Free is never free


  • Service Provider

    I like my money. I like not spending it, I like getting a good deal, finding a bargain or better, getting something for free. Many of us do

    But its never free, its not free to the person who gave it to me, the company who made it or the resources used to create it.

    So, free e-guide on how to backup your business is offered. In exchange for the "free" guide, you pay for it with your contact details and become a lead. This is called gated marketing, same way you'd pay a toll when crossing a bridge, you pay information to get free stuff.

    Now let's look at free software. Starts with the words "I want a free thing which solves this specific problem" It could be CRM, Finance, Security, It does not matter, the problem is we often look at open source software as being fantastic because it is free.

    It is great because companies can see all the raw code, they can audit it, different people can contribute and the product gets better but there is a cost to using it, its not in the buying of the software it lies in:

    • Cost of training, do you know how to use it?
    • Cost of deployment
    • Cost of migrating from 1 system to another
    • Cost of reliability, is this tool reliable? Is it tested? Is it safe?

    Who pays for all the above? Have you factored it in?

    IT professionals can introduce you to lower cost, lower risk, faster and more reliable tools to get stuff done but none of it is free. If anyone ever says "free tool" someone is paying for it.

    If you are offered free, be suspicious, if someone offers you something at a big discount, beware.

    Sometimes you do get a generous gift, sometimes you really do get a good deal but most of the time, its a trap for later down the line.



  • @breffni-potter said in Free is never free:

    • Cost of training, do you know how to use it?
    • Cost of deployment
    • Cost of migrating from 1 system to another
    • Cost of reliability, is this tool reliable? Is it tested? Is it safe?

    You realize that paid software suffers that entire list as well, right?



  • @dashrender said in Free is never free:

    @breffni-potter said in Free is never free:

    • Cost of training, do you know how to use it?
    • Cost of deployment
    • Cost of migrating from 1 system to another
    • Cost of reliability, is this tool reliable? Is it tested? Is it safe?

    You realize that paid software suffers that entire list as well, right?

    And has a lot of risk as well, like all of these licensing risks and more.



  • @dustinb3403 said in Free is never free:

    @dashrender said in Free is never free:

    @breffni-potter said in Free is never free:

    • Cost of training, do you know how to use it?
    • Cost of deployment
    • Cost of migrating from 1 system to another
    • Cost of reliability, is this tool reliable? Is it tested? Is it safe?

    You realize that paid software suffers that entire list as well, right?

    And has a lot of risk as well, like all of these licensing risks and more.

    Paid software has every risk that free/open source software has, PLUS all the other things.


  • Service Provider

    @breffni-potter said in Free is never free:

    Now let's look at free software. Starts with the words "I want a free thing which solves this specific problem" It could be CRM, Finance, Security, It does not matter, the problem is we often look at open source software as being fantastic because it is free.

    That's weird. I normally look at it as superior because it has better licensing that protects me and often takes less work to maintain. Open source doesn't carry the cost (risk) of proprietary licensing and doesn't have any limits on deployment scenarios. In comparison, it's not free, it pays you :)


  • Service Provider

    @breffni-potter said in Free is never free:

    • Cost of training, do you know how to use it?
    • Cost of deployment
    • Cost of migrating from 1 system to another
    • Cost of reliability, is this tool reliable? Is it tested? Is it safe?

    Who pays for all the above? Have you factored it in?

    Who pays for this with proprietary software? On proprietary software this is normally even more. The real question isn't if we are factoring this in to open source, it is whether you are factoring it in to closed source!



  • The thing about free software is that you can't sell it as free software to management. The way you should sell it is - The software has no license fee, and the license allows us to basically do what we want, but in every other respect, it's like normal software.

    This is probably mostly a failing of IT to present the solution correctly to management. Instead they go forward with the blinders on and simply tell management - hey this software is free, and we should use it. But as mentioned by the OP, the only part that is free is the license to use the software, every other aspect is pretty much normal (testing, deploying, training, updating, etc).


  • Service Provider

    @breffni-potter said in Free is never free:

    IT professionals can introduce you to lower cost, lower risk, faster and more reliable tools to get stuff done but none of it is free. If anyone ever says "free tool" someone is paying for it.

    This is something that people say, but it is an unfounded "thing people say." Like "you only get what you pay for", or "the best things in life are free" or "don't put all your eggs in one basket." It's just a saying, it doesn't have any basis in reality.

    Yes, someone has to pay for everything. But some things are already paid for and the cost doesn't change whether you use them or not.


  • Service Provider

    @dashrender said in Free is never free:

    The thing about free software is that you can't sell it as free software to management. The way you should sell it is - The software has no license fee, and the license allows us to basically do what we want, but in every other respect, it's like normal software.

    Right, you should be selling it the same as closed source - based on the merits of the software, the TCO and ROI, the risk reduction from licensing protection and so forth.


  • Service Provider

    From a few days ago....

    Youtube Video

    Specifically about why this exact myth persists!



  • @scottalanmiller said in Free is never free:

    From a few days ago....

