Powers Unfiltered

An entrepreneur’s journey into grid computing and partnering with Microsoft, by John Powers

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Velocity Micro follow-up

February 28th, 2007 · 4 Comments

As promised, here’s the latest from my experiences with Velocity Micro.  When last we left my poor sick PC, it was on the operating table at Velocity Micro’s labs in Richmond, VA.  After a two-week illness here at home, when a house call did not do the trick, it went back to its birthplace for major surgery.  

After my comment on the Velocity Micro blog, and my long entry here, Velocity CEO Randy Copeland intervened and said it was time to build me a new replacement PC.  The Velocity team sprang into action, built me a replacement, and tried to bring it to life as a near-replica of my original system, so I would not lose too much data or time.  And here our saga enters a new chapter.

Anyone who has attempted to migrate from an old PC to a new PC knows this does not work as well as it should.  Yes, there are tools, some from Microsoft and some not, and a quick Google will tell you of the mixed experience users have with these tools.  Even the migration from HEALTHY old PC to new PC is uncertain; the migration from SICK old PC to new PC is fraught with peril. 

Guy Five at Velocity Micro was put in charge of the operation, and things began well enough.  As previously reported, Velocity places a high priority on customer communication (even BEFORE the CEO intervenes), and Guy Five was no excecption.  So I learned relatively early in the process that Windows was badly currupted on my old machine, and that transferring applications and settings would be essentially impossible (although they thought probably they could at least move my email settings, which would be a start).

So — build and test a new machine, copy my files onto it, ship it, and it’s up to me to restore the applications and settings.  OK.  Not what I was hoping for, but at least this shouldn’t take long, right?

Ten days.  Randy’s CEO intervention came on 2/11/2007, and my new machine arrived 2/21/2007, with my data and without my applications, accounts, or settings.  Every step of the way I got daily emails and occassional phone calls documenting progress and setbacks. 

  • Everything looks good. 
  • Uh oh, the D drive has bad sectors and is causing crashes — better replace it. 
  • Everything looks good, if all goes well you’ll have it by Saturday (2/17). 
  • Yup, still looks good, it will go out Friday, you’ll have it Saturday. 
  • Hmmm, ran into some trouble with the TV tuner software, caused some crashes, we want this thing stable, better keep it running stress tests over the weekend. 
  • Oh, yah, kind of a long weekend, but you’ll have it Tuesday. 
  • Oh, didn’t actually go out until Tuesday, you’ll have it Wednesday.

And indeed, it did arrive on Wednesday, and it worked right out of the box (no, the email settings weren’t restored, but I can do that along with the rest). 

So from time of first crash to the time I got a working system back under my desk — thirty-four days.  And it will be longer yet before it’s back to the personalized state that makes it “my” PC — I still have a few applications to install, settings to tinker with, and so on.

But it seems stable, it’s fast as can be, and it works, and it’s backed by a company that clearly is trying to serve its customers. 

So would I buy another Velocity Micro machine?  Frankly, I’m glad I don’t have to decide that today.  On the plus side,

  • Their PCs are fast and appear to be intelligently designed
  • Their staff is professional, courteous, and intelligent
  • When things go wrong, they tell you, and admit their mistakes
  • Their CEO is willing to engage openly with customers (although frankly I’m disappointed that my comment on Randy’s post on Velocity’s blog was not published)

On the minus side

  • I had hardware trouble after just two months
  • They could not fix it with a house call
  • Their shipping department whiffed on promises at least twice, resulting in frustrating and needless delays
  • Getting a replacement system took longer than expected, even after raising a fuss
  • Based on my experience, I have to question their QA — I believe that their team eventually identified problems with the graphics card, TV tuner card, original motherboard, RAM sticks, and D drive (not to mention Windows getting corrupted).  But all that stuff shipped to me after “burn in” of my original system.  Was it working when it left their shop the first time?  Possibly.  Did it all die at once at my house?  Who knows?

