We’re fast approaching the end of 2018 and we’re looking to leave it behind with a bang. There are a TON of exciting improvements coming -- some of the biggest we’ve ever made -- and we are essentially re-creating SmarterTools as a brand new company.
Why are we doing this? Well, we feel it’s time to give customers more of what they want. We’re at a point, with internal changes we’ve made to our development processes and at the final stages of several projects, that we can commit the time and effort needed to give back to our customers. That means making wholesale changes to the company, how we’re branded, what we have to offer and how we’re offering it. That includes changes to the following areas:
- A new website
- Simplified tools for account management
- New releases of all 3 products
- New installers and setup wizards
- Improvements to how product releases are handled and distributed
- Improvements to bug reporting and release of hotfixes
- Improvements to “Upgrade Protection” -- and a re-branding
- Improvements to our support policy and ticketing process
- Price decrease for reinstating “Upgrade Protection”
- SmarterMail BETA and license upgrades
We started this process by transitioning to a brand new datacenter in October. Our new space provides us with greater flexibility, more room for growth and the ability to service customers faster and more efficiently. But that was just the beginning. Below, we’ve detailed each of the improvements that are coming, and provided our reasoning behind them.
New Website and New Tools
To close out the year, we're releasing a entirely new website. This new site has more detail, provides more information on our products and pricing, is faster and more mobile-friendly, and includes new logos and icons for all three products. We’re also releasing some substantial changes to the account area.
The changes to the account area are to simplify and streamline processes. Things like ordering products, upgrading or modifying licenses, accessing support resources and more will be substantially easier. Your account area will become the only place you need to go to interact with us: no more having to have multiple logins for our website, for the Portal, etc. and having to switch back-and-forth between the two. Your account login will be the only thing you need moving forward.
There are a number of reasons for these changes, but they all boil down to trying to make things simpler for customers: simpler ordering, simpler upgrading and renewing, simpler communication with support and more. In addition, along with the other changes we’re announcing, we felt it was time to give a new and updated appearance to our brand and products, along with the new tools that will be available to customers.
New Products and New Installers
For the first time in a long time, we'll have new releases of SmarterMail, SmarterTrack and SmarterStats at the same time. These releases will include new, more complete and more user-friendly installers.
As many of you know, SmarterMail has been in BETA for the last few months. We're delighted to say that we're in the final stages of having it ready for public release. And while we just released SmarterTrack 14.x in July, we already have some exciting new features available. In addition, a new version of SmarterStats is coming!
As for the installers, they’ve been completely re-built for all three products. The new installers substantially streamline the installation and setup processes. For example, we will check versions of .NET and Windows as part of the installation process, limiting the potential for a version to be installed on a server that can’t support it. We’ve also integrated the IIS setup process, removing the additional dialogue that pops up when installing our products. Finally, the installers will have licensing built-in. This will help prevent customers from installing a product they’re not licensed for, which can cause installation problems and support calls in cases where rolling back isn’t an option.
Product Release Improvements
Moving forward, we’re eliminating the “major” and “minor” tags for any release. Instead, we’ll be making releases available on a regular schedule -- at least monthly -- that will include bug fixes, new features, improvements to existing features and more. Therefore, as we’re combining all new features, bug fixes, improvements and other changes into our releases, access to new releases will require active Maintenance and Support (see below) in order for those releases to be installed.
Once these changes go into effect, SmarterMail 16, SmarterTrack 14 and SmarterStats 11 (which have over 78 updates combined, and are all incredibly stable based on current environments and conditions) will no longer receive updates. Therefore, customers who have active Maintenance and Support will want to upgrade to the latest releases, and keep their Maintenance and Support active. This is especially crucial since email clients, mobile devices and their clients, browsers and protocols continue to evolve.
The primary reason for this change is simple: we want to be able to get new features and fixes out to customers easier, faster and on a more consistent schedule. For example, previously a new feature would have to wait for a major release before it was available to customers. That wait time could be anywhere from a few weeks to several months. With this new release schedule, we’ll be able to get new features and fixes out to customers MUCH faster, without having to sacrifice our testing or standard release preparations.
“Upgrade Protection” Is Now Maintenance and Support (M&S)
Just like “Upgrade Protection”, Maintenance and Support will continue to be included with every new purchase and customers will still have the opportunity to renew it, or reinstate it for older licenses, in 12 month increments.
What is different, however, is that you now have the ability to install all releases PLUS we’ve added unlimited technical support, which is one of the reasons why we changed the name. There are no longer individual support tickets to buy, nor will customers have to purchase any support packages. Moving forward, all customers will continue to be able to purchase 24 x 7 Emergency Support, Installation Support and Product Training.
Finally, as part of our website changes, support tickets will be able to be submitted right from the account area, eliminating the need to go to our Support Portal to submit tickets. Full ticket histories will also be included for your account so you can see the status and history of any ticket that's submitted.
Including unlimited support to “Upgrade Protection” was a heavily requested for years. Well, we listen and it’s now available. And the best part is we didn’t have to raise our pricing to do it!
In addition, providing support as part of the yearly maintenance of a software product is a common approach in our industry for providing support and updates. Normally this occurs with products or services with higher price tags, but we were able to make it work.
Support For Individual Hotfixes
In those cases where bugs have been reported, and fixes provided for those bugs, customers have long requested that we provide ONLY the fix that is needed. Well, that’s now possible!
Previously, any custom or pre-release build that contained the fix included any other changes or improvements that were made to the product. This could cause email administrators some headaches, especially if a change was a new feature or something visible to their customers. That is no longer the case.
Meeting this request required significant changes in our development process so we could provide customers with specific fixes instead of including fixes or changes that are currently occuring at that time in a particular product.
STARTING TODAY: Price Decrease For Reinstatements
Next, as a way to help people who are currently out of Maintenance and Support, STARTING TODAY we're decreasing the the price to reinstate Maintenance and Support on ANY license. Previously, reinstating Maintenance and Support for 12 months was available for 85% of the retail cost of the license. Moving forward, the reinstatement discount is increasing to 75% of the retail cost of a license! (The renewal discount for Maintenance and Support will remain at 40% of the retail price.)
SmarterMail BETA and License Upgrades
Something exciting that you can participate in NOW is the SmarterMail BETA. Any customers who have current SmarterMail 16.x licenses will see that those licenses are already upgraded to the next version of SmarterMail. So, if YOU want to install the BETA on a production machine, you can. The are no longer any BETA restrictions, like we had in the past, so add-ons will continue to work on BETA versions of our products just as if non-BETA licenses.
Please visit the SmarterTools community to download the installer, read all of the release notes associated with the releases, and to participate in the current discussions around the next release. Get started today testing the latest features in SmarterMail!
More Is On the Way
And that’s not all! We have more changes coming after December 3rd. We’re not complacent at SmarterTools and have no intention of ever becoming complacent.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for using SmarterTools products. Here’s to an eventful end of 2018 and the promise of 2019 and beyond!