Not so long ago it seems the marketing of free services was in high gear. You could get so many free services as long as you were willing to be engaged with advertising. Of course this model still exists in some areas, but for the most part any free services you use are often times just long trials so that you can hopefully upgrade to a paid version of the free service later on.
Recently Unison Technologies launched a free, sponsor-supported unified communications platform. This platform, according to Unison competes with Microsoft Exchange and Google Apps.
Unison’s platform is not offered as a hosted application, unlike many other free services, but is software which resides on your local server. Unison says that it provides the powerful enterprise unified communications of Microsoft, but with no license fees; and it offers the low cost of Google Apps, except that it runs securely, on-premise, behind the company firewall, so businesses are not forced to host their vital data with Google or any other third party.
Unison combines e-mail, telephone, instant messaging, calendars and contacts into a single system. It includes a Linux server, Unison Server, which powers all text and voice communications for an organization, and Unison Desktop, a Windows or Linux-based desktop client that gives employees all communication inside one application, including e-mail, IM, voicemail, telephony and more.
There are three issues to consider:
Should you go for a free product or is it best to pay for it. You need to work with a consult and understand the pros and benefits of each offering. For the free product, if you are comparing it to Microsoft Exchange, in this case, or some other paid product you need to first ensure the free product can meet your needs now and in the future and that at the minimal it has no (or few) bugs, a good interface and the features you need – compare all of this to the fee based product.
Once you feel that it can meet your needs, you need to focus on support options. How will you get support for the product? Can your local consultant help? Do you need to pay support fees to the vendor providing the free product or service? Can you support the product with your own internal IT staff?
Finally, does the product connect well with other applications you use. Sometimes you have a custom application or maybe an off the shelf application like Microsoft Outlook or a sales force application. Integrating your communication platform into one or more of the existing products could be useful to you.
So free or fee? It’s not an easy decision, but is an important one.
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