Monday, May 08, 2006

Norton Hears A Who?

The folks who make Norton Anti-Virus should be ashamed. They have taken a great product – one that historically won the PC Editor’s Choice Award year after year – and ruined it. I used to love Norton, now they are on my blue list for endangered species.

It started a few years ago. I noticed that among other things, the AV programs they were bundling were getting clunkier and clunkier. They took longer to load and used up far too many resources. And, they would crash. At least in those days you could easily find a phone number or e-mail address to contact customer service. I remember spending about an hour one time with a fine tech while we re-wrote the registry on my computer after it choked on a particular upgrade.
But they have only gotten worse. Granted many, perhaps most IT companies are outsourcing tech support to Asian companies, most commonly in the Sub-Continent. But, it seems Norton is not at its best these days.

Last week, my bookkeeper’s computer in my other office was indicating that it had not uploaded the NAV definitions for two weeks and that I should urgently do so. I thought this was odd since that computer and the identical one I run in the next office are set to automatically update this file whenever the computer is on. And mine was running just fine. Long story short, I was not able to get the update and kept getting error messages with cryptic and frankly frightening descriptions of what was happening i.e. YOU ARE INFECTED!. The proposed solution was to run the “intelligent” updated – note the quotation marks, it is not a very smart program despite its name. Needless to say, more error statements and even more ominous warnings. Now I was being told the computer has a Trojan and I was advised to download and run this Trojan removal program. An hour later I was still getting errors, no Trojan could be found so I tried to contact customer service through the help screen. “This version is no longer covered by support” the screen hissed at me. Whadda ya mean? I think. This is version 2004. It’s only two years old. I just sent you guys a bunch of money to continue the subscription.

Being somewhat compliant, I headed off to Staples and purchased two copies of NAV 2006. Armed with a fresh new CD, I spent the next hour trying to get that program to load, update and scan. The computer in my office went through the motions fairly smoothly, but did give me a statement indicating that the latest definitions were corrupted or unavailable. That’s odd. Could it be that all along the problem was not with my computers but with those big servers in the sky?

It was now 7:30, I left the creature to scan itself, headed to Wendy’s for dinner, came back and got the same error….latest definitions corrupted…Hmmm.

Finally, I find a phone number (well hidden on the help website and only after agreeing that I would be charged for a service call) and speak to Aaron in Bangladesh. His English isn’t too bad, but we do struggle to communicate. He reads my incident report and tells me – get this – there is a problem with the server – all of the customers are getting this error – please try again in 24 hours.

I felt like that character on Seinfeld – Aboo – and wanted to shake my finger at the Norton screen…”Norton Anti-virus, you are a very, very bad program! Very, very, very bad!”

So four hours, $80 and the damn thing still did not work. There’s got to be a better program out there.


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