A detailed timeline follows:
August 2002: We researched various backup options, and found positive reviews of BRU-Pro on the web.
September 2002: We downloaded the trial version and confirmed that it passed simple tests, such as restoring large files that span multiple tapes (something tar can't do on our hardware).
13 September 2002: Purchased BRU-Pro, including a 3-year support contract, and began extensive tests on our hardware.
17 September 2002 - 24 September 2002: Replaced trial version of BRU-Pro with version we purchased. Noticed python error messages printed on screen, and communicated with tech support to try to resolve the issue.
September - November 2002: Exchanged over 50 email messages with TOLIS tech support to try to resolve problems with BRU-Pro. Tried numerous suggestions from tech support, including:
In addition, we left several voice messages for tech support the last week of October, to ask why they had not responded to email, and did not receive any response by phone or email until 13 November.
18 November 2002: Fedex'ed a physical letter to TOLIS outlining the problems above, and complaining of poor customer support. We told TOLIS that if they could not help us to get the product working, we would cancel our contract.
19 November 2002: Received patch from TOLIS to address problems on LTO drives, although we were not previously informed that this hardware required special support (the patch was dated 14 November).
25 November 2002: Received reply from TOLIS, blaming BRU-Pro errors on Linux kernel 2.4. Recommended that we apply a new set of patches caused by a bug in their compiler. Suggested that we downgrade our linux distribution to one based on a 2.2 kernel, either RedHat 6.2 or Debian 2.2, using kernel 2.2.21.
27 November 2002: Sent another letter to TOLIS, stating that supporting an additional Linux distribution would incur too much maintenance and security overhead. Stated that neither patch we recently received (the patch for their compiler bugs, and the patch for the LTO problems) worked. After applying the patches, BRU-Pro no longer hung while making backups, but failed while validating the integrity of the backups. Again stated that we would cancel the contract if BRU-Pro cannot be made to work on our hardware.
2 December 2002: Received another reply, stating that there are thousands of customers using BRU-Pro completely successfully, and that all problems we are experiencing are caused by the Linux 2.4 kernel and later RedHat distributions. Asked us again to install an older Linux environment.
December 2002 - January 2003: Based on these assurances that BRU-Pro worked with older kernels, spent several weeks installing the recommended software (RedHat 6.2, with Linux kernel 2.2.21) and testing BRU-Pro on it. All versions of BRU-Pro we tested failed to work:
February 2003: Took a break from this BRU-Pro "beta testing" to try another backup product, which passed all tests on our hardware (even under 2.4 series kernels and RedHat 7.3).
12 March 2003: Wrote another letter to TOLIS explaining the situation, and asking them to cancel our contract and provide us with a full refund of the purchase price of their software.
31 March 2003: Received email from TOLIS stating their refund policy was only 30 days, and that they would only refund the "unused" portion of the support contract (2.5 years).