It all started innocently enough . . .

Posted: April 22, 2009 in library, services, software
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Back in February we noticed a small problem on one of our public computers. It was primarily a cosmetic issue. It affected the way our printing software behaved, but the software still worked. Yes, it worked, but it didn’t work completely correctly, and it was annoying to see this problem on 32 brand spankin’ new computers.

After playing around with this issue for a bit, I called our vendor to see if they had a solution. They told me to install hotfix 10. This is the point at which I broke the second law of the universe: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I installed hotfix 10.

Hotfix 10 did not solve the problem. It gave us a nasty surprise though, when we realized that our print installer no longer worked. After that, things went from bad to worse. Following our vendor’s advice, we installed more updates and made more changes to the server.

Unfortunately, these were not benign updates. They began to undermine the stability of the service. At its worst point we were receiving over a dozen alerts each day about problems with the print system. After another phone call Monday, our vendor took a surprising approach by rolling some of our software back to a previous version. They admitted that there were some “known” problems with our current version.

At this point we remain hopeful but not optimistic. We’ve gone a day-and-a-half without receiving any service requests, and sadly, this feels like a victory after the nightmare of the last three weeks. I can’t think of another time in many, many years where I was so glad for a service to just work for a full day.

So what is the result of all this? Our confidence in this vendor is understandably shaken. Our confidence in the server itself was unnecessarily shaken. The frustration level has been through the roof for both patrons and employees has been through the roof. We’re seriously thinking of rebuilding the server because of this incident.

And – strangely enough – I’m thinking of moving to the next major version of the vendor’s software. When this stuff works , it’s rock solid. And it really does work . . . most of the time. When it doesn’t, it’s very, very, very bad. But the new version brings some new functionality that our patrons need. They’ve been asking for it, and I want to give it to them. But at what cost will it come?

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