Free or Commercial: Which Software is Best For Your Company?

When a company requires software to help with their operations they have two choices: purchase a license for a commercial product or use free software. Each type of software has its benefits and disadvantages.

Free software can be a proprietary product that is given away for free. This software can either be actual freeware or a free lite version of a commercial product. Free software can also be open source, in that not only is the software free, the source-code is also available for anyone that might want to make modifications to the software.

On the surface what's not to like about paying nothing for software? The lack of up front cost is a strong benefit. The down side is that free software is often less functional, harder to use and support can be almost non-existent. Typically free software, if it has support, will require payment for that support or support can only be obtained through a user-supported web forum.

Commercial software on the other hand has a large up front cost and sometimes a recurring cost but usually comes with an option for timely support. Some companies even offer free support by email or even by phone. Because commercial software is supported by fees it tends to have more features and less problems using it.

So which software will you choose? Free open-source software is a good bet when it is extremely popular like the Apache web server. Though the group that maintains it may no offer support, third party companies will. When it comes to niche software that is very important for your day to day operations you will want the ability to talk to someone immediately when things go wrong. This is where commercial software shines.