Quality of the Software
Unfortunately, some free programs may not meet your needs or your quality expectations. If the software doesn’t provide what you need, it’s not worth the struggle to make it work. There are “must-haves” and “convenient-to-haves” when it comes to features and functions. Make a list of everything the software program provides, then determine if those functions are a must-have for your business or just a cool additional feature (you probably don’t need). This is a good method for comparing software programs, free or not, and determining what’s best for you.
Upgrades and Updates
Not all software programs need to be upgraded, but some, like anti-virus software, must have regular updates and upgrades in order for it to work properly. In that case, you may be required to purchase the software anyway. Sometimes software vendors hook customers with their free program so they can up-sell the necessary premium option later on. Something to keep in mind when researching your options and evaluating your software needs.
One of the biggest factors in the free versus purchased software debate is the technical support. You might get free software, but does it come with technical support when something goes wrong? If it doesn’t come with support, can you afford the risk? No computer hardware nor software is perfect, and you should expect it may come with issues and challenges from time to time. A purchased program that provides technical support is a good insurance policy for your business – and might prove less costly in the end.
Time is Money
Finally, your time is also money. Don’t let the glimmering bright lights surrounding “FREE” deter you from what your business actually needs. If free software works, that’s great. But if it doesn’t offer everything you need, is it worth your time and energy to make up for that?