Some people will never keep their beekeeping records on a computer and that’s okay. For beekeepers who want to use computerised records, there are usually two main choices:
- Create your own simple spreadsheet or diary entry system, or
- Use purpose-built beekeeping software created by someone else.
At my last count there were more than 20 different programs for beekeepers available on the internet. New programs seem to be popping up all the time. How to choose?
1. Download or online?
Most of the software choices can be neatly divided into two categories, depending on where your apiary information is stored.
So the question is: Do you want to keep your apiary information on your computer or with the software provider?
To keep your apiary data on your own computer, you should look at beekeeping software that can be downloaded from the internet and installed on your computer. Record keeping solutions that require an internet connection often indicate that your apiary data is stored with the software provider.
I suppose I should admit that I am biased in this choice. I prefer downloadable software because I am the programmer for HiveTasks beekeeping software. However, you need to decide which option you are comfortable with.
2. What do you want from the software?
The best beekeeping software has to meet your specific needs or it is inadequate.
When I originally created HiveTasks, it was for the specific needs of a single beekeeper. He wanted to record the results of hive inspections through a ‘To Do List’. He also wanted a strong emphasis on quality control so I added jobsheets and reports. That was about 7 years ago. Since then other users of HiveTasks have requested features to suit their needs, such as queen rearing, honey samples and choices for honey weights (kilograms vs. pounds and ounces).
You need to consider what is important to you. For example:
- Are you seeking to record details for 3 hives, 30 hives or 300 hives?
- Do you want to add photographs?
- Are your hives vertical hives (like the Langstroth) or horizontal hives (like the Top Bar)?
- Do you want to be able to keep backup copies of your data file?
Each beekeeping program offers its own focus and features. If you know what you are seeking it will be easier to eliminate unsuitable options and create a shortlist of suitable programs to try.
Ah, the economic realities of the “hip pocket”. There are usually three choices for beekeeping software prices.
- Ongoing subscription fees (monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc)
- One-off purchase price
Free software sounds marvelous, doesn’t it? Just remember to check that the product provides the features you are seeking. If the software is not compatible with your needs it may simply provide free frustration.
Subscription fees are often cheap and can be easy to fit into a monthly budget. Remember to add up the ongoing costs before signing up so you are aware of the total price. After all, beekeeping is not simply a one- or two-year hobby.
The one-off purchase prices vary widely. I have seen prices vary from less than AUD$50 to more than AUD$4,000. However, most prices seem to be between AUD$50 and AUD$400. Have a look at the price of updates too, as that may contribute to the total cost.
Fortunately, some providers have a free trial version so that you can test their software before buying. The free versions are usually limited to a small number of hives and may also be limited by time or usage. The HiveTasks trial version allows up to 15 hives and is not time-limited. Instead, it becomes read-only after approximately 150 jobs are processed. Some users have stayed on the free trial version for more than a year, taking advantage of free updates along the way!
What am I actually buying?
There is one more thing to know about the price: you are not buying the ownership of the software but a licence to use the software.
What’s the difference? Ownership would give you the right to alter and sell the programming code (which would probably make many software creators unhappy). A licence gives you the right to download, install and use the software (which is exactly what is needed).
4. Getting help
Choosing the best beekeeping software also involves choosing the software provider. They are meant to provide high-quality customer service that compliments their product.
Look for these things:
- Contact details (it seems obvious, but can you actually contact them?)
- A willingness to provide help and instructions
- Ongoing development of the software (especially through feedback and requests from customers)
- Written documentation (eg: help file and installation instructions)
Which is the best software?
The best beekeeping software is the one that suits your needs. Remember to consider these four tips when choosing the software that is best for you.
- Download or online?
- What do you want from the software?
- Getting help
***25/10/16 Hivetasks has ceased operation ***
To get a free month of HiveTasks (A web based Hive Tracking Application), Click HERE or below.