Monday, April 26, 2010

Gordon's Laws for software and service use

CrashPlan gets great press and even a Tidbits Take Control recommendation, but when I used it I ran into numerous fundamental flaws. Clearly, I can't rely on reviewers.

From that and similar experiences, here are Gordon's Rules of Engagement for software and services.

Desktop software
  1. Is there obnoxious DRM? (Some DRM is understandable, but it shouldn't be obnoxious.)
  2. If distributed on CD, can the product be used without the CD running?
  3. Look at the installer. Drag and Drop is fine, but if it needs an installer it better be Apple's installer.
  4. Inspect the uninstaller. The best apps don't need one - just delete the app. After that look for something built into the app. Then look for something that downloads with the app. If there's no installer stop immediately.
  5. If it's software, is there an full feature trial period? Limited feature trials are worthless. I need at least a month, or, better, 10 days of use (which may take me months).
  6. Who makes the product? What's their support site like? Can you find downloadable fixes?
Cloud services
  1. Is it obvious how to delete your account and all data and services?
  2. Do they want your Google credentials? If so, run and bar the door.
  3. Do they support Oauth? Do they allow you to have multiple Oauth credentials associated with your account? Extra points for each.
  4. Do they require a security question? If so, they're stupid. (Yes, even Google is a bit stupid these days - but they don't REQUIRE it.)
  5. If your storing something precious online (ex: backup data), what's the password reset policy? "Industry standard" practices means losing control of your email will cost you ALL your backup data. (for example)
  6. Can you get your data out in a useable way? If not, run, run, run.
  7. If there are annual renewals, is there an option to request approval prior to renewal?
Desktop or Cloud
  1. Is there a high quality manual and/or help resource? It doesn't matter whether you're going to read it or not. Products with good manuals are almost always good products. It's a very reliable quality measure.
  2. Is there a blog? Are the developers proud of their work?
Notice there's nothing in here about features, reviews, price, performance, etc. They only matter if a product passes the above screening tests. In fact it's rare for a product to pass all of the relevant tests and then be fail due to bugs or performance. A vendor who can do the above can usually do the product as well.

See also:


Unknown said...

John, are there vendors/services which do all of these things? If so can you name them? Because I don't know any...

JGF said...

I wasn't thinking of the kind of vendors you and I know and love :-).

I was writing of consumer products from Apple, MSFT and small niche vendors.

Most classy OS X consumer products do pass my tests. These days the "manuals" are well done help files - I can accept those.

On the other hand a LOT of cloud vendors fail.