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Can you afford FREE?

"But this version is free” - Really? There's one that costs money and one that's completely free? Did you get a feeling of “there has to be a catch?”  Free is great, and worth a look. But it’s prudent to ask some questions before proceeding towards a theoretically free option. "What's the catch?" "How do you make money?" "Is there a hidden cost that I'm not seeing?" If the solution you are considering costs money and there's a free alternative, set your skepticism on high alert. In the world of IT, the cost of free is often disguised. A free operating system can mean a higher cost for the person who knows how to configure and support it. A free service online might be great, but if they're making no money, do you want to rely on a company that might not survive? Your IT person might be well versed in a free solution, but it may require them more than the commercial option. The cost of your IT person is then part of the “free” expense. A free piece of equipment given to you by someone that's upgrading? Sounds great. But why are they upgrading? If it's going to be obsolete later, do you want to be stuck with a system that can't run the software you'll need to use? A free account if you watch some periodic ads? That might be ok, but if they sell your information to the advertisers, do you want that privacy risk? Computer programmers are a very expensive resource. For a company to offer something free, they must make revenue somewhere else in order to survive. That method may be worse for you than just paying for the solution.  And what about these lines: "Try it free for 90 days" "Money back if you don't love it" "100% satisfaction guarantee" Companies know that it's hard to switch from certain services (payroll, 401k, email, etc) - so don't let these "no risk" sweeteners change your process. What you use should provide enough value that you feel GOOD about paying for it. Too much and you'll feel gouged. But too little may be more risk than it's worth.  Free is great, but it's also a four-letter word. You may find it's better to pay for equipment or services to help ensure they'll be around for the long-term.


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