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Archive for October, 2010

Continuing our discussion about the legal rights people assume they have with local install software, here’s another post, this one unfortunately from the ABA.

SaaS and Cloud Computing Considerations–Software Longevity and Access to Your Data

First off, Intuit is pretty lame.  No reason they couldn’t port a lot of data into Mint. I’ve used Quickbooks for years with my teeth gritted.

Intuit are among the worst offenders in forced paid upgrades and charging for support for features that should be built in ( I paid $200 once to have an Intuit help desk support person tell me to hit “Shift” while I started the application when that fix was not in the support docs.)  So boo on you Intuit and I’m bummed they bought Mint, because I like and use Mint.

Back to the post, a couple of problems:

Software Lock In
Software by nature generates application-specific lock in.  That’s the whole point.  Local or not, you can’t generally port everything “as-is” from application to another. CSV isn’t perfect but that’s industry-standard.

More importantly, fundamentally, it is the same problem if Intuit stopped making Quicken locally.  Cloud or not – pick an application and you’re locked in to an extent.  To what extent is up to you.

Ownership
The part below I’ve quoted is particularly inaccurate and may be leading people to violate their license agreements with software.

“With these examples in mind, a bottom line to consider is that when you buy software that you install locally on a computer, you generally will always be able to access to it as long as you maintain the computer, and can even reproduce the software if you keep a copy of the installation materials and have access to computers with compatible operating systems.”

This just plain doesn’t make any sense.  Come on, ABA. SaaS, done right, is far safer, easier to use and economical, allowing small lawyers to compete with mega firms.

First, what does “maintain” mean?  Does “maintenance” include security upgrades or even software version upgrades?  The latest version of Intuit products doesn’t support every previous version. What if you upgrade your operating system?  In addition to buying the OS, Intuit will force an upgrade. So you won’t have access – unless you keep buying the software you’re already locked into.

BTW, that’s the whole business model folks. The total cost of ownership is not just the original install, but every upgrade version after it in addition – much higher than just buying the shrinkwrap.

Then you have to keep it backed up.  So it’s not just maintaining a single computer.  It’s the computer, and a backup of the data. And the backup can’t be stored on-site — that defeats the purpose.  It has to be off-site backup.

So if by “maintain” you mean take a computer, freeze the applications and operating system, in essence turning it off and unplugging it, boxing it in a fireproof case, putting the computer in a closet and never using it, and having a second computer exactly like that one stored offsite – then maybe this statement becomes accurate.

Breach of License Agreements
Second, reproducing the software in many cases would be a violation of the software licensing agreement.  Installs on new devices will generally be prohibited – otherwise you buy one copy and install it anywhere.

Check out the agreement.  It doesn’t give you a situation where it’s okay.  Your license agreement doesn’t say “if you have to buy a new hard drive, or if you had to buy a new computer, or if you gave your old computer to your mom and bought a new, then that’s okay.”

They all say the same thing.  It’s our software.  You don’t own it.  You license it.  And we only authorize you to use in a very particular way of our choosing.

So unless you are intentionally planning on breaching your license agreement, this isn’t an option unless again, you keep an extra shrink wrapped version of the software that has never been installed anywhere.  Because when you need it, it may longer be sold or supported by the developer.

Unlimited, industry-standard exports
The answer we’ve chosen is to use an industry standard export, like EDRM XML.  We also support download to PDF, Concordance and Sumamtion and at no extra charge with no charge for bandwidth.

Fundamentally, any data loaded to our application already exists in its native format.  Our users have the originals, we save a copy of the original native in the application, along with the image preview of the document in the Review and Trial Clouds.

Software isn’t perfect.  There are annoying things about it.  It locks you in.  It makes you pay.  But in return, you should be more productive.

Cloud or local install, software remains software.  There are plenty of issues to discuss around SaaS to make it easier for people to understand and to purchase.  The “ownership” argument simply isn’t one of them.

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