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. Free software tends to fall into one of four categories:
There are free and open source alternatives to most types of commercial 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 or open source business software. However, there are some downsides:
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You can deal with these issues to some extent by using a commercial distribution of an open source business package. These offer a guaranteed level of compatibility, support and service.
This option isn’t free, but you could still save significantly because the software company doesn’t have to recoup development costs in the price.
This approach also helps ensure you only use free business software that’s legitimate. Because getting something for nothing is very attractive, scammers sometimes tempt victims by promising free software but deliver computer viruses or hacking attacks instead.
To avoid these problems, only download free business software from reputable websites. Good places to start are Download.com and SourceForge. If you’re in any doubt about whether a piece of free business software is legitimate, search for the name of the software online to check if anyone else has had problems with it.
Choosing to use free business software is not an all-or-nothing decision.
For instance, switching to an open source business operating system like Linux would probably involve making substantial changes to your IT systems and retraining staff. However, trialling 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 for infrequent 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.
More information about free and open source software