Most of us have become so accustomed to poor product quality and poor product support that even the mediocre impresses us – that’s part of the reason we all so readily purchase “extended warranties” for all manner of products these days.
But today, as the year draws to a close, I want to tell you about two organizations I discovered in 2006. Each offers an excellent product and manages to top that with superb support.
The first of these is eSyndicat Directory Software. Early in 2006, unhappy with the buggy scripts of its competitors, including both freeware scripts and one of the most popular commercial scripts, I had a look at the eSyndicat demo on the advice of the suggestion of someone on one of the webmaster forums. I was impressed with what I saw and purchased eSyndicat Pro 1.2 – it had all of the features I needed now (as opposed to ‘promised in a future version’) and they all worked as advertised, bug-free, out of the box. The script was very customizable with a minimal knowledge of HTML and PHP and performed like a stable and dependable workhorse. A few months later, eSyndicat Pro 2.0 was released with some new features and enhancements of several features in the earlier versions – free to all who had purchased the previous version, as are all future upgrades for this product, virtually unheard of in today’s market.
So it was an excellent product. But over the course of the past couple of months, I’ve also had occasion to test the mettle of the eSyndicat Support team. The first occasion was when I botched the upgrade to version 2.0 by failing to carefully read the instructions – I mentioned this on the eSyndicat Support Forums and submitted a support request ticket and within a couple of hours had a response and a fix in both places. The second was a minor non-critical bug in my Administrator Control Panel, which turned out to be duplicate tables again resulting from the botched upgrade – this too was promptly fixed for me by the support team. And most recently I found a non-critical bug in version 2, again an Admin Control Panel issue which did not affect the usability of the script itself for visitors, and reported this via the Support forums – and again had the issue fixed within two hours – on a statutory holiday!
You can see a demo of the eSyndicat software on the web site and a free version of the software (eSyndicat 1.5) is also available. Additionally, eSyndicat Pro offers free migration from all other directory scripts. And you can see the script in action at my directories: Psychlinks Directory of Health and Mental Health Resources and Psychlinks Directory of Medical and Mental Health Support Groups.
The second surprise of 2006 was A Small Orange website hosting. By early December, increasingly frustrated with shared hosting and frequent database server outages caused by errant applications running on other sites on the same server, I decided to take the leap forward to VPS Hosting. On the basis of comparisons of hosting services on various webmaster forums and the almost reverent testimonials from several satisfied customers, I decided on ASO for my new home.
Now bear in mind that while I have programming experience in several languages dating back to the 1970s (starting with mainframes and card-punches!) and had my first basic website in place about 1996, I am very much a novice when it comes to the mysteries of servers and server software. The first challenge was to move several databases, one quite large, from my previous host to ASO (the last time I needed to do this was a nightmare which left my site down for over a week and little help from the support desk for my former host). The second challenge was trying to configure the new VPS in a hurry while trying to bring myself up to speed with Apache, cPanel, and Unix. In the first 24 hours, I managed to tinker almost everything I could find into inoperability. But the ASO support team was amazing: They helped me with the site transfer and each time I messed something up on the server, they had the problem identified and fixed within an hour or two maximum, often more quickly than that. In spite of by fumbling and bumbling, I had everything up and running within 48 hours (and all of the mission critical elements within 24 hours). I know there is no way I could have managed that without the superb support of Tim and the ASO Support Team.
As I said, finding this level of product and service support has become a rarity in an age of disposable consumerism. I highly recommend both of these organizations.
Update: I can no longer endorse the eSyndicat Pro script. Oh, I still think it’s a great script – when it’s installed and running. But the upgrade nightmares have increased with each successive version to the point where I’ve given up. If you visit any of my directories, you will see them running on phpLynx. The reasons and my review of phpLynx can be found at phpLynx: Directory Script with Superb Support.
Update 2: I have now returned to the latest version of eSyndicat Pro. I was informed by a frequent visitor that there were significant problems with displaying the phpLynx script in browsers for the MAC (not having a MAC, I wasn’t able to test this personally). I later discovered that phpLynx has now closed up shop and is looking for a buyer for the script.
Further Update: I have also given up on eSyndicat. I still think it was a great script but the updates were an ongoing nightmare that always resulted in downtime and intervention from their tech support people. In my opinion, a simple dot version upgrade should not be that complicated. I have now conslolidated my directories into a single directory at http://directory.psychlinks.ca using the phpLD script (review forthcoming).
A Small Orange, ASO, directory script, directory software, phpLD, eSyndicat Pro, eSyndicat, hosting, virtual private hosting,phpLynx