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Buying scripts and software - tips 

Read most landing pages touting a software application or script and you'll often be left feeling that the product can do everything, including cure cancer.

Puffery is a very common form of marketing strategy, but one we need to look beyond when considering the purchase of a software package. By observing the following tips, you can help ensure that the package you select is right for you and if it turns out not to be, that you're not out of pocket.

What you pay for..

.. is often what you get. This certainly applies to software and scripts. If you don't have a lot of cash to spend, don't expect to get a package that will have all the bells and buzzers you want; and if it does, be prepared for glitches or extensive editing.

This is often the case with software applications that were developed overseas and are being sold by overseas vendors. They tend to be cheaper and while the functionality may be there, often what suffers is the language; so be prepared for some tweaking of templates and language packs.

Don't trust demos.

Often a software vendor will have a demo of their application available to try out on their site. This is a great way to get a general feel of a script, but how it operates on the vendor's server and how it works on yours can be a totally different ball game; so don't rely on a demo alone when making a purchasing decision. 

Read the requirements.. carefully

Most software vendors will have a compatibility/server requirements page - review that carefully and bear in mind that just because (for example) an application is compatible with php5, it doesn't mean it's compatible with php4. Some applications will also need additional modules installed on the server that may be uncommon, so you need to be wary of those.

Know thy server

If you're not sure what sort of operating system or modules are installed on your server or the versions, one of the easiest ways to find out is using a feature of php called phpinfo. That is assuming your server supports php, which most do.

phpinfo() is used to check configuration settings and for available predefined variables on a server. 

It's really easy to implement, simply open notepad or a text editor and add the following:

<?php

phpinfo();

?>

That's it. Save the file as phpinfo.php and then upload it to your server, then view the file through your browser - you'll be astounded at the degree of information it provides.

Don't be distracted

Before going shopping for a software application or script, jot down a list of essential functions you need it to perform. Sometimes we can be dazzled by other features of software so much, we part with our cash and then discover that a critical element is missing. 

Free trials

This is a great safeguard - just ensure that you install and use the software within the free trial period. I feel that a 7 day free trial isn't enough to thoroughly put an application through its paces, so look for 30 days as a minimum. 

Money back guarantee

Like a free trial, this provides reassurance that if the application doesn't work or you're not satisfied with its performance, you can get your cash back.

However, refund guarantees can be slippery beasties so check the fine print in the terms. For example, there may be a condition that the only case for a refund is if the script doesn't work on your server. It may perform poorly, but unless it's not working at all, you're unlikely to get your money back. Also, as with a free trial, ensure the refund guarantee is good for at least 30 days.

Support and updates

Cheap applications and scripts can sometimes mean expensive, poor or non-existent support and software updates. It's not unusual for companies to charge for support after X period of time, so it pays to look into this aspect and also the company generally. For example, when was the last time the product was updated with bug fixes or new features? What do others have to say about the company and their support?

It's rare to purchase a script or software application that works straight out of the box so to speak - there's usually some tweaking to do or little bugs to iron out, but by following the above tips, you can reduce nasty surprises to a minimum.

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
http://www.tamingthebeast.net 
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
Web Marketing, Internet Development & Ecommerce Resources
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In the interests of transparency and disclosure, please note that the owner of Taming the Beast.net often receives goods and services mentioned in reviews for free, or may receive payments or affiliate commissions for advertising or referring others to merchants of products and services reviewed.

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