Top Tips on enhancing your software cost effectively
Thomas Jeffs is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Lucidica, specialists in providing IT support, consulting and training to SME businesses with up to 50 employees.
With Microsoft Office on volume licensing now topping £500 a copy, and Adobe Suites enough to warrant a second mortgage we thought we'd put together some quick tips on how to get cheap and legal software for your home and business.
Choosing illegal is expensive; not to mention the morality of it and the risks of a fine or imprisonment. A major issue with illegal software (especially Microsoft) is that it can often mean you don't get upgrades, and this can leave costly security holes in your computer.
The best news is you don't have to resort to buying a copy from the guy at your local market to ensure that your software doesn't break the bank.
Use free where you can
This is a doubled edged sword; we are definitely not advocates of ripping out your Microsoft Office and replacing it with the free OpenOffice. Yes the free versions of Microsoft Office are a work of wonder, but Microsoft Office they are not. Even if you are totally comfortable using them your staff probably won't be and this will cost you a lot more in training than the actual software would.
There are some fantastic packages though, just be wary;
- Don't try to push your agenda, just because you discovered it last month and it's free and you hate Microsoft doesn't mean it's your duty to get everyone to use it.
- Don't replace core business functions with free software - it will backfire.
- Don't replace interoperable systems with free software; if you need your spreadsheet package to talk to your CRM and your email platform then you probably need to stick with Microsoft; consultants cost a lot more than software.
Be aware of staff training costs.
- A great place to start on free software is where it's not one of your core functions. If you just need to create PDFs you don't need Acrobat. If you just need to edit the odd photo you don't need Photoshop.
Image Editing - http://www.gimp.org/
PDF creation - http://www.cutepdf.com/
Sound Editing - http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
File Encryption - http://www.truecrypt.org/
Office - http://www.openoffice.org/
Web browser - http://www.mozilla-europe.org/en/firefox/
Use 'Home Editions' where you can
On both PC and Mac Microsoft offer a home edition of Microsoft Office. Not only is this a fraction of the cost of the business versions, it allows you to install the software on up to three computers. This can cost as little as 30 for a fully legal copy of Office.
Microsoft are not alone, AVG offer a wonderful free edition of their antivirus for any home users.
Don't be tempted to use these for your business though as they are only licensed for 'non-commercial' use. The manufacturers are getting clever as well, you'll find that home versions of Office omit Outlook, or don't allow you to connect to your business email. Soon that 0 doesn't look so good if you can't reply to an email.
Anti-virus - http://free.avg.com
Offsite backup - http://mozy.com/home/free
Microsoft Office PC - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Microsoft-Office-2010-Student-Users/dp/B003FO8956
Microsoft Office Mac - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Office-2008-Home-Student-User/dp/B000X86ZAS
Don't buy Volume unless you're a big business
Microsoft has various volume licensing models whereby you can buy all your software at once and keep it in one place. Essentially if you buy 'volume licences' the following will happen;
- You'll never need to worry about your media (you can download the software again)
- You'll never need to worry about codes (you can download them again)
- You can get automatic upgrades of software to the latest version (at an additional cost)
- Your licences are very easy to manage and it's easy to see what you have and what you need
- You'll pay up to 350% more for the liberty of doing the above
- Retailers will often try to 'disguise' the extra costs by spreading the payments over a few years or just offering you leasing
- For the vast majority of Small Businesses, Volume licencing makes no sense at all. If you're buying your licences in a large chunk, be aware you may be paying way above the odds.
And there is OEM (original equipment manufacturer) software, with the latest version of Office. This makes slightly less sense but still a way of saving a few quid. OEM has the following constraints;
- It is PC only.
- It can only be licensed on a PC 90 days old or less.
- It is tied to that computer for ever more and just that computer. If you lose it you need to buy the software again.
- It doesn't come with installation disks, so you either have to get it with the computer, or you can currently download it from MicrosoftIt will save you about 20% off the price of the software.
- Currently we still sell about 80% OEM, it works out great value, sometimes it's a pain to administer if you need to reinstall, but well worth the huge savings over Volume Licensing.
Own up to being illegal
Especially to Microsoft, they'll tell you don't have legal software, just follow the onscreen steps and Microsoft will sell you a copy of the legal version of the software (at up to 50% off the retail price)!
Don't buy too many copies
If you have two computers a desktop and a laptop and they are both just used by you, you only need one copy of most pieces of software. Check the licencing but as long as you have purchased retail you may be legally entitled to install it twice.Also have a look for 'concurrent' where possible. This means you can install it as many times as you like, but you only need to have enough licences to cover the amount of usage. It means that if you have 10 staff but the application is only used by 2 at any one time you only need 2 copies of the software.It's also often worth setting up a 'design machine' where your expensive applications live, this way even if the software house doesn't offer concurrent licences you can have a shared workstation. Certainly computers are cheaper than Adobe Creative Suite.
Get it free if you're a charity or nearly free if you're a partner
Microsoft, Symantec and Adobe have free software for charities. You can get hundreds of copies of Office, Windows and Server. Just get yourself over to http://www.ctxchange.org/
If you have a vested interest in pushing/promoting/developing Microsoft Software then sign up for the Action Pack subscription and get yourself (nearly) all the Microsoft software for 240. You do have to pass a Microsoft Sales Assessment now though. Action Pack details are here but as Microsoft gives you 10 copies of each piece of software the time needed to swat up may well be worth it.
Check the price in $
It's always worth trying the U.S. site (or the Canadian & Australian) to see what the prices are there. You may be hit with a sales tax once you tell them you're outside the U.S. but you can occasionally pick up a bargain.
Don't buy from eBay
Unless you are lucky you'll end up with an academic licence which unless you're planning on starting a school won't do you much good.
The RM2 Partnership is pleased to recommend the services of Lucidica who are specialists in providing IT support for SME businesses. For further details on anything discussed in this article please contact Lucidica on 0844 4142994 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.