Microsoft licensing snafu irks Windows shops

Microsoft said it has mostly fixed a botched upgrade to its Volume Licensing Service Center. The problem kept enterprise customers and partners from accessing their software.

Microsoft business customers, and the VARs supporting them, are seething over an online licensing snafu that kept them from downloading and using their software.

At issue was Microsoft's Volume Licensing Service Center, which was taken offline for an upgrade in December. Subsequent efforts to launch the site were met with a series of problems. Microsoft apologized for the issues in a blog post Monday. Several users and VARs said they were unable to access the site for a few weeks in December, but that they appeared to be back in business this week.

"It was a nuisance," said the IT director of a large New England hospital, who declined to be identified. "When Microsoft got [the site] running again, our account information fell back to a state that was more than eight years old. The only person that could approve access to the account was the former director who retired more than seven years ago," he said in an email. The hospital's account rep fixed the problem, but it took quite some time, he said.

Dave Driggers, an IT manager at Energen, an energy company based in Birmingham, Ala., said the problem had him "sweating bullets" in December. He could not see the company's licensing keys, which meant he could not download and deploy software for end users. He said the site appears to be up and running as of this week.

Part of the rationale for the work Microsoft did on the site was to give customers and their third-party resellers access to the same system. Both customers and partners might have been routed to different websites depending on the type of licensing they used. Microsoft has been integrating its websites to make it easier to track and manage license info.

Microsoft's blog post acknowledged that while most of the issues have been resolved, some customers and partners may still be affected.

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