Skype – Without more information, I don’t buy their excuse

We use Skype and we purchased the SkypeOut plan for unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada and we buy Skype minutes to call New Zealand since my husband’s family lives there. We also use it to talk to his brother in Italy and we use the video sometimes too, which is really nice.

I like Skype a lot and have been a strong supporter of Skype. And it has been very reliable. But I’ve always said that you can tell more about a company when it has problems and you can see how they handle them, than when everything runs smoothly. Every company has problems and there have been many times that what I thought was a good company, turned out to be bad in a crisis.

I took a cruise on Royal Olympic cruise lines to Greece and Turkey and I really liked their itinerary, their food and the ship (not my cabin, but that is another story). But I had problems with my luggage when I arrived and they were unresponsive and when we were to disembark, they had put me on a bus that gave me almost no time to check in at the airport and they refused to allow me to get on an earlier bus. Naturally, I ended up missing my plane and standing in the middle of the Athens airport crying (the trip was amazing, but was so exhausting that my reserves were absolutely shot). And they had just dropped me off at the airport and split. After much problems, I eventually got home.

But that soured me so much on Royal Olympic that I would have nothing to do with them, even though they had interesting cruises and had (after much hassle) offered me $500 towards another cruise. They have since gone out of business and I am not surprised.

Anyway, I think Skype dropped the ball on this and I think their post that they finally issued today on why they had the problems, just doesn’t make any sense to me. And not just to me. Just read all the comments on their post – it is up to 320 comments so far. Mauricio Freitas speaks on this in his post Skype Outage caused by Windows Update? Yeah, Right. As he points out: the Windows Updates run at 3am local time. So everyone’s PC does not reboot all at once, they would reboot as their own particular local time hits 3am. And by the time the update would take effect in New Zealand where he is, the outage would have already been in affect for a ridiculously long time. Also,Windows Update is delivered every second Tuesday of the month, and has been for the last three years so what makes it cause a problem this time?

The Microsoft Security Response Center blog posted a response to Skype who asserted it was caused by all the PCs rebooting from the Tuesday Windows update and basically said that they were in contact with Skype and there was nothing unusual with this particular Windows update and there was nothing in the update that would have caused any problems. They said “Fortunately, Skype has identified the cause. As Villu Arak notes, “a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm” was the cause, and they have corrected it.” That doesn’t say anything bad about Skype, but essentially says Skype found a problem in their software and fixed it.

But what does Villu’s statement mean? What specifically was the problem and what caused it to occur then and why do they feel it won’t happen again? I would not necessarily be able to understand a full explanation, but the beauty of the internet is that there are people who would and who would determine if what they said made sense and would work to fix the problem. But who can say one way or the other when all they say is that it was “a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm”. And there is a real concern about it being a P2P network model.

And as MyITForum says in their post on this, “Skype’s main development unit is in Estonia. Estonia’s infrastructure was targeted by massive denial-of-service attacks earlier this year. This tied together with the fact that a new Denial-of-Service exploit against Skype server software was posted to securitylab.ru just hours ago has created lots rumors about what’s really going on.”

Infoworld had a very good article called “Skype Users don’t Buy Outage Explanation. CSO, the resource for Security Executives asked some specific questions of ennifer Caukin, a Skype spokeswoman. The answers were weak, at best and she said there was no one in the U.S. who could answers the questions today (maybe tomorrow…?). The Skype Journal writes about this and has several thoughts on what Skype needs to do to address this correctly with its users. And Computerworld had a good article asking “Does Skype’s Windows update story fly?”  (Thanks to Greg of Voip Spider for turning me on to this article.)

I like what Mike McGrath said on his comment to Skype Journal’s post: ”

The great Outage of 2007 has some important lessons. The most surprising to me is that there are many folks out there that believe you have no right to complain about something that’s free. Does that mean I have no right to complain about polluted air?

Still, I like Skype and will continue to use it. I hope Skype takes this opportunity to understand the blogoshere’s reaction, good, bad or ugly and make some adjustments that will be good for everyone.”

Skype should had sent emails to every user of Skype (especially the paying customers) and continued to update with real information regularly. Now they need to answer the questions still being posed and answer them thoroughly. I expect nothing less of them, or of any company.

~Susan Mellott

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