These Free Alternatives Can Help You Out.
When startups and small businesses consider the software they need to protect customer data and facilitate business operations, they often run into the problem of cost. There are a lot of great free software and services out there that can help you gather and share data, grow into new areas, and treat both employees and customers the right way. The problem is that these tools are typically licensed for monthly or annual fees that many small businesses just can’t afford.
If your business needs the right software for the job but can’t find the money, it’s time to get creative! Instead of taking out a loan, or cutting back in other important areas. Look for free software that can get the job done. There are many open-source or free download options available, and you may be surprised at what you can accomplish without adding a dollar more to your expenses. Take a look at some of our favorite picks below.
You’ve probably heard of and even used Google Drive for professional work. Drive provides basic document and spreadsheet creation in the cloud, allowing those files to be easily shared and accessed by anyone with an internet connection. Sure, Drive isn’t the only free cloud storage option, but the way it ties in with other Google services (like the also-free Gmail, if you don’t want to pay for an email client) is unique. Additionally, Google works with some really great collaboration tools, allowing you to chat from within a document, track changes, make detailed comment chains, and more. Even teams working remotely can accomplish complicated tasks.
The downside is that Drive isn’t always easy to navigate, especially for long lists of files—Although Google does occasionally update its navigation. Also, keep in mind that Google’s free Drive storage is spacious for one user, but probably won’t be enough if you have a sizable amount of business data. Note that, like most cloud services, you can purchase more storage on Drive, but we’re focusing on free features here, and those may be a limited.
Microsoft Word is such a common tool that most don’t even stop to ask whether they have it or not. However, for those who don’t want to purchase the Office Suite, there’s another option: LibreOffice— a popular free alternative.
LibreOffice offers a basic, and somewhat familiar, layout that looks like an older version of Word and operates in much the same way. It includes popular fonts, spell check, the option to insert objects, along with other capabilities. It offers same sort of spreadsheet option as Excel and a slideshow creator similar to PowerPoint. It’s also — and this is the important part — completely compatible with Microsoft Office documents. It’s gaining new compatibilities all the time thanks to regular updates that improve the software.
Note: If you absolutely need to use, Word, and will accept no substitutes, then Microsoft actually does offer a free online version of software like Word that you can use. The downside is that it’s only available as a Web app—You can only access the free version if you have an internet connection.
Is software like QuickBooks or Quicken too expensive for your small business? Then Wave is the perfect solution for you. This hip, minimalist software will take care of all your accounting needs with automation and support for getting payments from your customers. You can create and send invoices, develop a variety of reports to chart growth, and manage all of your revenue and expenses. However, if you require credit-card processing, you’ll have to pay a fee for each transaction. All other features are free.
Your marketing or design plans may require software like Adobe Photoshop. Adobe, however, prefers that you pay a subscription to use Photoshop for any in-depth work. These fees often don’t sit well for some business owners. For a free alternative, we suggest trying Gimp. It’s an immensely popular option for creating images and logos.
Not only does it provide a full set of Photoshop-like tools for you to modify and perfect images, but it’s also compatible with other free drawing and creation software, such as Scribus, Inkscape, and SwatchBooker. You can easily piece together a powerful set of tools for even the most demanding marketing team without spending a cent. However, this open source software may be little complicated to learn and use for more specific solutions.
Virtualization may sound like something reserved for larger companies that can afford servers and complex IT services, but times are changing. VirtualBox is free virtualization software offered by Oracle. Within limits, it allows you to set up a virtual machine, or a platform that you can open on a variety of devices. There are many advantages to this setup—from security and data management to ensuring that employees can access the same environment and information no matter where they are.
Security is the one thing that you should spend money on, especially for encryption and backups, because your customer data is worth protecting. But if you can’t afford much, and still want to protect against malware and other problems, Avira can help to keep your browsing secure. It allows you to create a free VPN, automatically block unsafe sites, and notify you of any infected websites. For a new business, that’s a lot of free stuff that usually costs money to manage.
Do you have questions about where to find inexpensive software solutions? Puryear IT helps businesses like yours in the Baton Rouge area. Contact us at (225) 706-8414 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.