[Update: As of 12/2013 OCZ has filed for bankruptcy. The articles I have read discuss changing markets, poor strategic decisions, and problems with corporate acquisitions as the main reasons. I can't help wondering if OCZ's total disregard for the happiness of its customers could have been a contributing factor.]
[Update2: Toshiba has purchased the majority of the assets of OCZ Technology. The sale was completed on 1/21/2014. The Toshiba subsidiary is now named OCZ Storage Solutions. I hope that Toshiba will lead OCZ to be more customer focused, though I have had no further contact with OCZ, OCZ support or OCZ products.]
Recently I decided to build myself a new, screaming fast, ultra-quiet desktop computer. The centerpiece of this new machine was to be the latest and greatest in super-high-speed, zero noise storage devices – the OCZ Technology RevoDrive X2.
The fastest types of storage devices commercially available today are "solid-state drives (SSD's.)" These drives use transistors instead of spinning disks to store data. Thus, they are extremely fast and make no noise. Historically SSD's have been manufactured to look and act just like traditional hard disks drives. This was done for backward compatibility. OCZ realized that they could squeeze even more performance out of these devices by breaking with that constraint. Thus was born the OCZ RevoDrive X2, an SSD that plugs into a PCI slot on a computer's motherboard, thereby providing bleeding-edge performance. Needless to say, it was a must-have for my new über-machine.
I spent a week carefully choosing the components for my machine and placing orders from various vendors. When the parts arrived, I gleefully constructed my new killer computer. After building it and loading all my software, I was dismayed to find that its performance was not particularly impressive. It didn't seem to be any faster than my prior machine. In particular the hard disk access (or should I say SSD access) was no great shakes. Moreover, it would seem to lock up from time to time, especially when installing new software (which I was doing a lot in those first few days.)
I decided to run the Windows Experience Index (WEI) to see how Microsoft thought my machine stacked up. To my amazement the WEI showed a reading of only 5.9 for the drive. [The peculiar scale of the WEI runs from 1 to 7.9 – don’t ask me why.] While a reading of 5.9 isn't dismal, I had assumed that the fastest drive money could buy would score a perfect 7.9. Also, my previous computer with an older, earlier generation, ordinary SSD had scored 7.1 on the Windows Experience Index. Clearly something was very wrong.
I surfed to the OCZ Technology website looking for answers. Unfortunately OCZ’s website is very short on support. There is a lot of information about OCZ products, especially documents explaining why SSD's are so wonderful – in particular why OCZ SSD's are supposed to be so great. There are a few brief FAQs, but not much else. It takes quite some time to discover that there's really nothing there, as there is a tremendous amount of marketing materials and other non-relevant, non-support, information under the “support” heading.
It appears that OCZ wants you to find your answers on their community based forums – hosted on a separate web site. There I found several discussion threads created by people experiencing the exact same problem: strange system slowdowns, lockups especially installing new software, and most interestingly, the same 5.9 on the WEI – everyone was reporting this same odd number. Though it was clear that dozens of people were having the same problem, no one from OCZ tech support had weighed in on the matter. All the forum entries were by consumers.
Reading through the forums learned that the benchmark by which OCZ tests its products is a performance test called ATTO Disk Benchmark. So I downloaded ATTO and ran it. ATTO showed that the drive was running spectacularly fast, as advertised. This confusing result was the same that was reported by the other users having problems with these drives: superfast performance on this ATTO synthetic benchmark, mediocre results on a benchmark created by Microsoft (about which no one really knows the details,) and truly disappointing real-world performance. I posted my own info on the forum in the hopes that yet another piece of data might lead to discovery of a solution.
I waited several days, trying various fixes on my own and looking forward to a reply on the forum, but OCZ support was MIA. Finally I went back to the main OCZ Technology website to see about getting some real support. There they tell you that they want you to create an online trouble ticket before calling on the phone. So, I created a trouble ticket pointing to the forum entry that I had written and noting that OCZ should really pay attention to the fact that there were a dozen or more people experiencing the same problem.
A couple of days later a support engineer replied to my trouble ticket stating simply that ATTO is the benchmark they use. A good performance result on ATTO means the drive is working. They marked the ticket “closed.” That was it. Nothing else. No mention of the slow system or lockups, and no recognition of the fact that others were experiencing the problem. I had spent hours futzing with the machine: moving the RevoDrive card from one slot to another; uninstalling and reinstalling device drivers; downloading, installing and running various diagnostic and tuning software; adjusting configuration parameters for Windows and for the other devices in the system; and on and on. Nothing worked. Getting such a useless reply to my trouble ticket was definitely annoying.
