A few years back I had the misfortune of using a Dell Latitude D600 notebook computer for my work. At the time I wrote about the problems I experienced with Dell customer service and it seems that Michael Dell’s return as CEO isn’t doing much to improve the customer experience.
Then, last week, I bought a Dell PowerEdge 840 server. I did it because it was cheap. So, one might ask what am I complaining about but, even though £391.98 is very inexpensive for a server, I expect some service when I’m trying to buy something from someone.
I suppose I’m spoilt because normally I buy many servers at a time, have a technical account manager to help me select the right options and it’s someone else’s money if I miss something and need to buy some more components. Oh yes, and I buy HP servers where possible. This time I was spending my own money and wanted the best deal possible.
As I worked through Dell’s "build your system" website, I wanted some technical support for the RAID connectivity options which, after telling me that the server supports up to 2 cabled or hot-plug SAS or SATA hard drives, the website listed as:
- C1B – Motherboard SATA cabled, min 2, max 2 Hard Drives connected to onboard SATA controller.
- C1C – Motherboard SATA cabled, min 3, max 3 Hard Drives connected to onboard SATA controller.
- C1D – Motherboard SATA cabled, min 4, max 4 Hard Drives connected to onboard SATA controller.
I was confused. If the server only supports 2 cabled or hot-plug drives, then why is there a no-cost option to have 3 or 4 hard drives connected to the on-board SATA controller? So I called Dell. Only to find after about 8 (no kidding) menu options on the phone system that the "small business" department I needed to speak to was closed and only works from 9 to 4.30 Monday to Friday (part-timers…).
I bought the server anyway because the discount was due to expire (it’s since been extended) and called back on Monday. After making 4 menu selections I got to a person who was somewhere in South Asia and sounded helpful but was clearly following a script. She redirected me to someone in Ireland who sounded annoyed that I was taking up her time and told me that my query was a technical one (not sales). She put me through to technical support, who were confused when I said that I didn’t have a service tag because my system was still being built but put me through to the PowerEdge department anyway. They were busy but after 5 minutes on hold I spoke to a person who was helpful but didn’t really fill me with confidence in his advice as first of all, he told me that the PowerEdge 840 supports up to 4 drives (good) but that the options may be for different backplanes. Then he checked and said that the system supports 2 drives on the motherboard but drives 3 and 4 would need a separate RAID controller. As that seemed to contradict the options at purchase time and he couldn’t comment on the "build your system" website, I’m still no clearer.
I guess I’ll find out how many drives I can get in this server (and what the C1B/C/D options mean) when it arrives next week…