As with any task, doing a good job requires the right tools. It’s no different when choosing software tools for your business. The right software can keep things running smoothly, while the wrong solution could go so far as to hold your business back.
When it comes to obtaining new business software, you have a few options. You could build a solution yourself. You could use freeware. Or you could buy a solution from a third-party vendor. Each holds different strengths and weaknesses, and each will have a different impact on your business.
So, DIY-ware, freeware, or paid-ware? These are your options, explained.
Otherwise known as building your own solution, DIY-ware is software you design, make and implement yourself. Though more commonly viewed as an option for software businesses, non-software companies can make their own software as well. (Provided they are willing to hire people with the talent to do it.)
So, why would you want to build your own software tool? To start, building your own tool means that it is certain to serve your needs. Plus, when you build your own software, you aren’t beholden to a third party. So, you have full control over the usage of the tool and any data you input into it.
However, building your own business software takes time and resources. Depending on the scope of the tool you have in mind, it could take years before you have a usable solution. So, if you need the software now, DIY-ware isn’t a viable option.
Freeware is software made by a third party and offered for free. Two of the most common forms of freeware are freemiums and shareware. Freemiums offer limited functionality while promoting a premium, paid version with more features. Shareware, meanwhile, is offered for free to encourage sharing and spread brand awareness.
Freeware is often a great option for small businesses. It doesn’t cost you any money to try, and many freeware solutions are extremely useful. Think WordPress, Google Docs, and Skype, for some big-name examples. If you’re thinking of adding a freeware solution to your business toolbox, there are a few considerations to make.
To start, if the freeware is not coming from a reputable source, walk away. Otherwise, you risk downloading malware or spyware. You should also consider the access the third-party provider will have to your data while you use the tool.
Further, freeware is less likely to come with support from the developer. Plus, some solutions in this category may carry a risk of being changed or discontinued. So, consider how disruptive to your business losing the functionality of the tool (even temporarily) would be. If the benefits outweigh the risks, you’ve found a viable freeware solution.
Your third option is a paid software solution. These are the solutions that are developed and sold by third party vendors. There are two main types of payment model for paid software: one-time payment, and subscription-based models.
One-time payment software tools, as the name suggests, require one payment. The initial cost of this option can create a high barrier, but once you’ve downloaded the solution you can use it as much as you want, for as long as you want.
Subscription-based models come at a recurring cost and are more flexible. These solutions are often customisable to your needs in terms of usage and price. Some might charge based on the number of users you’ll have, others based on how much you use the software. This means you only pay for what you need.
So, paid software is often the easiest option when it comes to scalability. Plus, you’ll have access to support should something go wrong. For business-critical software, paid solutions make the most sense when it comes to long-term safety.
The downside is, they aren’t free, and they aren’t as customisable to you as a DIY option. While many let you personalise the access rights or even feature set of your program, you can still end up with a few extraneous features that you don’t use.
Many more factors to consider
This is just one of the decisions you need to make when choosing a new software tool for your business. And the whole time, you need to be wary of pitfalls such as malware or vapourware.
It’s a lot to take in. But having so many options at your disposal means that you can truly tailor your software choices to the needs of your business.
The SmallBizRising Blog is designed to be an educational content hub pulling information, best practices and practical advice for the small business owner and features topics including accounting, marketing, technology and more. Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with new content as it is posted. The blog was created by The Neat Company and receives contributed content from a group of contributing companies that provide technology, services and solutions to small businesses.