Major updates? Really are minor updates...
Problem reported by Neal Culiner - June 16, 2015 at 6:03 AM
Submitted
I'm sorry to say but these "major" releases of SM are to me, minor incremental updates.  There are no major improvements in my opinion, the UI is still lacking, the features within are minimally improved, I'm not sure if it's revenue for the "annual major update" but the software does not reflect the same.
 
Simple UI improvement such as when I click the collapse button in the mail area to hide the folder list, why doesn't it remember this when I come back the next time?
 
Content filtering is inbound only, I assume and read here.  Why hasn't anything been done to improve this?
 
EWS was supposed to get the new update in SM 14 but it's still delayed meaning I'm continuing to pay for a service I can't use on 50% of my devices.
 
The UI is not very responsive in that it's typical asp.net synchronous processing.  Click, wait, see something happen over a second later.  The interactive responsiveness could be much improved and is probably a result of typical asp.net processing and not more advanced async jquery type handling.
 
Popups are slow to appear especially on Mac/Safari - more inline handling would improve this like other web clients and not rely on popup windows, new windows, etc.
 
Overall, the development and innovation has stagnated over the past few years relying more on 3rd party integrations (message sniffer) to bring revenue than really improving the product from the usability standpoint, keeping subscription services updated, and keeping up with the latest web technologies to provide a much better web experience among features for admins with folder pickers such as for content filtering, better Task screen UI's (additional notes is still lacking).  
 
It's a great product but I am not feeling I'm getting my money's worth is the ultimate problem and the product is feeding off of it's existing success vs. innovating and improving providing value for the annual costs.
 
My $.02.

14 Replies

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0
SmarterUser Replied
I agree with your view.  I've posted similar comments here before, but some of the fanboys take exception to this perspective.  It has been a long time since a major update was truly a major update, IMO.  I have kept paying the annual fee, in the hopes that the next "major" would really advance the product, but this v14 update is pretty far from a major update.  I'm tired of paying just to see the product inch along.
4
Tim Uzzanti Replied
Employee Post
I don't disagree that we have slowed major overhauls of SmarterTools products but its with good reason. To name a few:
 
1) Stability
2) Security
3) Training (our customers and your customers)
 
When we first started SmarterTools, each major release had significant changes! In a few of those releases, we completely re-designed the interface. As our customer base became larger and clients became bigger, our customers expressed concerns relating to the items listed above and worried that by adding new features we sacrificed the core of each product.
 
When a product is being used by millions of people for multiple years, it is difficult to stress test new code to reach the same level of stability and security you had when only a few thousand people are using it.  The variables are too great and the scenarios are so varied. That is why we generally isolate our changes to one, or maybe two, areas: so that we can focus our testing and reach the levels of stability and security customers expect.  In addition, our customers have millions of their own users. That means they can easily be overwhelmed with support issues when we make the smallest of changes.  We try to carefully balance each feature, change, bug fix in every release to minimize that burden.
 
SmarterTrack is an interesting example;  Over the years we have released many majors that have had significant new features.  This has caused SmarterTrack to have a a TON of options in the system administrator area. Recently, we bit the bullet and decided to re-organize the entire system administrator area.  This didn’t necessarily impact end-users but it DID have ramifications for our customers. In the long run our customers appreciate it and see the benefits and increase in speed for some operations, but it was a difficult change, for us and for them as it required re-training on how to get things up and running.
 
That is not to say we couldn’t use some adjustments in our user interface.  We are scheduled to re-evaluate our interface code and its overall performance with the next release.  The last couple of major releases for SmarterMail, in particular, have all been "behind the scenes" in their scope.  We continue to increase the stability, reduce the memory and get more performance out of our products so customers can do more.  We are constantly updating protocols from Microsoft and general RFC’s.  There are TONS of email clients that we are continually testing  so we can make sure we're fully compliant with how they interact through IMAP, POP, and ActiveSync.  There is a lot that goes into EACH and EVERY release to ensure products from 2003 to 2015 are working as expected.  We are also having to make difficult decisions on what technologies to abandon (like Windows 2003) so that we can move our products forward.  Those decisions have their own implications as people are generally averse to change. Maybe not everyone who participates here in the Community, but we have exponentially more customers who do NOT participate here and we have to take them into account as well.
 
However, our ears ARE this Community. (As well as the tickets and phone calls we get.) We literally go through EVERY thread to see what get the most comments and requests. For example, Message Sniffer was one of the more requested integrations, so we did it.  Think about it: we already had an anti-spam add-on from Cyren, so popular opinion is what swayed us to add in a second option -- it certainly wasn't the revenue potential. :)
 
I enjoy the discussion and will try to answer any other questions you may have.
Tim Uzzanti
CEO
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
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Nicolas Le Merle Replied
"the UI is still lacking" - It REALLY is lacking :(
 
Allow us to make our own customizations at the very least as per:
2
dextor stone Replied
Hello,

I Fully Disagree with everyone on here (BAR TIM),

You guys need to understand they are very busy trying to make the product better and better each release its not a overnight thing where they can click there fingers and say its done,

The Product takes time to get it correct even when you think its correct its not Products always need changes and updates  otherwise they come out of date.

