Why I’d Rather Pay

January 3rd, 2007 by Chris

I was reflecting the other day about how very happy I am to pay for software.

I was doing my taxes and so all my expenses were right in front of me and it reinforced how I can write off software purchases, but my like for commercial software goes beyond that.

You see, you must look at the actual cost of a piece of software, not just the purchase price. With vBulletin for instance you’re paying $160 for a license and $30 a year for upgrades if you want them. However, Jelsoft, the publisher of vBulletin, is a fairly successful company. They have the resources to continue making vBulletin indefinitely. This means you will never be stuck with outdated software and be unable to upgrade it and have to pay for costly custom work to convert it or upgrade it.

Now, what got me thinking about this is I recently installed a few commercial plugins on a few of my vBulletin forums. One was vblogetin, a blog plugin that allows users to create their own blogs and ultimately provide them with an almost MySpace-like environment (or so is the plan). The software is still very new, only exiting beta in November, but I gladly paid for it (you can see it in action here). Now, anyone who visits vbulletin.org knows there are numerous free blog plugins, however because they are free they are typically left unsupported at some point. For instance, the most popular one in the past, vbJournal, still does not (to my knowledge anyways) support the most recent vBulletin versions. The author hasn’t upgraded it. So those with vbJournal installed cannot upgrade, or cannot keep their blogs if they do upgrade, or have to do some custom fixing to get them compatible (time is money).

Now, this doesn’t necessarily apply to larger companies. Linux is technically free, but plenty of companies, such as Red Hat or IBM, make money off of it and support it. MySQL is also technically free, but they still have their methods of making money off of it as well.

I’m not thinking though of software in that realm, I’m thinking more of the bits of scripts that web publishers buy or download to run their websites. I would much rather used scripts I pay for rather than scripts I get for free, simply because there is nothing more expensive then having out of date software you cannot upgrade.

4 Responses to “Why I’d Rather Pay”

  1. Aaron  Says:

    You make a very good point. As a small business, it makes sense to purchase software for not only the support and peace of mind of an often superior product, but also gives you write-offs come tax time.

    As a free-lance entity, its not always easy to pony up the cash. Thankfully, the worth-while web community today is held accountable to a degree. You can find free scripts and open source solutions that are rated and reviewed so that if they fall out of favor with their developer, they fall out of favor with the community and are replaced by newer supported programs. This still brings about the time = money issue because you need to do the work to change when necessary. Its a fair trade off until the free-lance entity grows enough business to where its more cost effective to buy software.

  2. Eric Smith  Says:

    Completely agree with you, and not just because I’m a software developer.

    The hidden cost of free is that once paying jobs start to occupy the developers time, the free projects have to take second place – no matter how fun they are to work on.

    I personally would love to spend all my time on fun free projects but I have to pay the bills…

  3. Peter Davis  Says:

    Thanks for pointing to vBlogetin. I’m going to be needing it in another week or so, and am checking into it now. I agree with your sentiments, especially with regard to Jelsoft and vBulletin. Sometimes, though, the free, open source stuff has an advantage. With stand-alone blog software, for example, I really like WordPress a lot, and many of the other good ones are free too.

  4. David Risley  Says:

    The internet is a world of free software, however the old saying “You get what you pay for” still holds true. While there is a lot of great open source software, most often it is the paid software that is highest quality and offers real support. The support for open source products typically depend on the user community, which is not always reliable.

    If you’re going to use free software, check to make sure it is widely used. Otherwise, you’re in for a ride (potentially).

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