Software is the backbone of most companies in today’s modern, connected world. But, software is also expensive. In a time of economic uncertainty, it can be challenging for IT departments to provide what companies need without blowing through a budget.
IT spending is on track to increase in 2023, or at least remain flat, without cuts. Software services are projected to rise by 9.3 percent over the year. It’s necessary spending, but not all software requires a spend.
When your IT department can source reliable, free software, your budget for must-have paid software goes that much further. So invest in what you absolutely need, and use free — but vetted — resources to fill out the rest.
Why Use Free Software?
Besides the obvious cost savings, free software has many other benefits for IT departments.
Many free software tools are as powerful as their paid counterparts and can perform complex tasks that would otherwise require expensive paid software.
It can be an excellent tool for experimentation and innovation. IT departments can explore new solutions to improve productivity and efficiency by testing new software and technologies without committing to expensive licenses.
A Word of Caution
Software — especially free software — must meet an organization’s needs and not pose a security risk. Free software can contain malware or vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
While most IT professionals are well aware of security and risk considerations, it’s important to reiterate these concerns and ensure that staff are not downloading any free software that strikes their interest. IT departments manage software in a business for several reasons, including security, compatibility, efficiency, licensing, and training.
Software needs to be downloaded from trustworthy, reputable sources like the official website of the software vendor or a trusted third-party site. IT departments should evaluate and test that software before distributing it more widely, ensuring it’s safe and compatible with existing IT infrastructure. The software should be current, supported, and receive regular updates and patches.
Licensing agreements are also crucial. They are frequently bundled with free software, and their terms and conditions must be followed to avoid legal issues. Similarly, if organizations have compliance and regulatory requirements to meet, that software needs to be appropriate for these applications, or there’s a risk of fines and legal issues.
Understanding the Options
There are several categories of free software, including open-source software, freeware, and shareware. While free software can be a great option, IT departments must carefully select reputable, reliable software without unwanted additions like adware, malware, or viruses.
Open-source software is free to use, modify, and distribute, typically without copyright restrictions. It gives IT departments several benefits, including cost savings, flexibility, and community support. Since the source code is available, IT departments can modify and customize the software to meet their specific needs. They can also integrate open-source software with other tools and systems, creating a custom IT infrastructure. Outside developers contribute code, report bugs, and provide support.
Individuals or companies distribute freeware for non-commercial purposes. However, IT departments cannot access the source code, unlike open-source software.
Finally, there is shareware, which IT departments can access on a trial basis.
Many online directories offer freeware downloads. These directories give IT departments access to various free software to suit different needs.
Examples of Commonly Used Free IT Software
You might be thinking, what business would use free IT software — is the risk really worth the reward? But many companies use free IT software all the time! Here are a few examples to show just how widespread this practice is.
If you work in IT, you are probably well aware of Linux, a popular open-source operating system. It’s known for its stability, security, and flexibility across servers, desktops, and mobile devices.
Here are a few more: Apache is a free, open-source web server software many businesses use to host their websites. MySQL database is also free and open-source, used to store and retrieve business data.
What about creative software? Here are two more free, open-source examples. LibreOffice is an office productivity suite with word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and database applications, popularly used as an alternative to Microsoft Office. GIMP is image editing software for photo retouching, composition, and creation. It’s a common alternative to the Adobe Creative Suite.
When you look at the software and systems your company already uses, you may be surprised to learn how many are free.
What About Limited Versions?
Limited version software is usually free or heavily reduced from the full version of a software’s price. It offers a restricted set of features, allowing users to test it to a certain extent before investing in the full version.
For IT departments, limited-version software can be a cost-effective way to investigate features and compatibility with existing systems. Before buying and deploying the full version, IT departments can identify any potential issues or conflicts. Or, they can scale up, starting small with the limited version.
What About Sandbox Versions?
Free sandbox trial versions of software available online can also be helpful to IT departments looking at investing in software while managing a budget.
These trial versions allow IT teams to test software without installing it on local hardware or infrastructure. This can save time and resources while allowing for a thorough review and evaluation of the software’s capabilities. This happens in a safe, isolated environment without impacting existing IT infrastructure.
