Four Reasons to Be Wary of Free Software

Freeware Often Isn't

Sure, working with free software sounds great. With just a click, you can download an app that was developed by crowdsourcing, or another agency, or a vendor you’ve never really heard of-but that doesn’t matter because it is free, right? Also, free means not worrying about having to wait for the install or budget for the resource. It seems like a dream, right?


For many agencies, “freeware” looks really promising. Unfortunately, many agencies find out too late that there may be multiple issues and costs from using “free” software. Off the top of my head, here are four potential problems with using that no-cost software:

  • Support- Just because the app is free doesn’t mean that the support is free. That’s the “gotcha” that I’ve seen with many freeware apps. In fact, often the support is quite expensive-somebody has to pay for software development, and that’s you. Another scenario is that the support is genuinely free, however, you don’t get ‘live’ support via chat or phone. Or support= access to a knowledge base. Or (and this is the one I see the most) support will cost you tens of thousands per year--oh and it’s not 24/7 and it’s via AI. Additionally, I’ve also seen freeware vendors hold data hostage. Unless the agency pays for support, they can’t access their documents.

  • Implementation- Sure, it might be easy enough, for your users to download an app or an executable, but then what? What if the fields don’t match your operational process. What happens to the data entered into the app? What database is the app using on the backend? Would I want or need to integrate it with my systems? In the ECM world, I see a lot of free access to apps. The user proceeds to try to scan in their documents, but maybe their drivers won’t work. If the scan works, then the predetermined metadata fields aren’t useful.

  • Customization- Maybe you’ve found an app developed by a fellow agency. And since you basically serve the same function, it should work, right? Wrong! While generally speaking agencies can serve the same function, however, for the most part, they all go about it a little differently. And rather than change your process, from an efficiency perspective, it makes more sense to customize the app. But WAIT! You can’t because it’s free and they don’t allow that.

  • Updates- OK, you’ve found a free app that you believe will work. You download and test it and it seems stable. You are OK with how they support it and you don’t need customization. Here’s another curveball-what happens when Windows rolls out the next service pack and it breaks the app? Or the app developers roll out an update and it doesn’t work with your team’s tablets running i0S Version XXX. Are you content with monitoring their GitHub page, hoping for a fix? I didn’t think so.

I hope I’ve convinced you that free really isn’t “free”. If you have any questions or find yourself in a predicament with a free app feel free to contact us.

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