Thursday 28 February 2013

Adobe offers free installation support for ColdFusion. With a list of caveats

We were reminded by Rakshith on Twitter this morning (well: "morning" for me, anyhow) that Adobe offers free installation support for ColdFusion. His Twitter message was a pointer to an article on the ColdFusion Blog explaining it .

Taken at face value, this seems really great. And it is, to a degree. However - as is often my wont - I have managed to find things about it that rankle me. Which is handy on this somewhat-jetlagged "slow news day" for me.

If one reads the blog article, the last para says this:
Note, support is limited to product installation only and installation does not include network installations, silent installs to a network environment, database configuration, clustering, distributed set-up of servers, or any other similar set-up or activities.
To me installation support should be support for any sort of installation. I've got no problem with not offering DB config, server setup etc, but anything to do with CF installation ought to be covered by this support.

When I quizzed Rakshith on this, he invoked the Nuremberg Defence, and pointed me to an Adobe policy doc, from which that text originated. OK Rakshith, you're off the hook. However I still take issue with your Kommander.

Surely an install is an install? If you're gonna offer support for installing your product (which, let's face it, is not unduly generous... it's pretty reasonable to expect that software should just install), then any sort of supported installation should qualify for this assistance.

(aside: actually I dunno if those variations are supported, but I would have thought that if they weren't then they'd not get mentioned at all, instead it'd just say "any supported installation method"?)

Rakshith qualified this by saying this:
Well, with limited support resources and having to cater to support contracts that our customers pay for, we have to draw a line [...] between what is free and what isn't.
(the [...] is just where I stitched two Twitter messages together, there's nothing else omitted there).

My reaction to that (which I didn't send via twitter, having decided at that point to put this in this article instead: god I hate Twitter's 140-char limit) is... hold yer horses, mate... these customers have just bought the software, and haven't even got it installed yet. What you're offering is not free, it's - surely - part of what they've just paid for in the software. I don't see how Adobe can consider they've fulfilled their side of the transaction if the person can't even get the thing installed!  I know legally that Adobe probably has absolved themselves of all responsibility for anything at all once the person checks the box to agree to the EULA (or even before hand, perhaps)... although as that's part of the installation process, one cannot guarantee they've yet agreed to that. But there's a difference between legal limitations and "seeing your client right" (ie: the difference between "legal requirement" and "legally absolved from any responsibility" is different from "right" and "wrong" and "good" and "bad").

I could see that free support for a trial or developer licence should be very limited, as that certainly would be offering free support. But I think it's disingenuous to describe support for the installation of a paid-for licence as being "free". The client has paid for working software. If they need the vendor's help to get it working, then that should be part of the cost of doing business, I think.

There'd even be a case for providing this support for trial & dev licences (and I think Adobe does include those licences in this support deal), because it's important to give new users a smooth experience in getting up and running. If they can't get up and running with their trial licence, they're not gonna be buying a proper licence, are they? No.

All that said, I think it's cool they offer this support, and my observations above are less a gripe, and more of a thought exercise for me (and now one you have had to endure).

The last observation I'll make is that Rakshith / Adobe are kinda positioning this as it's a new thing as far as ColdFusion support goes (they don't outright say it, but they don't outright not say it either). This support has been available for as long as I can remember... which would be back as far as 2000. It's not new. It's just under-publicised.  I also know that this support used to be offered via phone, and reading the Adobe doc Rakshith pointed me to, it reads like it still is. So as well as the email address in the blog article, there should be a phone number too. Anyone know what it is? Or has it been discontinued? If it still exists, it'd be great if that could be noted in the blog article too.

And finally... cheers for the heads-up re this support gig you guys offer Rakshith. I'm already aware of at least one CF punter who was not aware of this.

Oh yeah... and if anyone does have installation issues for situations outwith that which Adobe support for free, don't forget there's a strong community out there of people who will try to help no matter what type of install you're doing. I'm - personally - not particularly experienced with CF installs (I'm a developer not an administrator, and like to stick with the stuff I give a sh!t about), but there's plenty of people out there who will help. Try the Adobe ColdFusion forums, or pop a question on Twitter using the #ColdFusion tag, or the CFTALK mailing list or something. Hey, you can always ask me direct and I'll try to help, or at least ask the rest of the people I know if they can help.