Ever heard the expression “buying a pig in a poke”? Here is an explanation:

“In the Middle Ages it was common for people to sell a dog or cat for meat and pass it off as something tastier, like a pig. And a poke is a bag or sack, so if you buy a pig in a poke, you buy something concealed, without inspecting it, believing it to be a juicy pig.”

What does that have to do with free or low-cost software?

Let me explain.

Creating software is a lot of work and takes a tremendous investment. It takes teams of talented people developing use cases, detailed specifications, designing the database architecture, and user interface design all before the software itself is even written. After the initial coding, comes multiple rounds of quality assurance, user acceptance testing, beta testing and coding revisions before production release.

Provisioning and hosting software is also incredibly expensive. Doing it well requires multiple secure data centers in different geographic regions that are monitored 24/7. These data centers have redundant servers, firewalls, backup systems, backup power, technicians and security personnel on site.

There are also expensive software licenses required for all of the hardware and additional licenses for creating and provisioning software.  None of it is free.

Then how can providers offer free software?

If developing and serving up software is such an expensive and complicated process, how can some software offerings be so inexpensive, or even offered for free? There are only a few economic models that free and very low-cost software make financial sense:

  • Give away the core product for free or low cost in hopes of developing a large group of users, then sell value-added components to the core product.
  • Hidden, or at least unapparent, charges for additional features that should be part of the core product.
  • Charge a premium for support and configuration.

I have seen all three models in our industry, and sometimes one offering that has a combination of all three. All of them are “pigs in a poke”.

If you are looking at software and service offerings, you need to “sharpen your pencil” and make sure that you understand the entire cost for all of the features needed along with all of the benefits of the system.

There should be no surprises. Don’t buy free or inexpensive software with hidden charges or an incomplete feature set.  This decision is too critical for the success of your business. Don’t buy a pig in a poke.

One of our primary goals at Clinicient is to align our success with the success of our clients. If your success is our success, we will be able to develop a relationship as a trusted partner, not a vendor. We have worked hard to make sure that there are no hidden fees for core functionality and that we are completely transparent in our service offerings.


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