You just need to relax and give smartertools team some time to work there magic.

Cheers
0
Nicolas Le Merle Replied
Sorry but the UI has not been updated for the passed 3 years as far as I'm aware !? That's my only major concern. I work in an industry leading software development company so I really can appreciate the difficulties ST would face but I don't think asking for a better UI is too much to ask for. The UI is simply ancient looking and extremely outdated
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SmarterUser Replied
Dextor, you have totally missed the point. No one said that improvements are not being made -- read the thread again. We all agree that ST is indeed improving the software. The point is that they call a small group of improvements a major new version, instead of a point release. I've been in the software development business for over 35 years, and I'm pretty familiar with what is generally accepted as constituting a major release versus point releases. This sort of thing happens often when a company switches to an annual subscription model, since it satisfies their customer base to see new major versions, even if there isn't much difference. When companies have to get you to pay to upgrade to the next version, they tend to make the major versions more compelling.
0
Tim Uzzanti Replied
Employee Post
Nicolas, I have to disagree with you. Our web interface is one of the most usable interfaces. I hate logging to GMAIL but am forced to based on a few business relationships I have. I'm very familiar with many of our competitors and I much prefer our interface. But again, that does not mean there are things we don't want to improve. Our lists of "WANTS" is VERY LARGE. But we manage these changes so we don't impact our customers as I explained above. Also, I responded in the other thread about our desire for an entirely NEW way of working with Mail (and all communication)... but this isn't something we could implement in SmarterMail.
Tim Uzzanti
CEO
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
0
Tim Uzzanti Replied
Employee Post
SmarterUser, the latest release of SmarterMail had nearly a million lines of code changed. Thats a LOT! Were not building a "Word Processor or Graphics Application" and every feature is visible to the customer. Most of what we do is behind the scenes making everything FASTER, OPTIMIZED, and INTEGRATED with the 1000's of clients, protocols and devices that are constantly changing.
Tim Uzzanti
CEO
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
0
Paul Blank Replied
Comment/question: While we're at it, why does ST want us to use IIS as its SM web server when SM comes with a built-in web server? Why isn't that web server fully optimized and ready for SM, so that IIS is not necessary? And wouldn't that be easier for ST, and SM's users/admins in the long run?
0
Tim Uzzanti Replied
Employee Post
There is no way we could make a web server as powerful, secure and capable as IIS which is essentially embedded into the Operating System. That wouldn't be time well spent.
Tim Uzzanti
CEO
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
0
Chris Daley Replied
Tim,

SM is still far behind where it should be, we are in 2015 not 2010!

By now I would have expected SM to have moved to .net web-api so you can provide a 100% complete API to developers/administrators, I asked 3-4 years ago when you released XMPP support for a full API but it has been ignored. My reason back then was quite straight forward as there is no clustering support for SM (still.....) it would make life easier to manage multiple SM instances from a single interface that way we can standardise spam filtering rules, security config etc. If you moved to web-api or something similar I don't see any reason why you couldn't move away from .net for the webmail interface e.g. AngularJS, you could build a very high performance low resource usage webmail client that would be very responsive and modern.

I'm aware you spend a lot of time making the end users life as easy as possible however you seem to spend next to no time helping system administrators.

Windows 2003 support should have been dropped 2 years ago, how can you provide a high performance product when you are trying to support Win 2003????? All you had to say was in v12 this would be the last release supporting Windows 2003, if you want new features you will have to upgrade, why do you think Microsoft didn't support .net 4.5 on 2003??? They could see it was not worth the time or effort.

Again I'm aware a lot of your customers will be using SM for SMB purposes rather than for Enterprises/ISP's the fact you have a version of SmarterMail with the Enterprise name in it doesn't make it Enterprise quality. Email is crucial to businesses these days and a product without clustering support does not appeal to large enterprises who have to guarantee 100% uptime/reliability. Don't mention SM’s Win NLB support, no decent system administrator with appropriate experience would use it in a production environment, yes Microsoft have made improvements in 2012+ however it is lethal. I have no idea why Win NLB support was added to SM, it does not make sense.

Have you not considered revamping the spool so it actually performs well under heavy load? We can still break an SM instance with the right volume of email. If you want to look at real spool performance take a look at PowerMTA yes it’s not doing spam processing however we have a spool with 3.5million items within it and it doesn't break. I have seen ST blame performance issues on hardware too many times for different issues but we have demonstrated to support on a number of occasions that its SM itself that has issues rather than the underlying hardware/os config.

