Ask Your Wallet if “Forced Software Subscriptions” Are Right For You!


Many computer users are too young to remember mainframes typified by large cooled rooms with raised floors, dumb terminals. and the data center overlords who “granted” you access to data, memory, and applications. Control was the key. And the computer overlords had it.

Fast forward to today.

You may have noticed that more and more software companies are going to the “Forced Subscription” (aka “Take It Or Leave It” — pay monthly) model often with their proprietary and required cloud access. This forced approach is similar in many ways to the mainframe model. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, this forced software model yields the best cash flow for the company. Shocking!

Control? As with mainframes (or other centralized control): you lose it.

This new forced subscription model, simply put, means you pay regularly - whether you use the software or not — or, usually, your software stops working. While this model is great for the company with regular cash flow (or else!), the model may not match how you use the software or want to pay for it.

Whether this software model bothers you is largely personal, but your choice to not pay until you are ready for a new version is currently being eroded with forced subscription software models. Also, as stated, loss of control of your data can go hand in hand with this subscription model, especially if the company forces their cloud solution on you.

The Case for Software Subscriptions

The case for software subscriptions includes always having the most up to date software, often not needing to configure, install, or maintain subscription software. No licenses to keep track of. For teams of people, a subscription often means making one regular payment for working software for the team. Whether these subscriptions should be forced on you as the only option available is the key point here.

The Case Against Software Subscriptions

The case against Forced Subscription software is compelling.

Number one among the various reasons against forced software subscriptions is that forced software subscriptions are, well, forced. Take it or leave it.

If the company then also forces their cloud “solution” on you to use their software, do you want these companies to have access to and even control your data? You should read the fine print in your Terms and Conditions before simply clicking “Accept”.

Moreover, do you want the drip…drip…drip of your money now regularly going to a third party for software you can, or used to, just update (and then pay for) when you wanted to?

Other Questions…

  1. Who at the software company has access to your “Cloud” data (aka, simply your data they store on their servers) Programmers? Admins? Others?
  2. What happens if you stop paying (credit card expires, for example)? Is your data access terminated, your data deleted, or what exactly? How soon is the data deleted if deleted?
  3. What happens if your data is lost by the company?
  4. Does the company have and guarantee backups?
  5. Is your data encrypted on a cloud (Internet) servers?
  6. Where exactly is your data stored?
  7. How private is your data?
  8. Do you need this software up to date all the time as a subscription might offer?
  9. What happens when the company is hacked? Security in general?
  10. Do you have control do permanently delete your account and your data?
  11. Once you’re roped into Forced Subscriptions, will companies try as hard to come out with new exciting software?
  12. Why pay a monthly free for software you might rarely use?

Unexpected Consequences—Where Did My Data Go?

The costs of forced software subscriptions can add up, both financially, and from unexpected consequences.

One of our readers had an issue, for example, with a well-known company she used for email. She paid a monthly fee for that email service and had used this company for over twenty years. Yet, one month, her credit card expired. And, in just 6 hours, before she could update her credit card information, the company had deleted all her server email going back 20 years! Multiple calls to the company, letters to the president, and other attempts went nowhere. Her email data was gone. Period.

We’ve Got You!

When using software that needs “The Cloud” (aka “a hard drive somewhere on the Internet” others control) to run, companies could use this dependency to implicitly force a software subscription model on you. Consider when, at some point, cloud access itself ceases to be free, or becomes more expensive over time (as you become more dependent on it), etc.

A Ray of Sunshine — Lots of Software Options

Fortunately, there are many companies that don’t force a software subscription model on you. Instead of Office 365 (subscription), consider OpenOffice or LibreOffice. Both these MS Office alternatives are free for personal and for commercial use. Instead of TextExpander (previously recommended, but now recently changed model to forced subscription and forced, currently un-encrypted, cloud storage of your data), consider aText (one time $4.95 fee). Programmers can use the free “Eclipse” instead of now-subscription IDE offerings. With IDEs as well as other software, there may be tradeoff between cost and productivity that you should consider.

Let Companies Know How You Feel:

Companies are really thinking about jumping on the bandwagon and moving to this model. When you contact companies with questions for support or other contacts, let them know how you feel about forced subscription models.


Harkening back to the mainframe computer days, “The Cloud” and Forced Subscription models put the control with a third party, not with you. And of course, that’s the point: keep you paying … or else (software stops working, data gone, …) While you may get convenience or slightly more up to date software, you are also giving up control and are now paying regularly just to use your software.

Forced software subscriptions are becoming more common, but many choices for avoiding forced software subscription exist and should continue to exist. Unless forced software subscriptions are right for you (they’re not bad in all cases), look around for alternatives and take back (or keep) control of your software!



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