So it depends what happens now.  If I have a long and happy relationship with my computer from here out, yes, I’d probably still go back.  Even after more than a month of trouble, these guys have managed to stay mostly on my “good side.”  Why?  Because in more than a dozen interactions with their staff, I was never once treated like an idiot.  I know this shouldn’t differentiate them from other vendors, but sadly, it does.  If you’ve ever had trouble with a Dell (and I have, and we have at work as well), you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Nobody asked me to try rebooting, nor tried to walk me through a fifty-step process unrelated to my problem.  Everyone was clearly trying to identify and solve my problem, in a way that would work for me.  That matters. 

So hats off to Randy and his crew for screaming hardware and smart, supportive staff.  Iron out a few processes that I would attribute to growing pains, and you’ll have a happy customer and a winning company.


Tags: Entrepreneurship · Growth · Uncategorized

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jason Sadler // Feb 28, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    This would be a great story for our site.. I had a similar experience with a crappy desktop PC.

  • 2 John Patterson // Mar 1, 2007 at 1:54 am

    You mentioned – I had hardware trouble after just two months. Based on my experience, I have to question their QA — I believe that their team eventually identified problems with the graphics card, TV tuner card, original motherboard, RAM sticks, and D drive (not to mention Windows getting corrupted). But all that stuff shipped to me after “burn in” of my original system. Was it working when it left their shop the first time? Possibly. Did it all die at once at my house? Who knows?

    Unfortunately this is something that happens and absolutely no seller of computers can prevent this. The vast majority of problems in a PC’s life come in the first month. Velocity Micro in my experience buys what is generally accepted in the industry as top notch parts. Yet do to many varying factors from ESD, using moving parts (This is one reason I pine for solid state hard drives), the bounce and shake of shipping and many issues lay people would never come across we all suffer.

    As for house calls. Many OEM’s such as Dell, Toshiba, HP….they all contract techs from 3rd party companies such as Banctec, IBM and Getronics to service their machines. Getting a good tech using this procedure is very expensive and unfortunately a crap shoot. House calls are a weakness in the entire industry.

    As for the other issues…I leave that up to the fine folks at VM to work out. I know the shipping of Vista systems has put stress on many shipping departments. The amount of units coming into our doors is rocketing. I personally have been working 14+ hour days just to keep my head above water, yet I appreciate the growth. Time for a new hire or two. :)

    Anyways I hope you have seen the last of your issues for awhile. Good luck!

  • 3 john // Mar 1, 2007 at 3:45 am

    I appreciate the comments, and your industry experience is far more relevant than my own. I certainly believed as you do that Velocity uses “top notch parts,” and I may just be unlucky. Indeed, I’ve given VM the benefit of the doubt in many of my comments, in this post and my much longer previous post.

    But there’s only so much I really care about things that “happen” or the “weakness of the entire industry,” or problems brought on by growth — just because other companies have the same problems doesn’t excuse VM. From my perspective as a customer who paid good money for a high-end computer, I got a lemon and then had to go through far to much time and trouble to get it fixed. I have tried to keep my posts positive, pointing to areas that may benefit from additional attention.

    I thank you for your good wishes — but I also hope the industry continues to work on improving quality and customer experience, despite the difficulties in doing so.

  • 4 John Patterson // Mar 2, 2007 at 5:06 am

    Oh I completely understand the perspective of a end user. I am in that position many times with my cable company, telephone company, the resturants I visit and many other companies I deal with. I just would refuse to think that a company like VM has any negative energy in its culture. Growth and industry issues are something to investigate. I would hate to see someone write off a company that tries to do their best but fails. We all hope lessons are learned and I bet they are being disected in meetings left and right. I know that happens every time my company drops a ball. We have in our companies culture a weekly meeting on issues that are not up to a very high standard and try to address them as balanced as we can. Anyways…I agian hope your computer behaves. :)

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