In the early days, all the engineering designs is done by manually. It can be built many mega structure by engineers. With the evolution of computer, it has bring human to another level where now engineers can do more impossible engineering works by the help of computer. In our Malaysia, we have Kuala Lumpur City Centre(KLCC) where it has two concrete towers. With the invention of Finite Element technology, where it is do more things that it is impossible can be done it by human. They involved a lot of repeated computation where involve may up to few hundred thousand of similar computation which only can works by the help of computer. Also the globalization by the help of internet, we are more expose to other world, where we can have benefit to know many good engineering software which has been produced in other countries. Before with the invent of internet, those software only available in that country, the software has not fully benefit to other countries other than themselves.
Now when engineer need to have a software to help in engineering works, simple; what he need to do just google it in google.com. Google will search of a big list of contents that related to that particular software which engineer needed. We must understand, when there only has limited choice, we will claim that not enough information. But when there a lot of choice, we will fall in dilemma of selection of software.
Therefore, this issue, we are going to explain some of way to select a software. We here to compile of some information which hope can benefit engineer on buying an engineering software.
Factors affecting buying and using software
We must understand that whatever thing we need to use, it will involve of cost. Is it FREE or need to pay?
Free software will comes with some hidden cost where user will not realize at the initial stage. i.e. engineer get it to use without any cost. First and almost will the technical support. Who will standby to support the software? It means that owner of product will do it wherever owner is FREE. Especially in urgent situation, engineer need to work to be done on that day but engineer encountered some issue in software. But it will not 100% correct for all those free software. For example software like HEC-RAS, a free public domain software which produced by US Army Corps of Engineers or SWMM. No doubt there are limited support provided. Somehow, since this software is popular, it comes with a public communities forum where user can get help from there.
Another of the hidden cost of FREE software, software will be provided by FREE, but whenever user need a support, a fee will be imposed.
In another way, paid software. It means user need to use it, user need to pay for certain amount of money. In our region, there is a one common mindset that user who paid for software, it means user is “own” the software. But in reality, user gain a right to use it but not to own it. It may said he own the right to use it. We must also understand that in most of time user who install a software, the user will not deeply read through the License Agreement before he install it. He may just click accept and next to proceed with installation. It is not the correct way to do so. But this is norm in our region. The first amount of money being paid to the software, mainly it is paid for the time and effort of developers who built it. The computer software is slight difference with other products, it needs maintenance. What mean that the software built is not perfect. It has bug or error on it. One important information about software, we cannot get a 100% bug free software. If user get a software from a vendor and said that no bugs, it mainly is cheating the user. You must remember that, even giant software maker like Microsoft also has updates and fixes among their products like operating system and office. In certain interval of period, they will release updates and fixes.
The paid cost will categories into certain group. Certain company, when user buy, user pay for cost of software with one year free support and updates and upgrade of product. Some will the bill it separately, it means that user needs to pay for cost of software and pay separately for support and updates and upgrades of product. Whenever involve in support or maintenance fees, or may called with subscription fees. User needs to careful understand the cost of subscription fees. It can be a burden to user where user is not aware of it. Be careful term and condition of usage of software. Some may terminate of usage of software when the subscription is not paid.
Bear in mind that, our world is turning software into software as a service. We cannot have expectation a software developer will continue support a customer for a long period such as ten years or more. Therefore, a number of giant software like Microsoft, Adobe, Autodesk. They are moving toward subscription basis. You will aware when you buy their products. They are charging user in daily, monthly or yearly. It seen it is cheaper in starting, but remember as long as user uses it, user needs to pay it forever. Furthermore, it will not a problem when user just buy one product as subscription. But imagine when user has a number of products with subscription it will be a burden to user. Please take note.
Supports are important especially in engineering software. It not like Antivirus or MS Office. User needs their supports are minimum. But in engineering software, it will not be true. User may need direct support from seller or developer who developed the products. User need to justify some result, user need advice on operating software, user may need training. Therefore, the support is important in engineering software. First and almost, user needs to make sure that the seller or developer has technical knowhow on the software, where they can provide in depth explanation of software. Theory behind the software, concept of software. Justification of output result. Are they capable to do it? Another issue need to attend is are they allocate support persona to handle it. Whenever support is needed, are they promptly attend to user problem. As a result, usage of software for any engineering works must aware of the support. If user meet highly demanding client, can software vender provide such support? Or any premier support available? Most of time, supports are available for paid software but not Free software.
*Learning curve or User friendliness of software.
There always a question arises. Do you want to has to simple and easy operate or a powerful but difficult to operate? If both can provide similar result. Which will be better? Be careful of those expensive software, the operator of software can be hijacked by other company due to he only the person can operate the software. If the software is easy to operate, then company will not be worried on issue of hijacking of staff. Company can be replacement easily.
Always need to raise a question of how fast a common people can get started?
*Reputation of software.
Whenever, user meet a new software. Now is quite easy, try to google about the product in google.com. You will unexpected some outcome about the software. Go yourself to evaluate the outcome. It may comment, complaints, praise etc. From those messages, it can provide you a guide to make decision of buying. Do not direct refer to the review of the software site because it mainly will give you positive feedbacks. You have to obtain some negative feedbacks. Then balance among the positive and negative feedbacks to make your best decision.
One more issue need to attend is the who are the person behind the software. Are they people who engineering sound? How long they are in business? Do they just want to make money or passion on the software development?
With the above mention issues, we hope we can provide some guidance to any user who need to use an engineering software.