    Youtube Video

    Specifically about why this exact myth persists!

    That's a really bad screengrab... Reminds me of 0_1500561831199_b59f55ff-cd46-4366-b619-3146aabfbf2b-image.png

    Back to the topic at hand.


  • Service Provider

    @breffni-potter said in Free is never free:

    If you are offered free, be suspicious, if someone offers you something at a big discount, beware.

    Sure, but don't be any more wary than if you are asked to pay for it. Beware in both cases, but open source gives you far less reason to be worried, because it provides more protections for you out of the gate. That doesn't mean you get to go in with your eyes closed, but you are starting from a safer position.


  • Service Provider

    @breffni-potter said in Free is never free:

    Sometimes you do get a generous gift, sometimes you really do get a good deal but most of the time, its a trap for later down the line.

    Except in open source software, where I've never even heard of a rumour of this existing. Could it? Maybe. But how? Thanks to the miracle of the open source license, you are protected from this quite significantly. Can you come up with any example where your fear has come true?

    Linux, LIbreOffice, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Hadoop, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Firefox, Rocket, Zimbra, Postfix, Sendmail, Apache, Nginx, Atom and so on and so on are all examples of the total opposite. I've never had anyone present or experience something like you describe as a fear to be wary of.


  • Service Provider

    The real thing is that free is normally better than free... not only does it not cost money, it generally makes you money long term in comparison to non-free options because it tends to lower the cost of licensing, management, documentation and so forth. So it is negative cost, rather than positive.

    Far more important is being wary of people selling software. Free software isn't sold, so there is rarely a person out there "selling it" to you. But non-free software is normally pushed by salespeople that make money by trying to make paid for software sound plausible. And often it is, but there are lots and lots of people on there paid to push things that cost you a lot of money. That's the biggest concern in this space.


  • Service Provider

    Even MSPs and consultancies have a strong incentive to push closed source, even if they are not the ones selling licenses. Windows and Linux are a perfect example, or MS Office and LibreOffice, or MS SQL Server and PostgreSQL. In all of these cases, not only is there no money to be made "selling" the free option, but the profits from managing them are minimal. Companies that support all of these can tell you that a customer buying MS products is going to easily pay 200% - 400% more in support costs on average.

    Whether because the software is just slower to set up, breaks more often, encourages the customer to screw it up themselves, requires more resources, has customers spending more time looking over shoulders, requires loads of licensing management time, can't use simple deployment methods or whatever - there is big, big money to be made in steering customers away from a lot of open source packages. There just isn't enough support hours generated by the simpler, more straightforward software so close source is often promoted. Everyone does it, so it's unlikely that customers will notice the bias based on increasing their support bill, especially as the bills come over time rather than all at once and carry on between vendors.



  • Hehe



  • That's a lot of interesting points on both sides. Question though, would it be better, as a consultant, to just use open source for clients and make money by supporting it slowly and over a longer period of time than many MSP'S do with proprietary software? I am thinking yes to this myself because from a clients point of view your solution worked better with far less support and they will then be happier and more likely to recommend you to others to get you more work. I believe this extra work would more than make up for lower support fees by using proprietary software that doesn't work as good. Am I completley off base or not?


  • Service Provider

    @jmoore said in Free is never free:

    That's a lot of interesting points on both sides. Question though, would it be better, as a consultant, to just use open source for clients and make money by supporting it slowly and over a longer period of time than many MSP'S do with proprietary software?

    No, for two reason:

    • Licensing is never the driving factor is "what is good". Open source licensing is always better than closed source licensing. Always, no exceptions. But licensing quality, while important, is nowhere near the most important thing in deciding on software.
    • As a consultant, open source is not your friend. You make your big money supporting closed source software because it is almost always harder to manage, requires more support hours, and you have whole extra categories of things to manage. It's not very ethical to recommend closed source because of this, but it is why closed source is so popular even with the people who don't have to pay for it. Everyone wins from closed source in general - except for the final customer.


  • @jmoore said in Free is never free:

    That's a lot of interesting points on both sides. Question though, would it be better, as a consultant, to just use open source for clients and make money by supporting it slowly and over a longer period of time than many MSP'S do with proprietary software? I am thinking yes to this myself because from a clients point of view your solution worked better with far less support and they will then be happier and more likely to recommend you to others to get you more work. I believe this extra work would more than make up for lower support fees by using proprietary software that doesn't work as good. Am I completley off base or not?

    That's the rub isn't it. Finding new work to fill the time that not supporting those free things leave you with.


  • Service Provider

    @jmoore said in Free is never free:

    I am thinking yes to this myself because from a clients point of view your solution worked better with far less support and they will then be happier and more likely to recommend you to others to get you more work.

    Sadly, especially in the SMB, this is not how customers think. Open source systems often have too little visibility and the customers don't understand everything that is happening. You'll actually far more often get more recommendations by overbilling and providing bad, but highly visible, support. Systems that "just work" are rarely what make customers "feel" happy. This is one of the saddest points of IT work - doing the best thing for your customer rarely is beneficial to you or is even appreciated by the customer. Often they will drop you just because you did too good of a job :(


  • Service Provider

    @jmoore said in Free is never free:

    I believe this extra work would more than make up for lower support fees by using proprietary software that doesn't work as good. Am I completley off base or not?

