This is a brief summary of serious problems I have experienced with Exabyte VXA tape drives and Exabyte's (lack of) customer service:

In roughly 18 months I have owned three Exabyte drives: two different Exabyte VXA-1 drives and one VXA-2 drive. Each of these three drives has been taken back into service at Exabyte's request based on drive failures. These drive failures have caused me many hours of lost time troubleshooting, communicating with Exabyte, shipping drives back and forth and repeatedly resorting to alternate, slower, and much more tedious backups.

As of February 4, 2004, I have been without the most recent failed drive -- the VXA-2 Firewire -- for more than seven weeks! It was shipped back at Exabyte's request. I've only had this VXA-2 drive since August of 2003, so after less than four months of moderate use -- I'm a one-man operation -- Exabyte acknowledged a problem with this $1,700 drive. I received my RMA and the drive was delivered to Exabyte on December 19, 2003.

I called RMA support January 8, 2004. I was told the drive just got "into the system" the previous day (January 7, 2003) after being on the premises for three weeks. I asked how long it would take and I was told 10 working days. When I asked why so long I was told there was only one technician able to service the VXA-2 drives

After three additional weeks had passed and I still had not received my drive I placed a follow-up call on January 28, 2004. RMA service informed that the one gentleman who is repairing the drives had not had a chance to work on it yet. I asked to speak with a manager who informed me that they would do what they could to get the drive back to me. Two weeks ago, I wrote to several executives at Exabyte, including CEO and President Tom Ward, but have yet to receive a reply from anyone.

I have given this technology more than fair evaluation. I was even willing to assume, at different stages in the troubleshooting process, that the problem could have been on my end and I spent a great deal of time looking at every possible variable. I was able to eliminate drive failures for awhile through my own diligence, but eventually the drive failures began occurring again. My willingness to at least hold open the option that the issue may be a problem on my end was used against me when I attempted to obtain some sort of compensation. It's important to note that what I've documented above only details problems with the most recently purchased VXA-2 drive (this was actually through an offer from Exabyte to VXA-1 users to "upgrade" to the newer technology. The company representatives I spoke with all but admitted the VXA-1 drives had not met expectations and they were trying to get existing customers into the newer technology (at additional cost of course). Remember, I had already received and shipped back -- each time at Exabyte's request -- two different VXA-1 drives due to repeated drive failures.

In addition to all the aggravation, I have also made a sizable financial investment in Exabyte's technology. I've spent roughly $2,000 on the original VXA-1 and the VXA-2 "upgrade" plus over $2,000 in V17 and V23 tapes for the two drives. That doesn't include the cost of numerous long-distance phone calls and the cost of shipping three drives back to Exabyte. I obviously consider these purchases a regrettable waste of money. Exabyte has not only failed to provide reliable products, but their customer service falls way short of acceptable. That I should have to wait more than seven weeks for a repair on a product with a three-year warranty is unacceptable. It's a tremendous inconvenience to me. If and when the drive is finally returned, I will never feel comfortable with it because I will always wonder when the next failure will occur.