Leprechaun says ‘no tricks' with antivirus software

What happens when a little Australian software vendor releases a complete architecture redesign of its desktop antivirus platform?

About 700 technical support calls a week.

While large multinationals have hundreds of call centre staff at the ready when they release a new software platform, not to mention a second line of defence in distributors and of course resellers to face the initial onslaught, spare a thought for Leprechaun Software.

The company officially released VirusBuster II on September 26, and overnight tech support calls jumped to over 700 a week, mostly from customers and resellers swearing blind the product locked up PCs, and caused anywhere from five to 10 "blue screens of deaths" a day. Some were even calling for a class-action suit.

Leprechaun, which had its usual two full-time tech support staff answering phones, was scratching its head wondering how it had all gone so horribly wrong.

"We did anticipate some calls, but maybe we didn't anticipate as many as we should have," said Robyn Ord, Leprechaun's general manager.

While a few genuine compatibility problems were identified, such as with Windows XP, Leprechaun claims the biggest problem wasn't with the software at all. It had to do with a new serial number identification system built into the program that identifies the customer, how many licences the customer has and when those licences expire.

It was a new development Leprechaun introduced to prevent piracy and ensure that customers received the latest updates of the product. If customers or the reseller hadn't entered the serial number into the program within 14 days of the initial install, VirusBuster II would time out after a few minutes, leading to the problems.

Ord said customers and resellers were e-mailed the serial numbers with their tax receipt after the relevant licences had been purchased. But of course, "nobody reads the documentation anymore", Ord told ARN.

However, resellers in contact with ARN said that the serial number documentation should have been better explained. "Essentially it would have been a lot clearer if the registration process was better written," said Hugh McDonald, technical director of ANZ Computers.

"Unfortunately, it's written by programmers for programmers, who have no concept of us mere mortals who have to use the thing. The registration process was an absolute mish-mash. But the bottom line is, it's a fantastic product. I just wish they would better market it," he said.

The vendor, which hired a number of temporary staff including some of the product's original programmers to handle the influx of enquiries, has committed to making the registration process easier, Ord said.

Leprechaun is arguably the last Australian-owned and operated desktop antivirus software company. Founded by managing director Jack Kenyon in 1989, the company received its first big break when Kenyon solved a major virus attack on the Australian Taxation Office in 1990-91. Since its humble beginnings, Leprechaun has grown to over a dozen staff, with 140 reseller partners and more than 100,000 licensed seats, most of which are in Queensland.

The company has also watched while many of its Australian-born rivals, such as VET, which was acquired by Computer Associates in 1999, fall by the wayside. But despite numerous offers from some "major multinationals", Ord said the company has remained committed to staying a family-owned Australian business.

Resellers with technical difficulties concerning VirusBuster II are urged to call (07) 3245 8526.