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Symantec says fixing licensing portal top priority

Company officials say help is on the way as fallout continues from the merger of Symantec and Veritas ordering systems last November.

Symantec Corp. rolled out a new online licensing and customer-service portal called MySymantec for its software products in December, the goal of which was to streamline the user experience. So far, however, users who have updated licenses through the portal said it's difficult to use and sometimes doesn't work properly -- an issue Symantec said it's well aware of.

"MySymantec will provide centralized access to online services for Symantec business customers, while creating a personalized experience that is focused on the individual's relationship, information and service needs from Symantec," trumpeted marketing collateral drawn up for the release of MySymantec Dec. 29. Users who have tried it so far, however, said those statements aren't borne out by real experience.

According to Kevin Ladd, director of infrastructure for Direct Media Inc., his experience with the new licensing portal was no different from last year's model, including the aggravation.

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"It's still difficult for licensing renewals," Ladd said. He logged onto the new portal in February in order to download updates for Symantec's Norton Antivirus, Security Client and Backup Exec.

"Every year you have to wait for your certificates, type it in and go through the download process for each product," he said. The portal also doesn't save the user's profile information, he said -- meaning that every time he logs on, he has to enter all his information again. Moreover, the process of entering the correct information isn't always an easy one.

"You have to enter your customer ID and serial numbers, and there's multiple serial numbers on the certificate," Ladd said. "[Symantec] has made it a little easier with some suggestions about where to find the serial number, but it's still not easy to use."

Another ongoing frustration with Symantec licensing, according to Ladd, is the fact that once the license is updated, going back to the portal for a copy of the install file requires the same information all over again. "I can't tell you how frustrating this is," Ladd said. It's helped a bit, he said, by the fact that Symantec sent him certificates digitally this year, "but it's still something I've got to dig out, whether it's on a disk or in a paper filing cabinet," he said. "Why can't they just save my information within my account on the site? Other vendors I deal with keep my information and notify me of updates for licenses automatically."

We're very well aware of it

Symantec is aware of the issues, according to an email sent to customers by Aisling Hassell, Symantec's vice president of customer experience and online, this week and obtained by

"We are very aware that recent changes in the functionality of the Symantec Licensing Portal have created some confusion and difficulty," Hassell wrote. "We are working hard to create an improved online experience … and will be rolling out numerous improvements in the upcoming weeks."

According to Julie Parrish, vice president of the global channel office for Symantec, the issues are still related to the combination of Veritas and Symantec's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system last November, despite assurances late last year that the problem had been addressed. "We're finding now that there are a lot of workflows and downstream applications affected by the merge of the ERP system," she said. "This is one of them."

Among the others, Parrish said, are issues with notification and reporting systems for partners. "We continue to process more and more orders successfully," she added. "Unfortunately, as far as our distributors and resellers, they're not getting timely or complete reports about what they've ordered and what's shipped."

Parrish also acknowledged that the MySymantec portal redesign requires much more information from customers up front, but said "this is so we can be more helpful with product updates and renewals, and customers aren't used to it."

When asked about Ladd's point on the site not saving information for future use, Parrish said, "I haven't heard of that specifically being an issue -- obviously that's not what we'd want to happen."

Over the next several months, users can expect tweaks and updates to the coding of the Web site, as well as a further training and education push for Symantec customers and partners. "There were a lot of different cross-functional teams involved in the developing process for this -- and there was some difficulty in understanding, if you move this piece of the Rubick's Cube, it'll affect another piece somewhere."

Parrish added, "It hasn't been an issue with the portal itself not actually working -- it's more a matter of the user interface not being intuitive as we thought it would be, despite our testing."

Not broken? Some beg to differ

One manager of technology infrastructure for a municipality in the Southwest, who asked to be identified as Paul L. for security reasons, said he tried to upgrade his licensing from Backup Exec 10d to 11d in December, and that the new GUI on the Web site just didn't work.

"It wouldn't generate a license key," he said. "And there was no way to get hold of support through the portal."

After a month of trying his own support contacts and not getting an answer, Paul said he tried to get his reseller to work out the problem through its contacts. Still no luck.

"It took three months to get my product properly licensed … I finally sent an email to a VP whose address I found on the Web, and finally I got a call back." Paul said a customer service representative from Symantec ended up walking him through the licensing process over the phone.

Among the updates planned for the site is the addition of more tutorials and clearer directions for customers to the correct support person. "This was two, $2.5 billion infrastructures coming together," Parrish said. "There are people at all levels of Symantec with this as a top priority."

Flavio Hurlimann, storage specialist at sunrise/TDC Switzerland AG, a Veritas NetBackup user said that he's heard from Symantec this week on this issue. "As of today, it is still tiring," he said in an email.

Additional reporting by Jo Maitland, Senior News Director. 


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