Archived blog from the developer, Mike Towle . . . . . . . . . . .
Supporting software is a real issue. It can be time consuming for the software vendor, but an absolute necessity for the software user! So how can good support be offered for a free product?
Of course you could purchase a Software Registration Key (please!), then it's not exactly free. But it's definitely cheap! I'm constantly told it's far too cheap for the wealth of features Adminsoft Accounts contains. The low price reduces the perceived value of the product. But really it's a $500 to $1,000 package. It compares well to other accounting products in that price range. When a user pays that kind of money, they often also end up spending a further few hundred dollars every year to receive continued support and software updates. For that kind of money, the software vendor can afford to operate telephone support. Although they'll usually still charge extra for on-site support or training.
Email support is available for Adminsoft Accounts. And I think the level of support offered via email is as good, and probably better, than many much larger accounting software vendors offer (despite their high product prices). But there times when email isn't really sufficient.
When a product is free, or almost free, there's no money for telephone support, or for setting up the necessary structure to handle on-site support or training, even if it was to be made available as a chargeable extra. If Adminsoft Accounts was available in just one country, then it may be possible. But the software is available all over the world. There are users in USA, Europe, Africa, and the far east, including China. For many users, English is not their first language. Which can make it quite difficult when trying to explain something technical. So there's often a language problem as well as a shear distance problem.
Many users of Adminsoft Accounts are accountants, bookkeepers, or in the training and/or computer support business. People who are very familiar with computers and computerized accounting. Expert users if you like. So it occurred to me, that perhaps the best way to implement a global support network for Adminsoft Accounts would be to offer it through these people. In their country, they can offer telephone support, with no language issues. In their county/province/state they can offer training and on-site support. Of course, like all of us, they're in business to make money, and so will charge for these services. But at least these services will available. Where as at the moment, for the most part, they're not available at any price.
For those of you who are expert users, and would be interested in generating a little extra revenue, please click HERE
for further details. An email shot is in the process of going out to all users. But the email list is now so large it takes several weeks to email everyone!
I hope to go live with the support network on 2nd January 2013 Details of business partners offering support in your country will be available on the web site at that time.
Is accounting software really that important? You only want to record sales and purchases, and know how profitable you are. Surely any old bit of accounting software is going to do that right? Well, yes and no.
The problem with accounting is that on the face of it, it looks simple enough. And if your requirements truly are very basic, then it is simple. But you users out there, you have a habit of thinking your requirements are very basic, when in fact they're any thing but! You want sales invoicing? No problem. Oh, you want to record sales tax, and there's two of them: a state tax and a city tax, and there's different rates for different products/services, and on the same invoice sometimes you want to invoice from stock and sometimes you don't, and if invoicing from stock not every item should have it's stock quantities controlled because it's really there just as an easy way to get a price, and part way through the invoice you might want to save what you've done and come back to it later..... And so on. Adminsoft Accounts can do all that, and more. But we're no longer talking about a simple accounts system!
This presents two problems for the software developer. It makes developing accounts software VERY time consuming, because it needs to be able to do so much. And, because it can do so much, it makes the software look so complicated. This last problem is really the biggest problem, because users want lots of functionality (although often don't realize it at the time), but are fazed when presented with so many options. If you know accounts, then you probably have a good idea of what you want, and will know what to look for. But if you're not familiar with accounts, then the whole thing can be pretty daunting. This is why Adminsoft Accounts has two levels of operation: Level 1 which provides a cut down menu, and cut down version of some of the more complicated forms, and Level 2 which offers everything. These levels are completely interchangeable, in that if you have two users on a network, working on the same company/organization, one can run the system in Level 1, and one can run the system in Level 2. No problem. You can even switch levels as you use the software, if you wish. I've thought about introducing an extra even more basic level, or even complete user defined menu's, so users can choose what options they want to see. But that could just makes things even more complicated!
Email spam is a persistent problem. Like most of you, I get lots of emails from people trying to sell me anything, from barbecue sets to mail order brides! Adminsoft Accounts contains an email shot facility, so maybe I'm kind of responsible for some of it!
The email shot option was created to make it easy to send out email shots to a range of customers or suppliers. It has been made even more useful now it includes a visual editor, that allows you to create nice looking emails, using different fonts, colors, images, etc. without any knowledge of HTML. But, I get quite a few support emails from users asking how they can import their list of prospect email addresses so they can email them out. I have to point out this is not what the facility was created for.
