Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Post on Service Quality Issues

In the interests of preserving the useful comments on this post (which was originally about a scheduled downtime required to replace defective hardware and to deploy a faster database machine), I'm leaving this post up forever.

The hardware upgrade appears to have been a great success. Server load is quite low and so far there are no reports of serious problems.


The post originally said :

Nuevasync service will be unavailable for a time today while a major hardware upgrade is done. The planned outage time begins at 11am MDT (18:00 UTC) and is expected to last two hours. During this time the web site will redirect to a maintenance page and no syncing will be done. iPhone/iPod users : PLEASE DO NOT DO ANYTHING. Don't 'resync'. Just leave your phones alone and they will pick up sync again when the service is restarted. If you resync, all your data will be deleted from the iPhone and it may take a long time for it to be synced back.
Update : the upgrade went well, and it turned out we had a bad hard drive (bad in a bad way in that it didn't report any errors but silently hung the system when certain sectors were read). Dealing with the drive issue (which means re-installing the OS on the machine since the old drive couldn't be imaged) will take a little longer than the expected down time. We should be up in about 45 mins time (2:30 MDT, 21:30 UTC).
In response to the people who commented that the old service status posts should not be deleted : well I agree in so far as I'd like the comments preserved, but on balance it seemed messy to leave all those rather quickly written and often in hindsight incorrect posts on the blog. What we really need is a page that a) stays up when our connection or servers are down and b) isn't a blog. Right now we don't have that in place so the blog got abused with the status posts. It's not ideal but we've taken the approach that you the users would rather we fix the problems than make things all pretty and neat.

17 comments:

Luffer said...

This is one big concern I have with using this great service. If for some reason you stop providing it all contacts on the iPhone will disappear. What's the best way to easily get contacts back on the iPhone if this should ever happen?

Hopefully this will never be an issue, but who knows what might happen in a year from now.

vestini said...

(I just posted the following to the previous NuevaSync blog page, which, a few minutes later, got substitued with this page. So I am reposting.)


I'd like to mention to those who were panicking during the last outage because they lost their iPhone calendar data, that there is a workaround.

It's the Google app that you can download from iTunes. Or, more simply, you can make a Google Calendar icon yourself by entering www.google.cm/claendar/m in Safari and then clicking on "+" and "Add to Home Screen".

That's what I did. That way, during the NuevaSync outage, I used Google Calendar directly from my iPhone and remained operational.

All the events that I had entered into my iPhone calendar before the outage had, of course, been transferred to that big Google Calendar in the sky. So I could read them any time I wanted, from my iPhone, just by clicking on my Google Calendar icon.

Google Calendar on the iPhone shows you events in LIST view; you also have the option of MONTH view but I find that too crowded on the small iPhone screen (the iPhone calendar MONTH view is much better).

In addition, from the Google calendar on my iPhone I could enter new events using the "Quick Add" window which appears at the end of the list. So, all in all, during the outage I lost only the edit/delete functions.

And I didn't really loose them, either. I have Sunbird Calendar on my desktop and portable PCs (I don't use Microsoft products like Outlook Calendar) and so, during the outage, while on the road, I could make updates directly to my Google Calendar anytime I wanted using Sunbird. (I connected to the Internet from my portable using either free WiFi or a UMTS dongle.) I could see the edited entries on my iPhone a few seconds later by clicking the Google icon.

Since I run Sunbird on my desktop PC, too, and since I leave my desktop PC on during short trips, I knew that a copy of everything I entered on my portable was being added instantly to my desktop PC calendar for safe keeping (just in case Google had an outage, too!!).

There were places I traveled to with no WiFi or UMTS coverage. So I could not, of course, see my updated Google calendar on my iPhone or update it from my laptop. No big deal. I still had my complete calendar on my laptop (Sunbird) which I could view and edit any time I wanted off-line. And the next time I got a WiFi connection, my edits were synced back to the Great Google Calendar in the sky and, from there, to my desktop.

So no need to panic. Use the iPhone calendar when NuevaSync is running (it's much easier to use) and when NuevaSync is down, switch to using the Google calendar directly on the Internet. It will resync and update your iPhone calendar as soon as NuevaSync is up and running again.

P.S.

For those who don't know about it, Sunbird is the Mozzila foundation stand-alone desktop calendar. It's the sister version of the calendar called "Lighting" incorporated in Thunderbird, the Mozzilla answer to Outlook. http://www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/ I don't use Thunderbird since I'm addicted to PocoMail, a great email client. Anyway, you can set either the Sunbird or Lightening calendars to sync automatically with Google Calendar.

P.P.S. How do you know, when using the iPhone calendar, that Nueva Sync is down and that your entries are not being recorded on Google calendar? Just hit the Google Calendar icon on your iPhone now and then to see that updates have been recorded. It's even quicker and surer than interrogating the NuevaSync "Sync Status" page.

vestini said...

Sorry, the URL was misspelled; it should have been:
www.google.com/calendar/m

Richard Lawler said...

NuevaSync needs to stop deleting their system status blog posts. To look at this blog there's been one incident.

