Trying to find free online software can be a challenging endeavor. With thousands of software websites on the internet each hosting hundreds of applications each it can be difficult to even find software online, much less the particular software you need to fit your requirements. Finding software online is therefore becoming a computer skill in its own right, one that is nearly mandatory in any business environment.
With software licensing costs skyrocketing and licensing agreements becoming more and more arduous to keep track of you literally could make a career out of trying to keep track of your software needs. Some of this can be mitigated with free online software however there are risks and things to know about procuring software online that need to be considered before you can even begin to consider company wide deployment.
One of the things to understand with free online software is it frequently has license terms different from most commercial software packages. One of the most popular licenses for software online is the GPL, or GNU public license. This license can be read in its entirety on the GNU (Gnu’s Not Unix) website by simply doing a Google search for GPL. This license basically states that while the code is copyrighted and you cannot take it and sell it in a commercial product, it can be modified and distributed freely. Variations of the GPL will include strictures on such aspects of licensing as whether or not you are required to share your changes to the code and what kind of attribution to the original author is required.
The GPL generally allows for software to be used in a commercial environment, but not to be included in a commercial product. Therefore software that allows you to create text documents that is released under the GPL could be installed on all of your workstations, but you could not take that same code, change the name, and sell it as “Your Company Name Word Processor”.
That being said, there are other free online software licenses available, and it would be impossible to go into them in any kind of detail. In general it is best if you take the time to read over the license agreement for any free online software you intend to use and if it is too complex you may want to consider another product. One of the greatest features of the GPL and other “share and share alike” licenses is that they tend to be much shorter and simpler than license agreements for commercial software.
Other things to consider when acquiring software online is that some of the websites advertising free online software are actually there to attempt to spread viruses. Many of these less scrupulous sites will download copies of software online and infect them with viruses, then uploading them to their own servers for distribution. In this way they can infect many computers and then use them for cyber attacks or stealing personal information from infected machines.
This is ironically extremely prevalent in antivirus software. Many websites that are trying to spread viruses and other harmful software realize that the first line of defense against their attacks is good antivirus software, so they will use SEO poisoning and other methods to try to be the first search result for common antivirus programs. Masquerading as the original company they are trying to get you to download their version of the antivirus software that is not only infected with a virus, but is generally modified so as to not provide protection from other viruses.
This is not to say that finding free online software should not be done. On the contrary most computers these days are using software that was located online at no cost and have no problems at all. It is simply important to keep in mind that when downloading software online there are some risks involved and by taking the time to be vigilant you can mitigate those risks.
One of the best ways to mitigate those risks is to go to reputable websites to find free online software. While there are thousands of websites out there providing software downloads, a very few of them have been around long enough to really build up a reputation as being the best in their class. Be careful though, as occasionally these trusted websites change ownership to a less reputable person or corporation and your reliable source of software online turns into a virus infested nightmare.
By taking these warnings into account, and doing your research thoroughly, and of course making sure your computer is properly protected you can find all the free online software your business may need. This will save you money and by having the right application for the job your employees will be more productive than ever.