Software Rental – a cautionary tale


So here’s the issue I have with subscription-based or rental of application software… it’s the work and files I create that wind up being held hostage or worse–locked out forever.

Oh, my beautiful data

Historically, (for me that’s over 20 years with the Adobe applications as an example, but they’re certainly not the only pseudo-SaaS offender) I’ve purchased a “perpetual” software license and that software worked for as long as either the hardware or operating system that supported it. This meant that I could conceivably back up the OS, software and my files then later restore these and always have access to my files — preserved in time based on the hardware that ran everything. All was good and even Aldus FreeHand 2.02 lives another day. And so the tale begins.


Newer versions of software (and hardware and operating systems) came out and teased new features that invariably caused me to upgrade. But here’s the issue, I could still run the older hardware, OS and software if I needed to… With the new software rental scheme, what’s to stop the software company from crippling the software remotely thus disallowing access to my files?

G’head, it’ll be better

You say, “Well the newest online-enabled version of the software can open your old files, right?” Not always. There’s been plenty of times where the updated software version cannot reliably open files that were create with the same software but only 2 versions prior. Issues like color spaces, font rendering, layer styles, non-updated plugins, could always cause old files to be forever inaccessible with the newest software versions.

Told ya so

So why would I want to use a controlled software rental scheme — even at the “bargain” of $10/month? I doubt Adobe is going away any time soon, but I’ve watched many a software company disappear or get absorbed and the software never gets updated. Imagine software that simply will not work anymore once a company disables, sunsets or otherwise scraps their applications.

I’d rather buy the license, but now I don’t have a choice with the “market leaders”.

What to do?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect ongoing support (that should be extra) for antique software. What’s the solution? Go back to the good old days? Doubtful. Wait for other software companies to fill the void with “Conversions as a Service” subscriptions? Maybe. For now, I’m sticking with the licenses I have and keeping a keen eye out for smarter replacements. I’m sure we shouln’t name names here, but why not? Replacement for Illustrator/Fireworks – currently Bohemian Software’s Sketch or Indeeo’s iDraw (both Mac only, sorry). Replacement for InDesign, sadly none – though I’ve been revisiting QuarkXpress or the more “open”, Scribus. The list will continue, but my path is clear – find application software that I can license rather than rent.

Thoughts, suggestions? Contact me.