Quality of Service is a huge issue for services like NuevaSync and MobileMe. Consumers need reliable information in order to use these services with confidence.

I know NuevaSync doesn't currently charge anything for their service, but obviously they have some sort of business plan that would at some point generate revenues for them. Even free customers have a right to know what they are getting.

Luffer said...

Richard,

You are quite wrong, once an issue is resolved it is perfectly acceptable for that issue to be removed.

I don't know what people expect! This is a free service, it's made perfectly clear that it's still a beta, yet there are still people who feel they have a right to make these demands. Free customers have a right to absolutely nothing, you take what you are given and either take it or leave it. It's your choice, but don't start imagining you have rights!

How many paid services do you know of that offer such great communication to customers? This has been much more reliable than mobileme, even with all the teething isssue sync'ing has stll been occurring. This latest outage is to IMPROVE the service.... I despair with some people, I really do!

Richard Lawler said...

You can call me naive, but I'm not wrong. NuevaSync may be providing a free service, but that doesn't mean they can take customers for granted. And those customers do have at least one right. The right to walk away. The value of their company is contingent on their providing a quality service to actual customers. Good luck with that if they think they'll get bought out or be able to charge for the service without satisfied customers.

By the way, I haven't seen anything resolved lately. The problems seem to just compound.

mga911 said...

Luffer,

I agree with you.

I'm grateful you provide this free service and appreciate your communication with us. Also, I don't consider myself a customer. A customer pays something in return for a service/good. We haven't done so in return for nuevasync.

Roberto Riquelme said...

Thanks a lot again, guys!
I just got an update of my calendar, and everything is OK.

Greeting from Chile!

David Boreham said...

Yes, service seems good now. The big problem seems to have been a rogue hard drive which has been replaced. It produced no errors and the on-drive error counts did not increase, but it proved impossible to copy the data off it during the machine upgrade, so it would appear to have been bad-to-the-bone. We now have twice as much memory in the servers, much faster disks, and spare machines that will form the basis of our redundant multi-server configuration once the software is ready.

vestini said...

Richard,

the idea behind (freely) joining a beta product community is NOT so much to "be served" as to serve. You offer helpful comments in return for getting first hands on a product, necessarily glitchy at times.

So suggestions for improvements, yes. Gripes, no.

Richard Lawler said...

Malarkey. The product NuevaSync are providing is a service -- free or not. I assume that service is not just a hobby. I assume NuevaSync is trying to create a professional product that they eventually intend to make money from. My feedback was addressing the quality of their service. I assume the proprietors of the NuevaSync service would like their service to be of the highest quality. I will tell them when I think it isn't cutting it.

I think if you will read back you will see suggestions were just exactly what I was offering.

It is interesting how you people posting comments here have decided this is your product and what are appropriate suggestions and what aren't.

However, I do appreciate the owner of this blog, who I assume is an officer of NuevaSync, listening to my feedback.

I would love to see this product work well. I would like to be able to recommend it. I would pay money for such a service. As it is it has a ways to go. I wish NuevaSync no ill will.

D. Lambert said...

Hi, guys. I emailed an error to support last week, and haven't seen any update. Just in case you thought it was fixed w/ the hardware fixes of this weekend, my problem is still open. I'm seeing the following error on my sync status page:

sync status is: ERROR (8 minutes ago)

Internal error 141, please contact support.

Does anyone know what the problem might be?

Thanks.

David Boreham said...

Hi, re-sent your request to support please. We had a huge pile of tickets from peopls asking when the service would be back up and those only just got cleared this morning. Error 141 is the bug number we've assigned to that particular problem and support folks will be able to look it up and help you.

DogMash said...

I agree with Richard.

If nuevasync wants to prove itself to customers, it should preserve the old posts (somewhere, but not necessarily here). Why? Because doing so shows potential customers that nuevasync cares about customers. Existing customers don't generally need the history, but the history is invaluable for evaluating nuevasync. In particular, I feel that the quality and details of the now-deleted status posts were enormously better than Apple's MobileMe status page. I haven't noticed any correlation between Apple's status page and reality. And, besides, when was the last time Apple's status even mentioned service slowdowns (throttling)? Nuevasync's status reports have been, IMO, so much better than Apple's, and it's a shame that we can no longer point potential users to these, as an example of why nuevasync is "better".

Also, by deleting the status posts, nuevasync is unintentionally giving the erroneous impression that the nuevasync service is not very good, and that they're trying to hide this fact.

David Boreham said...

Dogmash: status posts are no longer being deleted, per the request of people here. The old ones are gone (no way to resurrect a delted post on blogger).

D. Lambert said...

David -

I resubmitted my problem to the support email address as you indicated. I sent this in yesterday around 2pm EDT.

My sync status page shows the following message:

sync status is: ERROR (9 minutes ago)

Internal error 141, please contact support.

D. Lambert said...

I hadn't heard anything from support yet, but I have had success in syncing. I believe the problem was that I had a large amount of data to sync, and I just wasn't able to get through a sync cycle successfully. I connected by wifi (so the sync went faster) and it succeeded. Since then, I've seen it sync successfully a couple more times.

Thanks.