in the world, generally in less than 2 weeks.
The result of our thorough reviews of our operations and procedures is that, over the past few months, we have learned a lot and by making these changes and addressing issues and problems as they arise, we have been strengthening our ability to help customers through problems they may experience with WGA. We want to build more trust in WGA by earning the trust of our customers every day.
As we move forward, I hope you’ll continue to give us feedback on anything you see with the program, big or small, good, or bad. We’re listening!