    If you are dealing with enterprise customers concerned with actual profits and that operate on math and logic, you are totally correct. Finding customers that appreciate this in the SMB is very, very hard.



  • First, I know it would be less money over a period of time. I'm ok with that. I guess I 'Want" to believe that it would pay off in the end over the long term by making good relationships with clients and doing a good job by recommending exactly what they need for their business.

    @scottalanmiller said in Free is never free:

    As a consultant, open source is not your friend. You make your big money supporting closed source software because it is almost always harder to manage, requires more support hours, and you have whole extra categories of things to manage. It's not very ethical to recommend closed source because of this, but it is why closed source is so popular even with the people who don't have to pay for it. Everyone wins from closed source in general - except for the final customer.

    Yeah thats how I would feel by recommending something that did not fit a business's need, unethical. I don't want to win like that. Guess I'm not cut out to be a consultant lol.

    @dashrender said in Free is never free:

    That's the rub isn't it. Finding new work to fill the time that not supporting those free things leave you with.

    Your right, guess i can haunt Mangolassi more and learn more good open source software to recommend to people that won't need me after i do that lol.

    @scottalanmiller said in Free is never free:

    his is one of the saddest points of IT work - doing the best thing for your customer rarely is beneficial to you or is even appreciated by the customer. Often they will drop you just because you did too good of a job :(

    i don't know what to say to this but I know your right, I've already experienced it. It is just sad though. Well i will keep working on my career I guess.


  • Service Provider

    @jmoore said in Free is never free:

    First, I know it would be less money over a period of time. I'm ok with that. I guess I 'Want" to believe that it would pay off in the end over the long term by making good relationships with clients and doing a good job by recommending exactly what they need for their business.

    So this is where things break down. Saving customers money doesn't actually make for good relationships, primarily because it's very, very hard to explain to them how you saved them money. There is a reason that successful MSPs almost never work based off of customer needs but of their own needs. See other threads where people discuss the value of being local and showing up, at great cost, to the customer site just so that the customer can see them working. If systems never break, license renewals are never needed, and no one is ever there saving the day you tend to lose customers because you did a good job.

    This is the sad truth of IT. This doesn't happen in the enterprise where people work from financial numbers. But in the SMB where people work from emotion, doing a good job and caring too much are great ways to have some sales guy pushing expensive, risky solutions meet the owner at the club and take your customers because they were willing to be self serving instead of helping the customer.


  • Service Provider

    @jmoore said in Free is never free:

    i don't know what to say to this but I know your right, I've already experienced it. It is just sad though. Well i will keep working on my career I guess.

    If it makes you feel better, remember that there is no one to blame for this except for the customers that make it happen. There are loads of ethical IT people out there ready and willing to do an awesome job. But most SMB owners and managers have no interest in that. They don't use "business value" or "profits" as their reason for selecting their business partners.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Free is never free:

    They don't use "business value" or "profits" as their reason for selecting their business partners.

    Yeah and that is weird because you would think that would be what they care about most for their businesses. If I was a business owner it would be those exact things 95% of the time and possibly more that dictated what decisions I made. I did computer science and physics in college so the "math" means a lot to me!


  • Service Provider

    @jmoore said in Free is never free:

    Yeah and that is weird because you would think that would be what they care about most for their businesses.

    Those that do tend not to stay an SMB for very long.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Free is never free:

    Those that do tend not to stay an SMB for very long.

    Yeah that makes sense. If you make the right decisions over a long period of time then you should be growing steadily. Fascinating subject.


  • Service Provider

    Something to understand about SMB owners is that some are great and on their way with their SMB from little to big, leaving the SMB behind. If you are a good manager and know how to run a company smartly, you will likely only run an SMB if you are confident that you can do the small to large move. If not, you'll likely take a job with a big business that will pay you better than your SMB could. The financial incentive to be good and run a non-growing SMB is small, so the people good at that basically will never do that.



  • Interesting perspective. It does make a lot of sense too. I can definitely see how that would be the case. I guess as an IT person, it would make sense to apply some of the same ideas to ones career?


  • Service Provider

    @jmoore said in Free is never free:

    @scottalanmiller said in Free is never free:

    Those that do tend not to stay an SMB for very long.

    Yeah that makes sense. If you make the right decisions over a long period of time then you should be growing steadily. Fascinating subject.

    Yeah, statistically it's interesting because while the market is primarily SMBs, it's one of those things that changes over time.

    It's like the stat about marriage. "50% of all marriages end in divorce." This makes it sounds like if you get married that you will have a 50/50 chance of divorce. But it leaves out that people who have gotten divorced before have a really high chance of getting divorced more than once. So while 50% of MARRIAGES end in divorce, only 25% of MARRIED PEOPLE get divorced!


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