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NCP Scam

posted May 8, 2012, 3:22 PM by Tinkering Techie
First a little background information:

I've always used virtual machines for my work computer for many reasons, but mostly because it's easier to manage and portable (if you move it to a laptop). It allows me to rebuild my workstation without having to re-install and re-configure dozens of programs. My current work VM uses Windows 7 64-bit and I built it in 2010. Unfortunately at that time there wasn't a Cisco VPN Client for Windows 7, let alone Windows 7 64-bit. So I searched for an alternative client and found NCP secure entry. It was pretty expensive ($144 at the time), but I needed it to do my work, so the cost was justified. It worked fine up until this week.

I was going on a business trip, so I moved my VM over to my laptop. Everything worked perfectly... except NCP Secure entry. When I tried to run the software I received a licensing error. It wanted me to re-activate. I tried to do so, but I was instructed to contact the help desk. What follows is my fight with them to re-activate the software. My emails are in green, and their emails are in red:

I just moved my virtual machine to my laptop for a business trip and for some reason NCP secure entry wants me to reactivate. When I try to do so it gives me an error 10103-1. My serial number is #######. Please reset the activation so I can continue to use it. Thanks

I do not see any activation request coming from a non-Vmware system. Please install the client on the Host OS and send the activation request. That should work.

I've been using this software successfully on this same VM for two years now. Why did it activate fine when I first installed it, but now you won't allow it? Also, can you show me where on your website it says I can't use this on a VM?

This is a very urgent issue, I use this software on a daily basis. I need it re-activated as soon as possible.

Understood. That is why I strongly suggest you install the client NOT in a Vmware image. I think you may have misunderstood my previous message. All I was pointing out was that our client is not designed nor tested for virtual machine deployment. In particular this means that a license can lock up at any point in time. We only allow one grace activation for each client. And the number of grace activations on your client has been exceeded. We do not allow moving the client between different hardware. This is stated in the license agreement. As I said I can make a one time exception if you install the client on a Host system, versus a virtual machine. I trust that installing and operating the client in a Host OS will provide a more stable operation. 

Your one grace activation allowance is not stated anywhere in the license agreement. In fact it states that I have the "perpetual right to install and use the Software on one single computer". I don't need my lawyer to tell me that "perpetual" is infinitely longer than "one grace activation". It means as long as I'm using the same computer (which I am) then I should be able to continue to use the software.
Your suggestion of installing the client on a host system would not only be against your license agreement, but it would also require me to re-purchase your software as soon as I get back from this business trip because I'm using my laptop right now and once I get home I'll be switching back to my desktop. Not to mention that the hardware on my desktop gets upgraded once a year (therefore triggering re-activation). I'm sorry that you overlooked VM usage during your design and testing, but since it's not stated anywhere in the system requirements or in the license agreement then it would be considered deceptive that you allowed me to purchase and install it, but then refused to allow me to continue to use it.
So, once again: I am a paying customer who is using your software according to the license agreement and I would like to continue to do so. I'm simply asking to use the software that I paid for in the same way that I have for the last two years. If it was fine when I first installed it then it should be fine now.

You are correct about the license agreement which, as you correctly stated, points out that:

"perpetual right to install and use the Software on one single computer"
Further you stated that:
... as soon as I get back from this business trip because I'm using my laptop right now and once I get home I'll be switching back to my desktop.

This operation is in violation of our license agreement. It looks to me you need to purchase a second license key.

You've taken my quote out of context: I was referring to your recommendation about installing on the host OS and how it would violate the agreement. I totally agree that installing it on two host machines would require two licenses, but instead I've installed it one single (virtual) computer. The whole point of a virtual machine is that the underlying hardware is independent. Taking my virtual computer with me on my laptop is equivalent to carrying an entire machine with me, but the hardware is virtual. All of the other software on that virtual machine works correctly and is used according to their license agreements. I'm also using your software according to its license agreement on "one single [virtual] computer".
Let me break it down for you in one simple yes or no question:
Do you allow your software to be installed on a virtual machine?
    • If the answer is "Yes" then please reactivate my software.
    • If the answer is "No" then your website and license agreement are inaccurate, misleading and deceptive and I would like to return my software for a full refund as I purchased it for this exact purpose.

You are correct we do allow installation of the software on a virtual machine. What I pointed out is that we do not support it. Which is a different situation. This includes resetting the license key when you move or alter your virtual machine. The problem is that when you move your VM the CPU ID changes which effectively changes the computer fingerprint that we are using to identify proper license operation and compliance. I can reset your key one last time. However when you move the machine back after your trip, your license will lock again and cannot be unlocked again. So you have to leave the VM on the physical machine it is been activated on. 

Once again, this is not stated anywhere in the license agreement or on your website. If you do not "support" virtual machines then that should be made clear to the customer before they purchase the software. I never would have bought this software if I had known this would happen.

Basically they allow you to purchase and use the software on a VM, but they won't "support" it. Any by no "support" they mean that their licensing code could break at any moment and you'll be stuck with a $144 error dialog. Their website still doesn't mention anything about virtual machines and I've attached a copy of the licensing agreement which also doesn't mention anything about VM's.

Since this discussion took place over several days and I needed VPN access during that time I did a little research and found that Cisco had introduced both a Windows 7 and Windows 7 64-bit client. So I installed the 64-bit Cisco client and was on my way. I completely removed the NCP Secure Entry client and have no plans to install it again. I basically paid $72/year for the software which I suppose isn't a complete waste, but I still feel ripped off because this license should have lasted forever.

So if you're considering NCP software and you use virtual machines then beware. It may work for a little bit, but they don't "support" it despite what their website and licensing agreement might indicate. You may end up like me: angry, frustrated, and $144 poorer.

Tinkering Techie,
May 8, 2012, 3:22 PM