by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 17 February 2012
Free software for small businesses is great to get started. It provides them with the necessary tools to do their job and be productive at no extra costs. However, good software design is not cheap and costs money. Consequently, good software is not cheap.
So, how do you balance commercial considerations with budgetary constraints?
Enter the freemium model. This model is fast becoming the preferred method for business software distribution and retail.
Essentially, the freemium model is a combination of free and paid. This means that there are two versions of the software available to users: a basic free version (that may be a trial version) with no frills and a premium version with all the bells and whistles and customization. You may have also heard of freemium in relation to kids unwittingly spending zillions of their parents cash on upgrades/benefits in a mobile game, but it's a different ballgame when it comes to business software.
And, what are the benefits, you ask? Some of them are listed below:
On that note, let's look at some free software that might be of use to small businesses:
Zoho has simplified costly and complex CRM software by offering you three basic versions of their software. You can use the free version to track daily sales and leads, and perform basic customization. The professional edition is aimed at growing organizations and is a cut above their free version for sales activities and data storage. The enterprise edition is pretty much the works including enhanced customization and with added security and user management features bundled into the solution.
Desk.com is a cloud-based software based support system. It helps you track and manage customer support through multiple channels. You can download a free version of their software for a limited time period from their website. You can also upgrade after trying out their software.
The folks behind Mavenlink say it is an entirely new way for businesses and consultants to work together. In practical terms, this means that Mavenlink is a project collaboration software that enables you to share documents and files with each other. It is available in four flavors: free, expert, guru, and maven. Each flavor represents an increasing degree of user feature.
We call it project management but the folks behind Workfront call it task management software. To add to that, the solution has an array of well-known customers from Adobe to Nike to Apple. But, why don't you check it out for yourself? They have four basic license types - Requester, Team Member, View-Only, and Full User and they offer a free trial version.
Insightly provides customer relationship and project management software to small businesses worldwide. More than 100,000 users in 100 countries leverage Insightly's cloud-based application to manage customer transactions, interactions, leads, proposals, opportunities and projects from any device at any time.
Zendesk is one of the leading cloud-based help desk application and support ticketing system with built-in community and knowledge base features. It helps small businesses. It seamlessly integrates all of your support channels including email, web, chat, and social media. A free trial version (with the option to upgrade) is available from their website.
TribeHR integrates multiple aspects of Human Resources management: from applicant tracking to performance and skills management. They call themselves "an engaging and social HR tool that frees up precious resources while helping employees feel good about about the work they do" The idea is to help any small business to save time and effort by making sure that all HR functions are available in one place. They offer a free trial version to help you get started.
Podio creates a "space" for you to share information, download apps, and interact with your colleagues. As an example: you can add meeting notes, documents, and baby pictures (yes, you can do that!) . They also have a praise tool to send kudos to your team. What's more, the solution integrates with social media. Sound interesting? There's free trial version.
Freshdesk brings together into one help desk tool all your conversations with customers, be it over Email, phone, the web and chat or even conversations over social channels like Facebook and Twitter.
Xero is an online accounting-based software that enables you to manage and track your accounts from anywhere. They call themselves the "world's easiest accounting software" and have a free trial version available ! View Xero.
You should always enjoy the free version of a software product before making a financial commitment. Welcome to the freemium world!