Uggh. As you probably know,
As you probably know, I own an ISP in Atlanta. We're a little company (about 250 customers), so we rely on reseller arrangements with bigger companies to offer certain services to our customers. We do our own dialup and web hosting, but it simply doesn't make sense financially for us to roll our own DSL implementation. Yesterday, the company we partner with for DSL screwed us over royally. They decided — apparently on a whim — that they would no longer accept payment by credit card. OK. So far, so good. They communicated this policy change via email at 7:00pm on a Friday evening. Included in this email was notification of the policy change, along with a bizarre request that we fax a copy of our credit card and my driver's license to them as a retro-active authorization for past credit card charges. Nestled in the email was a threat that if we didn't respond within 24 hours, they'd cut us off. Well, that email got buried in about 150 other emails that were received over the weekend, and I didn't respond. I wasn't too concerned; after all, our account was paid in full. We'd never so much as been declined for a CC payment. Everything was hunky dory. Until Wednesday. Then they decided (with no other notification to me) to CUT OFF MY DSL CUSTOMERS! I got an email from one that said “Well, I guess by now you know about the billing problems with [your partner]. All I can say is that I hope we're back up soon”. Turns out our “partner's” (I use the term loosely now) tech support people had told my customer that there were billing problems with my account…implying that I had not paid my bill.
A little digging in my email turned up the email from Friday evening, and a couple of really heated calls (and a fax of my CC and driver's license) finally got the DSL turned back on. But here's the rub: The partner from whom we buy DSL happens to have the same parent company as the company that produces our billing software. Same CEO, same senior management. I'm so mad about the way this was handled that I've decided I'm dropping them altogether. But to do so means that I have to select a new billing system *and* migrate all of my customer data into it, *and* rewrite the scripts that set up accounts automatically, and, and, and…well, you get the picture.
Here are the packages that I'm looking at:
- OptiGold ISP – Excellent package. Almost cult-like following from users. But this one's based on FileMaker Pro and, although it seems like it can do literally ANYTHING, it also feels clunky and slow, and might be difficult to access remotely (which is how I run nearly everything)
- Freeside – This one has the benefit of being free, but it's not nearly as full-featured as OptiGold, and the database model seems a bit…er…hinky. I suppose I could go with the outsourced billing option, at least for a little while until I decide if it's the right package for me. I like the fact that I've got full access to the source code, but would prefer that it not run on Unix
- ISPEasy – Another FileMaker Pro system. Looks similar to OptiGold, but not as full-featured. Same clunky FileMaker interface (perhaps if I was a Mac guy, I'd love it!?)
- BillMax – Seems like a pretty good package, but their website (and demo) is slow as Christmas, which doesn't show it in the best light. If they really understand MY business, then they should understand that SPEED is essential to my customers.
- VIBES – Vaporware at its finest. But Suneel swears it'll be ready for testing in the near future.
What else should I be looking at? If you know of something that I've missed, drop me a note.