SM is outdated and needs to move with the times, you are constantly trying to catch-up rather than innovating and moving ahead. You are not taking advantage of modern hardware i.e. SSD drives, larger amounts of memory etc.

I don't know how ST works internally but I would assume you have separate teams working on different parts of SM e.g. Anti-Spam, Core Services, Webmail and I would have expected a dedicated team to working on Exchange/ActiveSync but I could be wrong.

Do you have a 2-3 year roadmap showing how SM is going to progress? I think it would be good idea to share this with SM customers so we can see where the product is heading.

I can go on forever if you wish but I suspect you would not want to read it :)
0
Tim Uzzanti Replied
Employee Post
Chris, I don't believe you read my previous post but I will got into a little more detail. A software company CAN'T change all aspects of a product constantly. A software company CAN'T rewrite their product to use the latest technologies every year. A software company must balance security, stability and usability and what technologies they use to accomplish these goals. When you talk about dropping Windows 2003 and .NET 4.5… you have no idea what percentage of customers were running SmarterMail on Windows 2003 two years ago. BTW, it was 40%! A software company doesn’t abandon 40% of its customer base.

And here are some comments to some of your other complaints:

We attempt to adopt technologies when we believe they will become standard. You throw out a lot of buzzwords but thats what they are. Every year there are dozens of technologies that are come and go... It is important that we utilize the ones that become standardized...

You are comparing us to an SMTP only product - PowerMTA. That is all it does. Your PAYING much more for PowerMTA to do SMTP then you are for SmarterMail which does all mail services. SmarterMail must manage 100x more connections than PowerMTA and many of the connections we manage are long term like ActiveSync and IMAP. The cost for PowerMTA doesn’t even include the Managment Console and you must purchase PowerMTA based on the number of SMTP messages you want to send per hour. If your going to compare SmarterMail to another product, please make sure the products are comparable because SmarterMail is a significantly larger and more complicated product at a lesser cost.

You make reference to SmarterMail’s hardware utilization. Chris, you couldn’t be more wrong! SmaterMail is one of the most EFFICIENT and BEST PERFORMING mail servers on the market and we do it with incredible STABILITY! And each and every version we spend a significant amount of time utilizing new .NET features to further improve our performance. We not only look at HD, CPU, MEMORY but also the USAGE by end-users. We must support customers that have small mailbox, 50GB mailboxes, users who stay connected all day, users who have 10 devices connection to the same mailbox etc. This is just another… please don’t compare PowerMTA to SmarterMail.

All new SmarterTools products are being built using an API driven interface. Eventually, SmarterMail will transition to that as well. But, that is a VERY large change that will result in significant changes for customers and end-users and will take significant testing across MANY platforms. That isn’t something that happens overnight.

Each version we evaluate the most comment requests and needs from our customers through our community and support department. We evaluate the changes and impact of abandoning technologies such as Windows 2003 so that we can evolve our products. We create a focus group so that customers can participate and provide feedback in a private area before we start development. If you would like to participate in that process and would do it in a productive way, let me know.

Just as an FYI, we are a company that loves the latest and greatest. It kills us to stay on old technologies. I have been running Windows 10 Technical Previews and Visual Studio 2015 since they were first announced. I enjoy the technical difficulties and challenges that come with using anything NEW but our customers DON’T!

Hope this helps,
Tim Uzzanti
CEO
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
0
Chris Daley Replied
I'm sorry Tim but you move with the times you don't stay stagnant.

I didn't say cut off Windows 2003 users as far as I'm aware you always support the previous SM release. Microsoft don't support SQL 2012 on Windows 2003 do they, there is no difference at some point you have to draw the line in what you can support as a company. I would be interested to know the % of the 40% that were on the free version or bundled licenses vs the amount with active maintenance.

I'm not talking about 'buzzwords' as you call them, RESTFul API's have become pretty much standard.

On the PowerMTA front yes its SMTP only but our instances handle far more connections both inbound and outbound than SmarterMail could ever handle, happy to demonstrate that if need be. My point on PowerMTA was how they deal with the spool, its well worth a look you may pick up some ideas you never know, you still have customers suffering from performance issues related to spool which has been on-going for ~7 years (increased performance can be achieved by adjusting the maxRelayThreads parameter manually to 400 instead of the max of 200, this is not supported by ST however we have demonstrated it helps significantly). On the cost front I have no problem paying good money for a product that is worth it.

On hardware utilization you missed my point you are not taking advantage of modern hardware, everything appears to be designed for the SMB market rather than to scale.

Back to my question which appears to have gone unanswered, what is the general roadmap for the next 2-3 years?
0
Tim Uzzanti Replied
Employee Post
Chris, we do not provide our roadmap but we are very open about what we anticipate adding inside the community in our discussions. I think you will like where we are going with our interfaces and exposing almost all aspects of our products via API's in the near future.
Tim Uzzanti
CEO
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com

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