Introduction: Sources for Free Software for IT Departments (a 6-part series)

We understand: every IT department has a budget and, in many cases, there is not much budget to work with in procuring software. According to a recent IT report on IT budgets and tech trends, 43 percent of large enterprises expect their IT budgets to remain static. Others are expecting an increase, on an average of 20 percent across all company sizes. And, most companies are doing that increase to upgrade outdated IT infrastructure.

Whether your company is working with a static budget or carefully considering how to use a small increase to make the most of an upgrade, free software is appealing.

The study shows software budgets are generally stable at 26 percent of the total IT budget. That’s not much, but it directly funds one of the most important parts of your company’s tech infrastructure. Without software, you will have a hard time accomplishing much of anything.

So — you need software, you have a certain budget, and you are wondering if free software can get you what you need without the big spend. There are many sources for free software for IT departments out there, some of which are better options than others.

What’s Available

Free software for IT departments fall into a few categories.

Open source software is a popular option. This software is often not copyrighted, and is free for use without restrictions. That’s because public domain software is made expressly for the purpose of sharing it whether in full or in part. Some commonly used programs are open source software, such as Mozilla Firefox, a web browser.

Freeware is similar to open source software. It’s free, but it does not allow access to the source code as it is proprietary and the creator retains copyright of the software.

Shareware is another option. This is software provided to an enterprise on a trial basis, which may expire after a certain timeframe, or have limited capabilities unless the user buys the full version of the program. If you are looking to test something out, and may want to buy it in the future, this can be a useful option.

What to Look For

Any free software you use should be accessed from a reputable company. Shady ‘free’ software can come with all kinds of unwanted additions like adware, malware, viruses, and other programs known as ‘bloatware’ which only serve to slow down your system. If you’re considering free software, research the company and the software and look for real-life reviews and experiences across a variety of platforms. Some IT software vendors have become notorious for offering their software for “free”, but bombarding the user with advertisements. Such vendors only turn off the ads if the user pays a premium for an ad-free version.

Consider the level of support you would get from a free software provider. Open source software is often user-supported, so if you have a question or issue, you can look to other users to help you figure it out. Be aware of what you’re getting into in terms of support levels before basing any big business operations on free software, because if you need help in a pinch and it’s not going to happen quickly, you’ll find yourself regretting not choosing a company with dedicated support.

What to Avoid

Stay far away from torrent sites and similar file sharing services. These sites are generally a cesspool of software piracy, not legitimately free software. Using pirated software means accessing paid software without actually paying for it. It might seem tempting but it can come with serious consequences. These sites are rampant with malware and viruses, from nefarious files bundled into a torrent or file download, to misleading download buttons that introduce attacks on your system. And of course, pirating software is illegal, and it could result in fines and other penalties for your business. It’s just not worth it.

When you download and install software, pay attention even to the minor details. If there happens to be unwanted programs attached, sometimes you are given the option to decline it by clicking ‘yes’ when it installs. If you carelessly proceed without reading, you risk filling your computer with junk programs before you know it.

It’s important that the IT department, or a designated IT person in a small company, manages any software procurement, even free programs. If any staff member has access to download and install  programs freely, you are opening the business up to all kinds of threats. Be sure to have in place a strict policy on software installation of all types, especially free programs.

GroupLink is pleased to offer free software to our clients. We are a reputable, well-known company offering various IT solutions to companies with various needs and we allow our clients to test them out and see which works  well within the company’s infrastructure and budget. We offer a risk-free online sandbox version of our popular helpdesk platform, 30-day trial periods for both cloud and on-premise, and a free limited version of our helpdesk software.  Contact us today to know more.

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