Choosing Free Cloud Software

Cloud technology has created great opportunities for businesses on a budget, giving professionals access to affordable software to automate everything they do. From invoicing to contact management and beyond, there are so many solutions available, it can be overwhelming.

In recent years, a wealth of free solutions has also hit the market, offering even more savings to businesses. But before you opt for the free version of a software package, here are five things you should consider.

Permanency

Before signing up for free software, check the fine print. Usually providers let you know up front that the free version is only available for a period of time. The 30-day free trial setup is fairly common. This option is designed solely to let you try the software out, but by the 30-day mark, you’ll have saved valuable information within the software. Canceling your account will mean giving up that information. If you’re planning to use a solution rather than merely try it out to see if it works for you, the short-term trial is likely not the best option for you.

Features

Most providers limit the features in their free versions, which is fine unless those features are the very reason you signed up in the first place. Be sure you know exactly what you’ll get with the free version. Learn to separate the free and paid features as you’re reading through a provider’s offerings to make sure you fully understand what you’ll get for free.

Scalability

You should approach your search for free software the same way you’d approach any long-term decision for your business. Review the various pricing packages offered by a provider and make sure it will adequately cover your needs as you add to your team or land new clients. Your goal as a business is to grow, so you should assume that in several years you will be raking in far more money each month than you are now. It will help if you have software in place that you can take with you as you expand.

Customer Support

Regardless of your technical knowledge, you’ll eventually need help with your software. When something malfunctions, you need to know that you have someone you can contact to help you. Often free versions of software come with a lower level of customer support than you would have with a paid version. When you choose software, you should be comfortable with the type of support offered—phone, email, chat, or support ticket—as well as the hours in which you’ll have access to immediate support. If you’re a 24/7 operation, you need a support option that will be available to you if your software malfunctions as you’re helping one of your customers or clients.

Free cloud software can be very attractive to businesses with limited budgets. If you’re interested in a free option, be sure you know as much as possible about what you’ll be getting before you sign up. If you shop around, you can find a free or low-cost version of every tool you use that fits all of your business’s needs.

Peter Daisyme is the co-founder of Palo Alto, California-based Hostt, specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life. Previously he was the co-founder of Pixloo, a company that helped people sell their homes online, that was acquired in 2012.

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