Your basic ITPro blog... What's going on at work, what I'm interested in.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What’s Up with What’s Up Gold?!

imageI want to start by saying that I really like this product.  We are currently running What’s Up Gold (WUG) v12.3.1 to monitor over 100 devices on our network.  We are monitoring a combination of servers, switches, routers, websites, and more. Our implementation is not complete, but we are constantly adding to it; adding monitors, notification, etc. We are especially focusing on notification now. Currently, I have my WUG dashboard open on my second monitor throughout the day. So, I can see real-time performance of our systems. The BIG ‘killer-app’ feature for me is the history that WUG keeps for the metrics it monitors.

This has been especially useful when evaluating storage usage, bandwidth utilization, and CPU/memory usage on some of our high-load systems. We have caught things that would have become problems BEFORE they became problems. I feel like this tool has paid for itself in these scenarios! Also, we have recently been looking at the Windows NT Service monitor feature. This is cool. You can monitor services on machines and, if WUG sees that a service is stopped, can re-start it automatically. Very nice! This, combined with alerting, gives us good active monitoring and remediation capability. It’s always best to know about, and fix, a problem before your users have to report it to you. WUG makes this available.

With that all being said, I have to rail on some thing that I really DON’T like about What’s Up Gold. Like I said above, we are running version 12.3.1. You would think that a product as mature as this (in its 12th version) would be a bit more ‘enterprise’ friendly. I have had an experience over the past few weeks that has led me to a contrary opinion.

When installing WUG, you have the option of using a local ‘Express Edition’ SQL database or a full-blown SQL Server 2005 installation. We originally installed WUG on a machine and used a local DB. As you probably know, SQL Server Express Edition and a 4GB limit on its database size. Well, over time, our WUG database grew to 4GB and then promptly when ‘caput’! We had a choice… delete history or migrate the database. We have a SQL Server 2005 installation with capacity to spare, so our decision was to migrate the database.

Following the ‘Migration Guide’ from Ipswitch, I was able to move the database form the local SQL engine to our SQL Server. Everything seemed to be fine… until I tried to add another device to WUG. When I tried this, I got…


And, this is where things became very difficult. First, I have to state that I am not a DBA. But, I can find my way around the SQL Server Management tools, run queries, etc. Anyway, with this error in hand, I went where I always go when I have a question… Google. I also went to WUG’s website to search their KB. It was about this time that my frustration with WUG, specifically their help and technical support, really began to blossom. Their KB articles are very poorly written; much too vague and general. Any discussion threads I found related to this issue was just populated by frustrated users, not much in the way of constructive input on the part of WUG technicians.

I found a few vague references to ‘sp_dropserver’ and ‘sp_addserver’, but no real explanation of why or how I would use these to fix this particular problem. Nor was I able to find an actual explanation of the problem itself.

After a while of frustrating searching, I contacted WUG technical support and opened a ticket with them. I sent them a detailed description of the problem I was having and how it came about. I sent them the picture shown here so they would see exactly what I saw, hoping to get some… you know… support. Instead, I got the following e-mail in response:


Hello Derek,

   You will find the steps to resolve the issue in the migration guide:

  As with all SQL operations this should be performed by a SQL DBA.


Helpful, huh? I can really see what they are paying these tech support guys for! Such great analysis! Such support! I had already used the Migration Guide to help with the original migration. Further, the error message references the ‘sp_addlinkedserver’ command, but the Migration Guide talks about the ‘sp_dropserver’ and ‘sp_addserver’ commands. I responded to tech support, indicating my concerns and issues I had with running these commands on my SQL Server. I let them know that I executed the commands and got an error, which I sent along. Their ‘oh-so-helpful’ response was:


Hello Derek,

   Please have your DBA execute the commands.


Yes, that was the full extent of their response. Never mind that I had said that I DID RUN THE COMMANDS! Never mind that I had reported that the commands generated an error. So, I again asked if they could please help explain the error and help me determine a solution to this problem. I reiterated that I ran the commands and got an error and that the problem was still not resolved.

Their response:


Hello Derek,

     Operation of WhatsUp Gold with a full SQL database should be done with the assistance of a qualified DBA. Ipswitch does not provide these services. Our partners can provide services in such areas.


Nice, huh?! Was I asking them to provide ‘qualified DBA’ services?! No, I was not! I was asking them to tell me why THEIR PRODUCT wasn’t working. The fact that THEIR PRODUCT uses a database server should not preclude them from having to provide support if the problem involves the database! This was ridiculous. This clown wasn’t even TRYING to help. And, he never did, I am sad to say.

So, it took more research, trial-and-error, and a bit of luck, to find a solution to this problem. The various posts, KB articles (from Ipswitch and Microsoft), and other resources all hinted at parts of the problem. But, Ipswitch should have definitive support for this problem. The fact that they don’t and are not helpful is deplorable.

So, we will continue to use What’s Up Gold… But, I can’t imagine a scenario where I would actually try to use their tech support services again… They are completely worthless! I have been in this industry to 20 years or so and they ‘provided’, without exception, the worst service I have ever experienced.


Nick said...

There's nothing more sickening to me than the thought of having to call tech support after going through something like that. Worthless.

One company whose tech support (help-desk) was always stellar: HP. When I worked at Motorola I learned from our HP rep that they treated their help desk as a highly coveted position and only their top employees could earn the right to work there. And it showed. When you called their support center you were talking with their experts. I’ll always think highly of a company that understands that it is their customers that keeps them in business.

I often wonder why other companies don’t make this same paradigm shift.

Derek Mangrum said...

I have since been contacted by someone from Ipswitch. I connected with him via Twitter (I guess Twitter isn't totally useless after all...) Hopefully, this will let me talk through this with them.

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