The Hidden Costs of FreewareYou are tasked with looking for software and in your research you stumble upon 'free' software. Can this be? It sounds too good to be true! How can they do that? It is very tempting - most of us at least take a peak. After all, why would we buy something we can get for free?
Or perhaps you start out looking for a good solid solution that will meet all of your needs, but your budget is tight and you begin looking at trimmed down or free solutions that may be available. You think that it may be good enough to get you by for now, and you can just purchase something better at a later date when things improve.
While this is tempting, one must consider the hidden costs of 'free' software. In the end, you could be spending more for a 'free' version, than a reputable, well built affordable solution.
Here are a few considerations when considering free software:
1. Many 'free' software solutions are not actually free. Essential components needed to use the software are additional - sometimes the components are minutely priced, but when you plug in your volume needs the prices really add up.
2. Does it really fit your needs? - With 'freeware' there is no product specialist to guide you with your selection, so you are forced to figure out on your own if it will meet your needs. Often once implemented you may learn that it does not meet needs after all or that certain parts do not work the way you need them to. Time lost in business is money lost.
3. You are on your own - typically freeware does not include any implementation assistance, training or support. At best you may get a 'guide', but no one to answer questions or help you with your system environment.
4. No training is provided - how will your employees learn how to use the new software? There are no best practices to follow, and you are left to learn on your own. In addition to time lost, often mistakes are made along the way that are hard to correct because you have done so much already "the wrong way". Again, time lost.
5. Is it cross user friendly? - Some companies may have an employee smart enough to 'rig' a freeware to meet their needs. Once this employee leaves or moves on new folks can't figure out how to make it work the same way.
6. Will it grow with you? - What will you do when you outgrow your application or your needs change. Will you force your business tasks around the app, or be forced to start over? Many hours, weeks, months are spent implementing a "free" system, processes are built around it, training is conducted - much man hours and internal costs. Starting over can be very costly. All of the time spent and resources used are now wasted as you look for a solution to replace this "free one".
So be on guard not to get caught up in the "free" hype, which in the end can cost much more. Take the time to do the due diligence now and select what you need for both now and for the future. Choose a provider that has a quality reputation, offers assistance, provides support, and a solutions that is scalable and can grow to meet your needs long term.