Products break. I accept that. However, reputable companies make it easy to figure out what the problems are and get them fixed. They also honor warranties.
This does not seem to be true with the folks at iLok. And because of this, I want to share my personal experience with them as a cautionary tale of how not to do business.
iLok, for those of you that may not know, is a USB dongle that holds license keys for software. The audio industry uses these extensively to prevent piracy of their products; with ProTools as the best known example. The key fact you need to keep in mind is that iLok-enabled software will not run if your iLok is missing or broken.
For the last three weeks, I’ve been trying to install and run an iLok so that I could demo some new audio software that works with Final Cut Pro X. Trying, and totally not succeeding.
First, even though iLoks are supposed to support OS X 10.6, on my system they do not. Every time I accessed my account, the software crashed out to the Finder.
Normally, a quick call to tech support resolves this. However on the iLok webpage there is absolutely no way to contact support by phone. In fact, you can’t contact ANYONE by email at all. And you need to be at least three menus deep to find even a web-based contact form for support.
I should have been suspicious when any tech company goes into customer avoidance mode. No email addresses, and a very carefully hidden response form does not indicate a company that wants to actually do business with the public.
Giving up, I went to a local Guitar Center to purchase a new iLok at a cost of $50 plus tax.
Took it home and it didn’t crash.
However, it also would not install, even after downloading and clean installing the latest version of their license manager multiple times.
Again, no way to contact support. But, this time, I found the support response page and sent them a note.
To make a long, three-day story short, the iLok that Guitar Center sold me has been “intercepted” en route and someone used it to install license keys on their system.
The net result was that even though I bought this new from Guitar Center, they would not take it back because it had be used; prior, I might add, to my purchasing it.
And the folks at iLok could not take off the existing illegal owner and refresh the iLok back to its default state.
My only option, they told me was to buy another new one. Another $50 down the drain.
So, I went to a different Guitar Center, earlier today, and purchased a third iLok for another $50 plus tax.
Brought it home, plugged it in and it flashed seven times and died. Nothing. Dead out of the box. Sigh…
Went back to the iLOK page, only to discover that in order for me to send it back UNDER WARRANTY, I needed to pay iLok ANOTHER $50 — not for a new iLok, but as an RMA processing fee.
NOTE: The company also sells product insurance called “Zero Downtime” to enable you to keep working if your iLok breaks, is lost, or stolen. However, zero is a relative term because you need to send the iLok to the manufacturer for replacement, which means that for the several days it takes to get a new iLok back, your software is non-functional.
THIS IS RIDICULOUS!!!
If a company is in the business of servicing the media community, they should, at a minimum:
I know that iLoks are used throughout the ProTools community. And there must be people who are happy with them, because ProTools continues to sell.
However, if you have the option of buying software that does not support iLok, you will be much better off avoiding this dongle. Because the iLok system, as it is currently implemented, is designed to force customers to spend money unnecessarily to get a hardware lock that does not work reliably and can’t be repaired quickly.
Would you trust your business to these folks?
As always, I am interested in your comments.
P.S. Normally, I would send this message as a private email to the “powers-that-be” at any company in an effort to resolve issues. However, as I’ve mentioned, it is impossible to contact anyone at iLok about anything.
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