We all love a bargain, right? Who can resist the lure of getting something for nothing? It’s no wonder then that many companies have been tempted by the offer of free intranet software. What have you got to lose, you say to yourself. Indeed, why pay for something when someone is offering it to you for nothing. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? Instead of solving pain points in your organization, are you, in fact, storing up more trouble for yourself in the long run? Well, to answer this important question, let’s look in detail at what you’re signing up for when you opt for free intranet software.
Free Intranet Software – What’s Included?
Google ‘free intranet software’ and you’ll find there’s a range of offerings out there. It can all seem very tempting and convenient. All you need to do is download the software and away you go. However, before you do that make sure you dig a little deeper and check all the fine print. You see, most free intranets, in fact, have very limited functionality and capabilities. Some providers will restrict you to very few users and have limited data storage.Other providers have restricted the functionality so that what the free intranet can do doesn’t really amount to a great deal and is, therefore, unlikely to meet your organizational needs. In most cases what’s actually on offer is a freemium intranet.
The word freemium is a combination of ‘free’ and ‘premium’ which sums up the business model it describes. Users get the basic features at no cost, but they can access richer functionality for a subscription fee.
Some intranet providers are utilizing this business model because they recognize that including some free features makes for a powerful marketing tool as it appeals to the bargain hunter in all of us. And it’s the monthly subscription fees that providers subsequently charge for the enhanced version of the product that is their source of income and ongoing revenue.
It’s proved to be a successful strategy for lots of intranet providers who have developed a customer base that is often supplemented by offering extra incentives for referring friends or other businesses. On top of an already free offering, this can be irresistible to many people.
And so as a marketing tool for intranet providers, free software and freemiums can make good business sense. But what is the experience of the user? If you sign up for one of these deals, what are you actually getting?
The User’s Experience
Well, the old adage there’s no such thing as a free lunch is entirely applicable in the case of a free intranet. We’ve already seen that the free intranet is usually limited either in functionality, number of users or data storage. It’s also often severely limited in terms of ongoing customer support – you’ll be pretty much left to your own devices when it comes to setup and ongoing management. And if you encounter any issues or problems along the way, you’ll either have to sort them out yourself, or you will be referred to a knowledge base or online community which may not meet your needs. What’s more, you’re likely to be constantly annoyed by advertising urging you to upgrade all of the time.
And what happens if you do upgrade? Are the charges and fees transparent? Do you know exactly what you’re paying for? It’s very important to check the small print as each deal will be different. For example, you may find once you exceed the free number of users, even if it’s only by one that you end up paying for all users. Or the charge for exceeding that number by even one may be totally out of proportion.
The bottom line is that when it comes to free intranet software or freemiums, the user’s experience is often poor. Whether it’s disappointment at the limited functionality of the offering, frustration at the lack of support or consternation at the real costs, the truth is that you can be creating more problems for yourself than you’re solving. What’s more, by this stage you may find it difficult to extricate yourself because the intranet has become embedded in your organization. You could find yourself, therefore, with an expensive, unsatisfactory solution that is not meeting your needs.
Free Trial Versus Free Software
A far better option for many businesses is to go for a free trial option. This is much less risky on a number of levels, not least because you’re not signing up for anything in the long term. MyHub offers a two-week free trial which allows you to really get your hands dirty and check that the software is a good match for your organization. Instead of making expensive mistakes in purchasing an intranet solution or freemium that fails to deliver and doesn’t meet the hype, a free trial helps you to determine that the software really is fit for purpose.
In addition, a free trial gives you the opportunity to assess the supplier. Unlike the freemium model, you can expect an ongoing level of customer service from your provider. A free trial will clearly demonstrate the help and support that’s on offer and what you could expect if you go ahead with selecting that intranet provider.
What’s more, intranet providers that do not have free intranets somewhat ironically tend to be more transparent in their charges. It’s quite clear what the monthly cost is and what it covers. For example, MyHub is upfront about its monthly charge which is a very reasonable US$99 per month. And for that you get unlimited numbers of users, unlimited data storage and unlimited support and assistance. It’s straightforward and clear. And this means that your business has greater cost certainty because there are no additional charges or hidden extras.
Free Intranet Software = Buyer Beware!
If you find that the lure of a free intranet software is just impossible to resist, then fine but don’t say that we didn’t warn you! You may well be lucky and come across a free solution that ticks all the right boxes for your business. You’d be one of the fortunate ones though and it’s an experience that sadly isn’t shared by the majority. Instead why not save yourself from unnecessary aggravation by taking the far less risky option of a free trial? Give yourself and your organization the opportunity to really assess the intranet offering in situ without committing yourself. In the long run, it could be a much easier option than the alluring, but ultimately false ‘free’ intranet.