SBC Causes Me Pain

One of the trials of being the sole sysadmin/helpdesk type in two different organizations is that you are the only person responsible for solving problems. The tale of woe I am about to relate is a problem I might have assigned to someone else if I had the power.

First, the disclaimer: I use SBC’s DSL both at home and at work. In general, things have been great. I’ve gotten decent technical support when I’ve needed it, downtime has been minimal, and the download speed has been higher than advertised.

That being said, here’s what happens when things don’t go right:

One person in our office has been having wierd problems with sending email for a while. Once, her email program somehow failed to realize that it had successfully sent her messages. Compensating for this problem, it then resent them every 10 minutes or so.

Over the course of one evening, I recieved 50 copies of her email explaining that she had a problem that caused her computer to send multiple copies of the same email.

Updating her copy of Outlook/Office XP to the very most recent, most patched state possible seemed to solve the problem.

Recently however, she told me that messages were staying in her Outbox and not being sent. Simultaneously, however, Outlook was informing her that it was stopped at 2 of some 160 tasks it planned to pursue in the course of sending email. Mind you, she had sent only 2 emails.

In the course of investigating, I found that other people in the office were also having problems with this–people not using the same version of Office or the same OS.

So, I called SBC to find out what the heck is going on. I got the lowest possible level of tech support–the kind that assumes that you know nothing and requires the person to go through configuration of your email before they’ll send you up to the next level of tech support.

I had configured mine correctly, trying both a newer and an older smtp server address. Neither worked. Strangely, things spontaneously started working at the end of the (hour long) phone call. This happened while the tech support person tried (unsuccessfully) to transfer me to the next highest level of support.

Because things had started working with the newer smtp address (but not, I might add, immediately upon trying the newer smtp address), I decided to change people’s smtp server settings. We had signed up with Ameritech before SBC acquired it and were still using smtp settings that pointed to an Ameritech server. Thus, I changed it to the settings Yahoo recommends as apparently SBC has contracted out email to Yahoo.

Things worked. Yay me. That was Monday.

Tuesday: I come into work only to discover that sending email no longer works on some computers. Which ones? The computers whose smtp settings I’d changed to be current. The ones using the old settings are just fine.

So I change all computers back to the old smtp settings. Things work. Yay me.

Wednesday (today): I come in, work on some other things, feel like I’m getting things done for the first time this week and someone comes to me, telling me that people can’t send their email.

After screwing around for a bit, writing SBC an email, attempting an online chat with an SBC representative, and calling our account representative, I change things back to the new Yahoo settings.

Things work. Again. I have no idea what is going on. One would think that if an organization was going to close out the old smtp servers that they would notify their customers. Also, what’s up with the new server settings working the day of the change, not working the day after, but working on the day after that?

I’m thinking there’s got to be some way blame corporate bureaucracy for this, but I’m still trying to figure out exactly how.

4 thoughts on “SBC Causes Me Pain”

  1. I had the same issue with sbc last week, for a year my mail worked fine, then one day, it says the mail server does not recognize your user, I changed my outgoing mail to my hosting providers smtp and all is ok now.

  2. That’s amusing.

    I don’t know what smtp server you were assigned to, but I finally decided to do a traceroute on the two servers I knew about.

    The original Ameritech smtp server always times out. The Yahoo server returns things fairly decently–today at least.

    Hope it stays that way.

  3. The SBC smtp servers have been up and down from just before the strike and afterwards. Several servers went down just before the strike and remain intermittent.

  4. That would do it. I can see why SBC wouldn’t bother to announce that. It would go against their “Things will continue as if nothing happened” line about the strike.

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