Of course, what people do, and how they use the software is entirely up to them. Later this year I hope to include Sales Order Processing and Sales Prospecting. As part of the Sales Prospecting module there will be an option for bulk email. You will be able to load up email addresses from a file and email them. Once the email shot has started going out, you won't even need to run Adminsoft Accounts, there will be a separate email program sitting in the background sending out the email. While your PC is running, it will be emailing.
Adminsoft Accounts has always been more than just an accounts system. It was always my intention that it should be able to handle most of the accounting and administrative requirements for most small businesses. It's my job to give users what they want. I draw the line at mail order brides though!
I should point out, that yes, I too send out an email shot every month or so. But they are all 'opt in' email addresses, and the emails do contain a link the user can click to opt out of future emails.
They say there's no such thing as a 'free lunch'. In other words, it might look
free, but everything has a cost! So I want to talk about free software.
Google 'free software' and you'll get around 2.2 billion
results! So it's rather popular. Free software is available for a wide range of applications, including games, operating system utilities, internet, multimedia, even accounts! The quality of it varies enormously, as does the available support. From software that's difficult to use, riddled with bugs, and perhaps barely works at all (and sometimes doesn't), and has no support, through to software that is good to the point of being indistinguishable from a paid for (perhaps expensive) product, and with support to match. Unlike most paid for products, most free software is the result of one persons efforts (there are exceptions, 'open source' products are often developed by a number of programmers). In the main, the difference between poor software and good software is down to the developer; their experience and the amount of time they're prepared to invest in the product. The problem with software development in general is that's it's SO time consuming. Few people can afford or find the motivation to invest a lot of time into a product they intend to give away.
If you're just interested in computers and software, you can afford to try numerous free programs until you find one that works for you. It can be fun discovering just what's out there. But if you're setting up or already running a business, time is money. You could end up spending a lot of time looking for the right free accounts package. In which case, your 'free lunch' has turned out not to be free after all! To save time and hassle, many businesses will just turn straight to the established accounts software companies that sell their software. You pay your money, and you expect a certain quality and a certain level of service. There are plenty 'paid for' accounting software products out there that don't offer the functionality of Adminsoft Accounts, or in some instances even the same level of support. So it's perhaps ironic that the biggest single obstacle to Adminsoft Accounts' success is the fact that it's free.
Is this leading up to an announcement that I intend to start charging for Adminsoft Accounts? No. I intend it to remain free, at least for the foreseeable future. Though I would like frequent users to buy a Software Registration Key, otherwise income is limited to the Pay-Per-Click Google adverts. As useful as they are, they will never pay for my yacht in the Bahamas! I console myself with the thought that I'd be too busy with Adminsoft Accounts to use the yacht anyway....
Yes, I know, Adminsoft should be tweeting, it should have a page on MySpace, FaceBook, I should have a page on Linked In, etc. etc. Currently, Adminsoft is doing no social networking at all, and yet these days it's such an important part of getting in front of people.
Why is it not being done? Usual thing, lack of time. So what I've done today is put some buttons on top of each web page for MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. for you guys to click and do all the work for me! OK, it's not the same. I should be putting content up there, where as with these buttons I'm entirely at the mercy of what people want to say about Adminsoft Accounts and/or it's web site. I can't edit any of it. So please be nice!
If you like Adminsoft Accounts, please click away on the MySpace, FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Google buttons and let everyone else know. It only takes a few seconds of your time, and would be much appreciated.
Adminsoft is a one man organization. It has one product, Adminsoft Accounts, which for the most part is given away. As you can imagine there's no budget for sales and marketing. As I have to do everything, including developing and supporting the software, there's not much time
for sales and marketing either. I even have to develop and maintain this web site, and as you no doubt appreciate, I'm no web developer. Of course I'm not exactly alone. There are many thousands, probably millions of small businesses across the World with the same problem. Web sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. provide a great opportunity to market a product or service, at little or no cost. But they are time heavy. Setting up pages, maintaining them, generating tweets, blogs, and so on all takes up so much time. I don't even have time to maintain this blog. When I started it about five years ago, I intended to blog about twice a week. I've ended up blogging about once every two months! I don't issue press releases, and yet there are some web sites that will publish press releases for free. If only I had the time..... I don't have the answer, I'm afraid, I can only comment on how frustrating it is to see all these opportunities and not have the time to exploit them.