AnsweredAssumed Answered

Feedback from a new user / potential customer

Question asked by lurgen on Feb 17, 2010
Hi all,

I just wanted to provide some general feedback as a new user and potential customer. I run a small consulting firm and have been evaluating content/project management portal systems for in-house collaboration on technical projects. dotProject was where I looked first, Alfresco was where I looked last.

Two options interested me - hosting it myself (preferred), or in-the-cloud hosting. So I tried the first option (naturally) to take a look at the product.

As a business owner, my time is pretty valuable to me so I can't say I found the evaluation process particularly impressive. In short, here are my observations:
- The lack of pricing (even RRP) for any option at all almost ruled out considering the product at all. At the very least, cloud-based hosting options should be priced up on the website.
- A single day in-the-cloud eval leaves me with a hell of a hard-core evaluation task in front of me, so I didn't even bother with that option

Installation Process:
- Installation instructions should be clear and linear. I'm a technical guy (Masters Degree in IT, about 15 years technical experience, etc) but really struggled to get the thing to work.
- The installation guide jumps from OS to OS without warning, and has no flow to it at all. I found myself jumping back and forth trying to find the bits I missed
- It doesn't play nicely with TomCat 6 unless you use the bundled TomCat installer, there's no SSH-compatible install script (X11? Seriously, this is only something you'll see in home environments these days)
- I could not get it to work on a shared host and had to resort to setting up a dedicated Linux box in one of my racks (big hassle in an age where shared hosting is extremely common)
- The instructions for setting up MySQL result in a guessable database password (alfresco/alfresco isn't very clever) and don't seem to work anyway
- Error messages during installation are cryptic and misleading. When a database connectivity issue stopped my installation from working I had to read through hundreds of lines of logfile information before I found the single line that explained my situation.

Default Configuration:
- Under no circumstances should any piece of software EVER allow unauthenticated (guest) users to author content. Alfresco does. The guest page is world-writeable even after deleting the guest account! This eliminated the product simply on the basis of poor security
- Extremely hard to navigate as a new user. The welcome page tour takes you to the marketing materials which I had already seen. No help there.

- From the forums (and lack of customisation within the GUI) I concluded that the only way to change page names, banners, etc was to modify configuration files. Not acceptable for a web-based product in this day and age
- I literally could not figure out how to establish a project portal in the first half hour. This is a very important measure of quality of UI
- My two test users had the same concerns about usability. Neither could drive the system in an efficient manner without spending a lot of time reading up on it

Overall, I can't see myself using this product. It was ridiculously hard to get working in the first place, insecure by nature, difficult to customise/personalise and looks extremely basic from here. Maybe it isn't and I'm just missing the point of it but given the number of pleas for help in the forums I'm not the only one struggling here.

I can't highlight the importance of my first point enough - pricing on the website! I know Microsoft doesn't do this, but they don't have to, they own the marketplace. If you want to offer a hosted solution you need to publish your pricing. That, or answer queries for pricing nice and fast (my email has been unanswered for many hours, and unless you missed the announcement the Internet is a global system so 24x7 support or post the pricing).

So I've spent a day messing about with 80% of my time going into either installing it or trying to secure it. It lasted one hour on my system, at which point I shut it down. A shame really, because had it delivered on the marketing it would have been brilliant (and well worth paying for).

Matt Duggan.