Free business software isn’t always second best. In fact, some of the best software is free, enabling your business to benefit from up to date, highly-capable applications without paying a penny.
The easiest way to find free business software is to look online. It tends to fall into one of four categories:
There are free alternatives to most types of paid-for software. These packages are often highly capable and many claim to be compatible with commercial software, so you can exchange files with ease.
At face value it’s hard to see why anyone wouldn't use free business software. However, there are some downsides:
You can address some of these issues by using a commercial distribution of an open source package. These offer you a guaranteed level of compatibility, support and service.
This option isn't free, but you can sometimes save money because you only pay for the services you receive, rather than having to cover the software development costs too.
Promising powerful software for free is a tactic sometimes used to spread computer viruses and malware. People love to get something for nothing, so scammers sometimes promise free software but deliver computer viruses instead.
To avoid these problems, only download free business software from reputable websites. Often, searching for the name of the software on Google will reveal whether it can be trusted.
Some free software is funded by intrusive advertising that only becomes apparent once you've installed the software. Again, search online for reviews before you install it.
You can rely on free business software, as long as you choose and use it wisely. Always remember that choosing free business software is not an all-or-nothing decision.
For instance, switching from Windows to a free operating system like Linux would probably involve making substantial changes to your IT systems and retraining staff. But testing a free office suite like OpenOffice.org alongside your standard software might help you understand if you could roll the package out across your company.
Free business software is also ideal when it's hard to justify spending money on software for occasional use. For example, there are several free graphics packages that allow you to edit photographs. Both Paint.NET and GIMP and are fine for occasional work.