By shear coincidence I’ve been working two cases involving software with really draconian copy protection systems. As it turns out, my biggest problem with BOTH these peaces of software was not some technical issue, but rather it was navigating the burcracy they had erected to insure they got the maximum revenue from their software. As a result, I can’t say that I will be working with these software products again. So here’s a lesson to all the small and specially software developers out there: If you make your copy protection PART OF THE PROBLEM, you will LOSS MONEY in the long run because IT CONSULTANTS like me wont recommend your product a second time.
The first case involves a Food Service Management System from Aldelo Software. These guys are classic case of “what not to do” when it comes to software. There business model seems more based around forcing you to purchase their yearly maintenance contract. Now this in and of itself is not necessarily a “bad” thing, there are quite a few companies (me included) that encourage their costumers to commit to service contracts. What make Aldelo so bad is the brutal nature in which they enforce their maintenance contract. Basically, if you do not have one of these agreements, then there NO support after 30 days, even on issues which are clearly driver, database, or other wise low level software related. The funny thing is that Aldelo wanted me to purchase a maintenance contract before they would even confirm if a problem was software related.
In most cases when a software vendor pushes this hard for annual maintenance agreements the front-end cost of the software is kept low to encourage a high rate of adoption. But Aldelo’s font end costs are still highly elevated ($900ish per station).
Aside from the maintenance contract foolishness. Aldelo also has some pretty harsh “Software Activation and Registration” hoops you have to jump through. To it’s credit Aldelo does offer a 30 day demo of it’s product, but you have to provide them with quite a bit of personal information (so that can market/harass you later) before you can download the demo. The demo version is a complete running version, except it’s impossible to tell how your receipts and kitchen chits are going to look because they have “DEMO DO NOT MAKE” and “DEMO NOT A REAL RECEIPT” plastered over everything and on EVERY OTHER LINE of the receipt. Also, do not attempt to load a backup of your database into the demo version, because when you do that all bets are off, and the software locks down waning you to activate it. (so much for testing or having a back up system on standby should something crash)
The software activation is pretty straight forward if you have an internet connection. There is an on “over the internet” registration and activation scheme. However this convenient system only works once or twice, after which you are force to call Aldelo and registrar and activate manually. This means that if you have hardware failure (which is common in a food service environment) then your stuck having to call them. The manual system involves A LOT of very long alfa-numeric codes and of course messing up a single digit in that code means you have to go back and do it all over again. Not something you want to do from a touch screen only terminal. In my one case of having to do this without internet (so far) it took over 40 minutes to register and active manually. Not something that can be done during an dinner rush.
This system of registration and activation presumably prevents someone from installing 3 terminals when they only have license for 2. But if you ADD additional terminals to your network, then you MUST go back and re-registrar and re-activate EACH of the terminals to accommodate the new ones.
Needless to say, I have not been impressed with Aldelo. It is hard for me to recommend a product that frustrates it’s legitimate users in a draconian (and ultimately futile) effort to stave off piracy. What makes this completely bizarre is the MASSIVE hole in their “registration and activation scheme”, which makes sealing the product much easier than dealing with the headaches Adelo puts you through when you try and do the right things.
The ONLY number Aldelo asks you for on a new installation is the “serial number” that can with the software. In fact, it is the ONLY number of note and differentiation when you purchase the software. When you are talking with Aldelo you give them this serial number. If this number is unused they will then “bond” that number to you in their registration and activation system. The ludicrous thing is that this number is printed on the OUTSIDE of the retail software box. Twice now, I have had situations were I have purchased copies of Aldelo new-in-box still with the shrink wrap on it, only to discover that someone else had used the “serial number”. I’ve been lucky. I both cases I was working with a software vendor who worked with Aldelo to fix the issue. In one case I know the software vendor had to buy a new license from Aldelo then resell that license to me at a loss so he could honor our purchase agreement.
Now I DO NOT condone software piracy. But is seems a little disingenuous of Aldelo to make the end users suffer in a effort to “fight piracy” (i.e. squeeze every last dollar out of their software market), and yet do something as inane as put the most important number on the outside of the box.
Other than the registration and activation nonsense, and the constant badgering for a maintenance contract, the software does a pretty good job. It uses a Microsoft database back-end, so it is subject to needing constant reworks and compressions, but the Back-Office part of the software allows for that. Back-ups are also a must when using the MS databases because they are not very crash tolerant.
The Menu building in the software does have a learning curve, but once your done a couple of items with multiple modifiers, it becomes easier.
Back-Office reporting is about what you would expect.
At the end of the day, Aldelo is not a “bad” program, and the service staff who use it seem to like it. But the vices of getting it up and running outweigh whatever ventures it has in daily use. All the more annoying because those vices are artificial introduced on top of whatever normal problems occur when you are setting up a new point of sale system.