I then called OCZ customer support during their limited phone support hours. The engineer I spoke to was very pleasant. He agreed that someone really should be replying to the posts on the forum. He told me that they have dedicated engineers whose job it is to monitor and reply to postings. He promised me that he would get in touch with them and make sure that someone responded to this issue. With regard to my machine, he told me that these problems were almost always problems with other devices in the system. As a result, he said, it was basically impossible for OCZ support to help customers such as myself. He said that I needed to look in the Windows event logs for errors which would help me figure out which device was causing the problem.
So I spent several hours studying the errors and warnings in the event logs. If you've never done this, it is a very painful process. Some of the errors are clear and obvious, but many are exceedingly cryptic. I worked and worked to correct any errors I was able to decipher, though none seemed particularly pertinent, and none of my changes improved anything.
A couple weeks later, with my system still performing erratically, I went back to the OCZ forums where I found even more customers complaining of the exact same problem, but still no comments from OCZ. I called OCZ tech support once again. Once again I spoke to a very pleasant support agent who agreed with me that this was a problem and assured me that someone would read through the forums and reply to postings, even if such a reply was merely to inform people that we must solve the problem ourselves by examining our Windows error logs.
I never did solve the problem. About two weeks after that call my RevoDrive went kaput. From another machine I went to the OCZ forums looking for advice to see if there was any way to salvage the drive. There I found countless other postings by people complaining of the exact same failure that I had just experienced. [The 240Gb RevoDrive X2 is internally really four 60Gb drives in a RAID0 configuration. The system reported that one of the four drives had failed, rendering the RAID0 inoperable.]
In this case OCZ customer support had been replying to users’ complaints. The standard reply advised shutting down the machine and unplugging the power for one hour to completely clear the memory and system BIOS settings. Everyone who was experiencing the problem and tried this replied that it hadn’t fixed the problem. Failing that, apparently the only option was to return the drive for replacement. According to many posters this could take a month or more (which is completely unacceptable.)
Just for yuks I posted my own information to the forum about my RevoDrive dropping dead. In response to my posting, OCZ customer support told me to unplug the machine for an hour. Surprise, surprise! It did no good. Furthermore, in their reply OCZ tech support pointed me to the forum rules which state, quote:
Moving forward there will be a dual 3 strike rule, you have 3 posts or 3 warnings to add user system details, after that you will be placed under moderation and no help or advice will be offered.I can't tell you how warm and fuzzy it makes me feel to have a company's customer support organization tell me that if I don't provide them with all of the information they ask for I will be cut off from assistance. So, not only is OCZ tech support useless, they are also rude. . Keep in mind that this is a very expensive drive that didn't work correctly from day one and cost me many hours of my valuable time. This SSD alone costs more than many computers. It is fair to say that I paid a premium price for a premium product. I think OCZ should provide premium support for such a product, and they should provide that support without the attitude. A policy warning me that I am out in the cold if I don’t deign to give them every system stat they want up front is lame, lame, lame.
At this point I had no desire to own another OCZ drive and I certainly wasn’t about to wait a month to get a replacement. Unfortunately, by now I had owned the unit past the point where Amazon will accept returns on computer disk drives. My previous SSD had been from Intel – a company known for the reliability of their SSD's. I decided to just say goodbye to the money I had spent on the OCZ. I went on Amazon.com, where I placed an order for the latest and greatest Intel SSD, which is plenty fast and reputed to have rock-solid reliability. I also sent an e-mail to Amazon.com customer support telling them about my experience and asking if they would be willing to take the RevoDrive back. The next day I received a reply from Amazon with an RMA number and a UPS shipping label to return my broken RevoDrive for a 100% refund. Yay Amazon!
It is important to remember that OCZ technology is a company that relies on "influential early adopters" like me. Their customers are people who are into technology and willing to pay extra for the newest and best hardware products. They are also dependent on the type of customer that Malcolm Gladwell dubbed “mavens,” in his book The Tipping Point – customers who make markets by communicating their experiences to others.
It is suicide for a company like OCZ Technology to ignore dozens of reports on their forums. In most businesses it is assumed that if there is one customer complaining there are probably tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people with the same problem. Those multipliers are somewhat lower in the world of bleeding-edge technology where customers are likely to go to the forums when they experience problems. Still, if there are a dozen people complaining about slow and flaky SSD’s, there are probably hundreds of disgruntled customers out there experiencing these problems to one degree or another.
OCZ is failing to support their most important customers – those vocal, early adopters that make or break a new technology. I have never needed their customer support before, but now that I have experienced the fact that they are clearly shipping out products that are not ready, and are then failing to support them, I have concluded that they are not company that I want to do business with. There are dozens of component manufacturers vying for dominance in this marketplace, so there is no need to patronize one that has failed so badly and with such apparent arrogance.
Normally I wouldn’t write a company off based on one bad experience, but in this case, both the product and support were so bad that OCZ is on my “black list.” I encourage others to avoid the OCZ RevoDrive X2, or, at least to read the OCZ forums to see what users are saying before investing in this expensive, half-baked product.