The Internet offers an extensive user base that is already substantially larger than the combined users of CompuServe, America Online and Prodigy services. With a well-focused, low-cost investment, it is possible to effectively leverage the infrastructure to offer support to the millions of users connected to the global Internet. The Microsoft Internet FTP server (ftp.microsoft.com) represents a solid first step in the area of Internet-based customer support that has been extremely popular with both end-users as well as the press:
“Technological migration takes time, but Novell is really behind the eight ball on the Internet. Internet interlopers logging into Univelfind that its FTP server runs SunOS 4.1, and not Novell’s year-old Unixware. Meanwhile, plugging into Microsoft’s FTP server revealed that Microsoft has a Windows NT FTP Server up and running.”14 ftp.microsoft.com is a Windows NT FTP server, brought online the same day Windows NT shipped to customers. The server offers simple file transfer services to users of Microsoft products, about 70,000 files are available for a total of 500 Mb of information for customers to access. We’ve recently begun measuring usage of this server, which is charted below in figure 8. Since November 1, 1993 we’ve serviced 25,000 users and 75,000 files per week on average, the only cost being the management of an NT server, and the time of program and product managers putting up information for retrieval.
Approximately 50,000 users have downloaded the MS-DOS 6.2 StepUp program since it went online, over 5,000/week on average, compared to only 26,000 from CompuServe, 3,000 on Genie, and 1,500 on America Online. Consider the COGS associated with making this upgrade available in EggHead, or a customer via the postal service on a floppy to be about $5. Putting StepUp on the Internet represents a quarter million dollar savings in two months. All that was necessary was a simple file copy to a server also shared on the corporate network (\\gowinnt\ftp). Our efforts in this area barely scratch the surface of what is possible.