The Internet has brought about massive disruptions to industries ranging from music to film to news to software. The ability to easily (albeit illegally) download your favourite tunes has brought the traditional music industry to its knees. Similarly, the printed press has been hemorrhaging cash due to free online alternatives, and films have long faced a similar battle. Content producers – newspapers, film companies and so on – have spent the last 20 years experimenting with different ways of monetising online content. With no clear winner yet realised, the Free vs. Paid-For debate rages on.
Should the Internet – which in theory belongs to everyone – be free? If so, how should content-creators be paid? And how do we feel about the idea that if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product?
The Internet has facilitated a glut of free online versions of software, too. Much of this was really exciting to begin with – allowing firms who traditionally had no chance of competing with established giants like IBM or Oracle to reach new audiences. Think Dropbox – or even Google. The emergence of free or ‘freemium’ tools and websites has forced the hand of many software providers; offering their products for free as a result.
An interesting case in point is OneDrive for Business, Microsoft’s cloud-based storage space and offline syncing tool. OneDrive for Business cost is technically free (it used to offer unlimited storage, but that has been reduced since December 2015). Compare this to the Microsoft of old, which would always have charged for its products, and this seems like a huge change. However, is the OneDrive for Business cost – or any ‘free’ software for that matter – really free? Can anything really be free – and if not, is a ‘paid-for’ alternative preferable?
“Nothing in this life is free”
Social psychologists have long studied the principle of reciprocity – the idea that “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”. Research has shown time and again that this principle is a fundamental requirement to building trusting relationships. Without a level of trust, different parties cannot cooperate. And without cooperation, civilisations can’t be built.
So, expecting a favour, or a service – or simply cash – in return for one’s help is a fundamental part of what it is to be human, hence the expression “nothing in this life is free”. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this principle. As miserly as it sounds, it underlies all our concepts of exchange and allows us to cooperate and achieve things on the understanding we won’t be short-changed. As a result, when we hear about great ‘free deals’ we’re right to take them with a pinch of salt. When was the last time you saw an ad offering supposedly ‘free’ things such as:
- “free tablet…when you sign up to a 24-month contract!”
- “free French fries…when you buy two mains!”
However, when it comes to the Internet and cloud-based software, we tend to somehow forget that this principle of exchange still stands. From search engines to social networks to news websites, we’ve come to assume that we really are getting something for nothing. However, is this in fact true?
What you don’t get for free
There are countless examples of products, which appear to be free, but only offer you their full capabilities once you pay for the premium version. Look at the mobile app industry – how many times have you downloaded a ‘free app’ only to discover you couldn’t do anything useful with it until you handed over some cash? OneDrive for Business is a much more sophisticated tool, but fundamentally this idea that it’s truly ‘free’ needs to be questioned. Let’s look at how, in the long run, you may end up paying for the tool:
- The OneDrive for Business cost is often spoken about as a kind of ‘free’ add-on to SharePoint online, and is included in Office 365 plans. This is bending the truth somewhat; it’s the overall price that matters. You don’t buy a cake and think “oh wow, I got icing for free!”
- A second key point is that, considering that OD4B is a business tool, all that on-line storage space is personal space and not available for shared business usage..
- Finally, OneDrive for Business syncing problems are a major drawback of the tool. It regularly freezes up for all sorts of inexplicable reasons meaning when you use it, you lose time, and, as a consequence, productivity.
The alternative, of course, is to do the old fashioned thing and pay for a product, which gives you all you expect it to first time around. But can paying for online services really work?
A resounding ‘yes’
For a long time, we’ve been told that the Internet has made consumers wary of paying for products. They expect everything free, and will happily accept lower quality services if it means they don’t have to part ways with their cash. Yet this position is looking increasingly questionable.
Look at The Times newspaper– last year, it returned to profit for the first time in a decade, after stubbornly holding onto its paywall. Subscription-based services are also beginning to gain popularity: Netflix, a pay-monthly video streaming service is drawing huge numbers of customers who’d prefer to pay some cash to conveniently watch films rather than scrape the Internet for dodgy illegal downloads. And the same goes for music streaming services, Spotify and Apple Music.
Consumers and business users actually have high expectations of quality products, and if this involves paying a small up-front fee for a tool that makes their lives easier, and means they avoid stress and wasted time, it makes sense.
We’re confident that our Office 365 and SharePoint sync client – Easier365 – provides the kind of improved features and quality services that can massively improve your ‘Cloud’ experience. Easier365 is available at a one-off fee which quickly pays for itself. Moreover, we offer a no-obligation free trial so you can decide if it’s right for you…so maybe some things in life are free after all!
Contact Digilink today to learn more.