User group or fan club?

Customers of hosting company Redbus are threatening to set up a user group after their kit got fried. It sounds good, but can it really be more than a fan club?
Written by Leader , Contributor

Typical. You wait ages for a Redbus story, and then a whole bunch come along at once. We're referring, of course, to the stories following up on the power surge that fried the servers of Redbus customers last week.

Service provider Andrews & Arnold, who hosted clients at the Redbus co-location facility, provided a graphic description of the serious damage to power supplies, power control switches and network switches. Fuses and trips blew at all levels, said the firm.

We have separately heard stories of the biometric entry system failing as a result of the power cut that ultimately caused the surge, and of customers milling around in what was described as a chaotic situation, trying to fix their equipment. It was not quite apocalyptic, but for some it was not far off.

In its defence, Redbus says the site, called London One, was a first generation co-location facility built during the dotcom land grab and was in the process of a major upgrade.

That is cold comfort for those customers who lost equipment and — more importantly for those doing business online — Internet presence. It's hardly surprising to hear murmurs about setting up a user group.

Redbus is taking this as a touching gesture of loyalty, whereas those who are setting it up see it more as a touching gesture that they can't realistically move anywhere else. Indeed, the fact that a user group is specific to one vendor or service provider presupposes that moving to another vendor or service provider is not really a viable option. It's a paradox common among vendor or service provider-specific use groups.

Next month ten UK IT user groups will launch a super user group to discuss issues such as licensing policies and product quality with suppliers. The Strategic Supplier Relationship Group will, we hear, include user groups of IBM and Oracle, as well as more broad-ranging groups. It may not make it easier to switch between suppliers, but it is likely to provide a more wide-ranging platform on which to judge vendors and hold them to account for their actions.

Nothing like this currently exists for the hosting industry in the UK — but perhaps it is time one was set up. Just like most buses, returning power into the hands of the customer is a development that's long overdue.

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