Friday, May 27, 2011

Egnyte - update

So, a local person (well, US) called me. Turns out the latest local cloud client is busting something on Mac SnowLeopard. They gave me an older version and I'm now in action. Now I can start comparing.

Egnyte versus DropBox, or, No You Can't Login To My Machine With GotoMeeting!

Sorry but this isn't a comparison. If you want a comparison, go somewhere else for now. It might become a comparison, but it can't yet be one because Egnyte has fallen at the first fence.

The story so far. After quite a bit of diligence and analysis, and looking at lots of options, we settled a year or so ago on Dropbox for Teams for my company. I had a whole list of requirements but the primary ones were:
  1. Fast local access to files (no having to download them from websites)
  2. A regular folder-view of the local files, so my non-techie users felt at home
  3. Secure in transmission and secure in storage
DropBox does all that, but there are a few things that I wish were different. I wish:
  1. There was an option to lock files on the local copies so that you had to explicitly unlock before editing. That would give conflict resolution. DropBox isn't completely clueless in this respect, and it tends to "fail" safely by letting you know there has been a conflict (and giving you copies of the file in question). But it doesn't prevent conflict
  2. There was finer-grained access control. For now it's an all-or-nothing control at any given shared folder (and children). I cannot give you access to: A, A/B, A/C but not A/D; while giving someone else access to A, A/B, A/D but not A/C. The workaround is to think carefully about your top level folder arrangements, but finer grained controls would be better.
  3. You could have multiple DropBox accounts on a single machine. Many of my team have personal DB accounts, but also need access to our DB for teams account. Not easily done.
But despite those things, DB is pretty awesome. We use it constantly, and I like it.

But one thing arose today that made me go revisit Egnyte, which was one of our shortlisted candidates when we first looked about. I don't think we every disqualified it, we just had to make a decision and I went for DB. But today I found myself wanting to share a large file with someone outside the company who did not have a DropBox account (or a Google Docs account, which would have been an alternative). Asking on a local business support group I received the following advice (thanks Paul):
"We use as our cloud server and then can share files with end clients with links that require login, expire after X clicks, or expire after X days."
That got me interested enough to re-visit Egnyte and I noticed a bunch of other things that DB doesn't have. It appears to have the fine grained access control I'd like. Also it has lock-modify-unlock. Tasty. Now I don't know if it allows multiple accounts per machine -- I'm going to guess it doesn't. But if we used Egnyte for business, everyone could happily continue to use their own DB accounts for their personal stuff. 

So, rather than faff about with lots more reading I thought I'd go for a 15 day free trial of the "Pro" edition. I'll mess with it for a days, then let some of my team play. If we like it, cool. If not, no loss. The sign up and install seemed to be fine. I now have web access. But the local disk access is vital, so I downloaded the client and got it installed on my Mac. And the problems begin. Throughout the process I have only ever provided one password, so when I was sent to a web page to set my local cloud preferences and was asked for a password, I used that one password. I got the following message, "Change password to match Cloud File Server. Please re-authenticate."

Now exactly what does that mean? Does it mean that it wants me to change the password? Why? To what? I have only one password (and it works on the main Egnyte site). And what is the cryptic note below the "Save" button? And yes while I'd like some answers, wouldn't it just be better if the errors meant something to a normal user?

So it gets more frustrating. If I click on that "Contact Support" icon at the top right, I stay stuck on the page. In fact if I click on anything on that page I stay stuck there. Apparently you can't get support about not being able to login unless you are able to login.

Nest step, I find a phone number for support and call them. Couple of menu button presses and I'm at technical support. A message suggests I may want to raise an email support ticket (which they say may be faster) but I'm thinking this should be a ten-seconds-to-fix problem, so I decide to wait for a human.

I wait. The opening bars of "Morning Mood" from Grieg's Peer Gynt waft plaintively over my phone, which I have on speaker in case it takes them a few minutes to get to me.

I wait. I notice that their on-hold music is *only* the opening bars -- the first four to be precise.

I wait, and wait, and ... ah! You can always tell when you're about to get through because the on-hold music tends to step and you'll hear a phone ringing. My internal Pavlovian response is always a giddy, "It's my turn! It's my turn!".

But no, not this time. After a couple of rings, we're back to Morning Mood. First four bars. Again, and again, and again.

5 minutes. 10 minutes. 15 minutes. The frustration builds. Not only does the phone keep ringing, tantalizing me that maybe this time I'm through, but I am driven nuts by the lack of progression on what I used to, until now, consider a delightful melody. Curse you Egnyte phone system! Who would have known what solace, what relief, what homecoming Grieg had built into that 8th bar. It may be that his genius is only fully appreciated when you experience the mounting despair at being deprived of the precious B, G#, F# sequence and instead repeatedly get fed bloody bar 4 instead!

18 minutes. Right! That's it! I mail their "support" begging for a phone call. Simultaneously I get an email from one of their customer satisfaction people. So I copy him too.

19 minutes.
20 minutes.

The phone rings! It's a (650) area code, so it looks like the customer experience dude himself has come to my aid. Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! But no. Oh, no. What I've experienced thus far is a mere taster for the despondency I am about to face.

Now let me pause to make one thing clear. No, two things. First, I am a foreigner with a funny accent. Second, I have nothing against Indians, and in fact some of my guys are from India and they're as smart as they come.

But when I heard that accent on the phone, my heart fell. Why, because I knew -- I could feel it in my support-line-wearied bones -- I knew I was almost certainly facing a Script Follower. And how did I know that -- from hearing the Indian accent? I'll tell you why.
Companies do not outsource support work to India because although it is not cheap, it is world class.
Companies outsource support work to India because although it is not necessarily world class, it is cheap.
Now careful here of taking that through a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy and inferring that India implies low quality. This has nothing to do with India or Indian workers. It has everything to do with American (and European) companies saying one thing about support ("It's important") and doing another ("Is it crap."). In other words:
Companies outsource support work to cheap places because they don't really give a shit about support.
Anyway, I gave up very quickly as the support dude requested that I let him access my machine using GotoMeeting to solve the problem. I don't have a problem with that in principle. I don't think he's going to drop some trojan on me and then steal my stuff. In fact I think it and things like it are a fine way to provide certain kinds of support. But, acchhhh, I just cannae be bothered. I don't have time for that kind of thing. I'd already been on the bloomin' phone for 20 minutes, all I wanted was to hear someone who was sufficiently knowledgeable they didn't need a script. Fulfill that requirement (and speak English at least as intelligibly as I do -- not hard). Exactly where they live is not a concern of mine.

So, I've said it before, I'll say it again. Charge me more money people and stop relying on low-grade scripted people to fix stuff. Money is not the only thing I think about; the more you share my priorities, the more likely I'll buy your stuff.

Friday, May 6, 2011


The swapping of positions of "Open Link in New Tab" and "Open Link in New Window" in the right-click context menu in Firefox 4.0.

Recently created documents in the PDF "Open" standard that can only be opened in Adobe's reader, and only in the latest version of that, at that.

The fact that MS Office's installer in OS X is too stupid to kill OS X's software updater despite the updater being smart enough to start the installer in the first place. (It's not the fact that the installer can't handle it per se -- it's the "Sheesh, would you shut down the updater already!" way it sounds like it's blaming you for the problem.)