The Hidden Cost of Free Software

Freeware ends up costing businesses and individuals more than commercial alternatives. IT solutions need management and support to ensure consistent security and performance. Inviting disaster, purveyors of freeware manage their expenses by limiting their infrastructure management and technical support to the bare minimum. Recent high-profile events demonstrate the consequences of trading security and reliability for lower prices. Despite higher initial costs, businesses get the most long-term value from better-protected and -managed commercial IT solutions.

No more well-known or frequently-used form of freeware exists than free online email. Nearly everyone has set up one of these online email accounts for themselves at some point. There are some companies—and, as we found out this week, some CIA directors—that consider free online email secure and reliable enough to transfer sensitive files and data and conduct important business over. Some organizations may even replace their private email servers and business domain with freeware email to cut costs. The Petraeus scandal, as well as other notable hacking incidents involving free online email, illustrates the ineffectiveness of the security measures of these cloud-based services, however. Even accounts with strong passwords can be breached using brute force hacking. These free email providers have neither the personnel resources to respond to in-progress cyberattacks or to provide post-attack individual technical support, nor the storage capacity to prevent permanent data loss. Worse, the free email service involved in all of these highly-reported breaches has long been considered the most secure of its ilk.

In another recent case demonstrating the limitations of free IT solutions, a leading VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) program developer has been criticized for waiting two months to remove a well-known and highly-damaging security vulnerability. Hackers only needed to learn the email address of their target to gain access to his or her VoIP account. They could then eavesdrop on the person’s conversations, lock users out of their accounts, or steal an account’s financial information.

The superior management and support of commercial IT solutions would have averted or minimized the security breaches of both the free online email and VoIP services. A commercial solution provider has the personnel to respond to in-progress cyberattacks (including brute force, SQL injections, password guessing, and malware infiltrations) and to supply one-on-one technical support. It has the storage capacity and fail-safe infrastructure to prevent any kind of unwanted data loss. A commercial solution provider would also have the available personnel to adjust its software code or data protection policies in response to a security vulnerability much sooner than two months.

To be clear, commercial solution providers are not necessarily more efficient, capable, or conscientious than their freeware counterparts. The bottom line is that the latter model of software distribution is fundamentally flawed, at least as it relates to business applications. Companies need their IT solutions to be managed and supported to ensure security and reliability. The lower upfront costs of freeware do not justify their increased risks of unauthorized access, data loss, and downtime.

For an IT solution with the best combination of reliability, security, and cost-efficiency, businesses should select onthenetOffice. With onthenetOffice, companies can get a complete cloud-based IT infrastructure that includes Virtual Desktops, Applications, Email, VoIP, Data Storage, and Bandwidth. For no extra cost, our users also get Complete Data Backups, 24x7x365 Technical Support, and Around-the-Clock Performance and Security Monitoring. There’s no need to settle for freeware when onthenetOffice provides businesses with Complete and Fully-Supported IT Infrastructure for a fixed, low monthly fee.

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