Online trial versions can be shared among IT teams and stakeholders, facilitating collaborative testing, training, and customization. This ensures the software meets the whole group’s needs and provides the expected value before investing in a full license.
Identifying Business Needs for Free IT Software
How can you determine which areas of your business are suitable for free software or try-before-you-buy versions? There’s a process that will help. First, look for the areas where your business needs to streamline processes, increase productivity, and improve overall efficiency, then determine where those needs could be met by free software.
Start by analyzing your business processes and workflows, identifying where manual processes are time-consuming, inefficient or error-prone. IT software could streamline and automate tasks in these scenarios.
Employees may have valuable insights into areas where IT software could be beneficial. Talk to them about their pain points and places where they feel they could be more productive with the help of software.
Then, consider your budget. Determine what software solutions you can realistically afford and prioritize those that will impact your business processes. Where leftover areas need improvement, investigate free or trial options that meet your needs.
Free Software in Action: Ticket Management
Now you know the different options and benefits of free software. But what does that look like when translated into real life? Let’s start with an example — ticket management software.
Ticket management software lets organizations manage customer service requests, like IT support requests or Helpdesk tickets, in a more efficient and organized way. It centralizes all incoming support requests, providing a single location where IT staff can track, prioritize, and resolve requests.
With ticket management software, requests get noticed, and end users will be happier. On the other hand, ticket management software provides greater visibility into their requests’ status while allowing IT to generate reports and identify issues, trends, and areas for improvement.
Helpdesk software is critical. Some statistics: 86 percent of service teams surveyed in a HubSpot reported that having a help desk system increased their productivity. On the other side, 90 percent of customers in a KPMG survey said problem resolution is their most critical customer service issue. It’s clear that Helpdesk software is needed, but what if ticket management seems too expensive for your company?
Choosing a Good Free Ticket Management Software
When choosing a Helpdesk software, there are several things that organizations should avoid, on top of the standing concerns about sourcing free software. This is a software area where a limited or trial version may be the best choice versus something completely free, given the sensitivity of the information held in the software.
Watch out for software that is too complex. It should be user-friendly for end users and IT Helpdesk staff so resolutions can move quickly. Anything with a steep learning curve on either end will not be used, so it isn’t worth the investment.
Helpdesk software needs to scale to maintain performance and efficiency as organizations grow. Growth leads to increased support requests, and your software needs to be ready to meet the challenge.
It must integrate with your existing systems, like asset management or customer relationship management software, and provide robust reporting and analytics capabilities. This allows IT departments to monitor key performance indicators and identify areas for improvement.
Of course, Helpdesk software should also have robust security features, including encryption, access controls, and multi-factor authentication.
Using everything HelpDesk
Grouplink’s everything HelpDesk is a comprehensive software that provides numerous benefits to organizations of all sizes.
Centralized ticket management — Everything HelpDesk provides a centralized platform for managing all support requests, enabling IT staff to track, prioritize, and resolve requests more efficiently.
Automated workflows — Everything HelpDesk automates many support workflows, such as ticket routing, escalations, and notifications, which helps ensure that support requests are handled promptly and consistently.
Self-service portal — Everything HelpDesk includes a self-service portal that enables end-users to submit support requests, track the status of their requests, and access knowledgebase articles and other resources.
Customizable reporting — Everything HelpDesk provides customizable reporting capabilities, allowing IT departments to generate reports on support requests, monitor key performance indicators, and identify areas for improvement.
Integration capabilities — Everything HelpDesk can be integrated with other systems, including asset management and customer relationship management software, to provide a more comprehensive view of IT operations.
Cost savings — Everything HelpDesk can help your organization save money on software licensing and support staff time by streamlining support workflows and automating many manual processes.
Along with GroupLink everything HelpDesk, we offer GroupLink Workflow Process & Incident Tracking and GroupLink for SafestSchools These programs have free and paid versions, as well. Connect with us online or call us at 801-335-0700. You can also email us at email@example.com to learn more.