Gold'en Rant : Beware the software firms without telephone support

Over the last few years there's a raft of low-cost Windows utilities that have appeared on the market, typically costing around $30.00 or so - about GBP18.00 in UK beer tokens.

Excellent though this software is, there's a creeping trend for the firms concerned to only offer support via their Web site and/or email.

Take ABF-Soft, a US firm that produces some useful utilities that provide, amongst other things, easy-to-use backup - and restore - software for Outlook and Outlook Express.

The software has saved ny bacon on more than a few occasions and is extraordinarily useful for moving Outlook/Express files and settings, as well as Internet Explorer favourites etc., between machines when I upgrade my main PC every 18 months or so.

However, last month I hit a snag when migrating between two PCs, both of which were running Windows XP; Earlier this year ABF, in its infinite wisdom, decided to change its database format whilst moving between versions of its back-up software.

And just to make life interesting, it no longer allowed the older version of the software to be downloaded from its Web site.

So I installed the latest version of its Outlook Express back-up software to my new machine and attempted to restore the relevant data files. Except they were in the old format.

It was a Friday evening. I had to fire off an email to the firm requesting a copy of the old version of the software (which I'd neglected to back up) and then wait until Monday evening for a reply.

In the interim, after a *lot* of Googling, I found a copy of the old version on an Australian Web site and managed to port all my email between the two machines.

If the firm had provided telephone support - even on a premium rate number - I could have saved myself several hours of frustration.

I'm now avoiding companies that only provide email/online support for their software. If it comes down to it, I'll use freeware and tear my what little hair I have left - out, thankyou very much.