Problems Again Plague Level Platforms Upgrade

After weeks of delays, LPI on Tuesday will release the software which upgrades its flagship Managed Workplace MSP platform from version 4.04 to version 5.0, said Peter Sandiford, CEO of LPI, Ottawa. A full, stand-alone version of 5.0 shipped March 8, he said.

Past upgrades to LPI's product have been riddled with problems, said Doug Barratt, system engineer at Data America, an LPI customer in Oldsmar, Fla., who's been using LPI since its versions were in the threes.

"Every upgrade we've done we have had issues with," said Barratt, who explained that some of the issues have ranged from lapses in reporting data from remote customer sites to glitches that trigger complete un-installs that wipe out the entire existing SQL database of event log information.

Data America will upgrade LPI customers to version 5.0, but will do so carefully, said Barratt.

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Dean Bickmore, vice president of sales at Silvertree Technology, a new LPI partner in Tulsa, Ok., has already deployed version 5.0 from scratch on at least three customer sites. For the most part, Silvertree is pleased by version 5.0, said Bickmore. But bugs are still being worked out, he said. For example, version 5.0 leaves the central MSP management console exposed to anyone with the URL, said Bickmore. "A customer can hit the management console if they know the URL," he said. "We want it password protected."

One MSP and long-time user of LPI who requested anonymity said that because of the glitches that exist in version 4.04, upgrading to 5.0 on top of the older version may not be an attractive option. The MSP said he will test the upgrade software in a controlled environment, but is so upset with problems with 4.04 that spending an additional two to three hours per client to uninstall 4.04 then reinstall the full version of 5.0 is warranted.

"Sure it will cost us more," the MSP said. "But with 4.04 the reporting was really bad. You would see en event on the console, but then when you went to the event log it was empty." LPI's Sandiford said most problems with 4.04 were merely "configuration issues" such as firewall settings that prevented certain remote data from reaching the management console.

This is not quite so, said Shawn Masterson, vice president of Excel Computer, a 16-year-old solution provider and second-year MSP in Bangor, Maine that beta tested version 5.0 of Managed Workplace and recently cut ties with LPI. Masterson said that LPI versions running from 5.0 all the way back to 4.03 had problems with reporting that could not be solved by reworking a network configuration.

"I would get that excuse from [LPI] customer support, that it was a configuration issue," said Masterson. "They would say it's an ISA (Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration) server issue when I had reporting problems, and I'd tell them I'm not even running ISA. I don't have an ISA server in place."

"The final straw for me with LPI was when the software could not even pick up data from the box it its sitting. This clearly wasn't a networking issue," said Masterson.

Had he remained an LPI partner, Masterson said he would have preferred deploying 5.0 from scratch rather than upgrading to it on top of 4.04.

Data America's Barratt said he has not considered upgrading his LPI customers by uninstalling 4.04 before reinstalling a full blown 5.0. The way he sees it, even if he backs up the database information before erasing 4.04, a reinstall of 5.0 will create new data base tables and a new format which may not work properly with the previous database.

"I don't think you'll be able to restore the old data base over the new version," said Barratt, who added "But I'm not down on Level Platforms. I think they have a good product."