Now Is The Time To Switch To Free Software

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The CEO of free software firm Global Graphics is urging companies to adopt free software models in order to reap financial rewards

A recent study commissioned by e-document and printing software developer, Global Graphics showed that 76 percent of large organisations already use or are planning to issue free software across the enterprise in 2010.

Global Graphics chief executive Gary Fry told eWEEK Europe that this finding proves that free does not mean poor quality, and that now is the time for businesses to ‘spring clean’ and discover areas in which to make savings.

“The results of our survey were quite surprising to me, where we found, on average, at least 10 free products or more in use in the 300 UK and 100 US CIOs [chief information officers] we surveyed,” he said. “These ranged from Adobe Reader and Flash to Skype – the scope was quite broad.”

Unlikely business model?

His firm has offered its enterprise PDF gDoc Creator free since 1 December last year and has already notched up over 200,000 users. But Fry admitted to not quite knowing if offering the software for free would compromise a premium approach to its paid-for offerings.

“We were encouraged by the fact that CIOs were looking at the alternatives [to paid-for software] very seriously,” he added. “And it works to our advantage that CIOs evaluate free software in exactly the same way as they do the paid-for alternatives. So free gets you into the game perhaps in a way that we haven’t seen before.”

Making the distinction between open source and “free” was also important, as the Global Graphics research also found the two main concerns when considering free software were product quality and support. Something can be free but it needs to offer free product upgrades and the option of free forum-led and/or paid-for support, Fry added.

“My advice to CIOs is to understand what the catch is. They will only upgrade if they see value from the initial benefits,” he said. By cherry picking the right free products and using them strategically, even as part of re-negotiations with existing suppliers, he maintained that “tremendous value” could be gained taking a second look at free software.

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