PlusNet Problems - PUGs Position
Article posted on Saturday, 15-Apr-2006 16:39 PM
Recent weeks have seen numerous problems and concerns with various aspects of the service from PlusNet. A flurry of activity has been ongoing behind the scenes at the PlusNet UserGroup but we also felt it worthwhile letting everyone know what we currently see as the big issues, what our stance is on them, and - where possible - a PlusNet response.
Please be aware - this is a summary of the current issues. Over the course of the next week or so we will be publishing more detailed, follow-up articles where possible.
A couple of weeks ago a power fault caused major problems with the servers at Technology Building in Sheffield, with the UPS and backup generators not taking over to maintain a stable service. Connectivity wasn't affected by this but the server downtime caused inconvenience to many users.
This fault was caused by one phase of the 3-phase supply cutting out and the UPS not realising that this was a major problem.
PlusNet have undertaken major consultancy and testing on this, and successfully ran a controlled test this week to ensure that the systems will remain stable should this situation arise again. They have also invested over £100k in moving their primary site from Technology Building to Internet House - further plans to provide better failover coverage and resiliency are also in the pipeline and we will be providing more details in the next few days!
Whilst the UserGroup were shocked at the scale of the outage, and the resultant disruption, we are hopeful that the work carried out will ensure this doesn't happen again.
Stability of Services
Portal, Email, Webstats, PlusTalk - all seem to have been a bit on the "flaky" side of late with more unreliability and downtime than is acceptable from an ISP. We are asking questions about this and will keep you informed.
[note: One thing you may find useful is to register a Gmail/Hotmail address and subscribe to the UserTools Service Status by Email service - that way if the portal is dead you can still see the service status messages. You can also visit http://servicestatus.net for service status reports - again, this will also work if the portal is down]
PlusNets plans to migrate users across to the Tiscali network have been the subject of much heated discussion and debate over the past few weeks. There seems to be several issues with this and here are the main ones as we see them:
1) Using the Tiscali wholesale network - This in itself isn't a cause for concern. We are aware of Tiscalis reputation, but this is Tiscali Wholesale and not the Retail division. Those who have been moved across (barring the initial problems experienced by 44 users) seem to have a stable, reliable connection with a fast upstream. Unfortunately we cannot yet comment on downstream speeds as all users on the Tiscali network will be limited to 2Mb/sec for the first 10 days whilst the network calculates the maximum stable rate.
2) Migrations - This is the big cause for concern for many, including the UserGroup. We have been actively campaigning for PlusNet to offer to pay for re-activation where a user is moved to LLU and wishes to migrate - PlusNet have responded saying they will consider this on a case-by-case basis. BT are working on a direct migration path and this is due to go live in July but BT are notorious for delaying these matters. It should be noted that PlusNet aren't the only ISP faced with this situation - other IPStream/LLU ISPs also face the same restrictions.
3) Opt-Out - Should PlusNet be allowed to move users to an LLU network without the users consent. Another issue of much concern within the community - however, once LLU Migration is possible from BT this hopefully will not cause any further worries. In the meantime all we can suggest is that users raise a ticket asking to be kept informed on the status of their line and to request that no cease request be placed without their being notified beforehand.
4) LLU Exchange List - On Thursday 13th April the UserGroup were issued with a list of exchanges that either are, or will be, enabled for the Tiscali LLU service. After being given premissions initially, we published this but unfortunately we had to withdraw it due to a lack of approval from Tiscali. We are aware that some quick-fingered users did manage to see the list and that a copy has been published elsewhere. We can't publish a link ourselves but users of ADSLGuide should be able to find the link. As soon as permission is granted we will be adding the information to our site again, and publishing it on the UserTools exchange checker.
DSLMax Upgrade Schedules
The arrival of DSLMax on the 31st March was a very eagerly awaited event. Since then there appears to have been a lot of confusion and conflicting information on who will be upgraded and when. This has also been complicated by the launch of PlusNets latest product set at the same time.
The UserGroup have been pushing for clear, concise, accurate responses at every opportunity and where we can we have answered queries to the best of our knowledge at the time.
Unfortunately, the issues have been further compounded by the fact the BT have moved the goalposts several times and appear to be struggling with the demand.
PlusNet are one of a few ISPs who are actually upgrading their whole customer base to DSLMax and this makes the delays appear (and feel - trust us, we are waiting eagerly as well!) longer and more drawn out.
BT have a new migration ordering tool lined up, and this should hopefully go live within the next few weeks. Once that has been done, and once customers have been placed onto the new product set (this should occur on your billing date) the upgrade schedule should be easier to calculate and manage.
Support Phone Calls
PlusNet recently emailed users with the "PlusNet is Evolving" email outlining the new plans for an extended support facility to cover the "extras" that the normal support lines cannot always advise on.
The 50p support line has been met with some confusion over how this will be managed, how support will be affected, which calls should go where etc. As was detailed in the email, PlusNet are going to be publishing a list of Frequently Asked Questions within the next 2 weeks regarding this and the UserGroup will be working with PlusNet to ensure that the FAQ for the extended support line is as detailled as possible and will clearly show the details of which query should go to which support line are made as clear as possible.
The PlusNet Comms team is a much maligned department over the past year - with accusations (some accurate and justified) of spin and hype with little info, and other attacks on either the company or the staff that are unjustified and unfair.
With the return of Ian Wild, the addition of Mand, and the calm hand of James the PlusNet Comms Team is in the best shape it has been for a long time. However, PlusNet acknowledge that Comms is struggling at the moment and that things need to be shaken up to get back on track.
Where there has been miscommunication, the UserGroup have raised this and encouraged PlusNet to clarify. We are also working with the Comms Team as much as we can to assist in the rebuilding work.
Once the Left Hand learns to communicate with the Right Hand, comms from PlusNet should hopefully become clearer, more open, and more frequent.