FREE-–it’s the one word that gets everyone’s attention. Writers, like everyone else, love to use blogs, websites, backup services, and a host of other free-on-the-Web products. Some of them are truly free, while others are free for a limited time or limited purposes, a free trial, so-to-speak. Online businesses have learned that offering the free trial often gains them paying customers. This marketing model is called “freemium.”
Really Free: Google offers a number of free services including Gmail, Groups, Blogger, Google Analytics, Feedburner, YouTube, and many more. Here’s a complete listing. I also use other free services offered by Yahoo, MSN, and Microsoft Office Live in addition to Google.
Free services usually work great, but, if something goes wrong, you have to figure it out for yourself. The “help” section is sometimes no help at all. For example, there was a glitch in the email messages that went to my blog subscribers through Feedburner. Some of the links in the message would not work, and the YouTube embeds didn’t show up at all. I couldn’t find an answer by searching online or in the help section. Of course, there’s no one to call, so I had to come up with my own solution.
Premium (Freemium): Most freemium services offer expanded or premium services for a fee. For example, Mozy online backup offers two gigabytes of storage free. If you need more storage space, you must upgrade to a paid plan. See the details for their free service here. Notice that the free version does not include live chat support or support tickets, which means you’ll have to get help from their support community or knowledge base.
With Mozy online backup, I started out using a free account. I chose not to back up my photos in order to avoid paying for the additional storage. When my computer crashed last year, I lost everything on my hard drive. I restored my documents from Mozy, but I had to rebuild my photo collection from the ground up. Some of the photos I lost did not have backups anywhere. I decided it was worth the fee to have everything backed up on Mozy. Other freemium services I’ve used include Dropbox, Webs.com, WordPress, Bravenet, and Shutterfly.
Time is money? The bottom line is this. Free services may not cost you money, but sometimes they cost you time. It’s been a year, and I still don’t have all my photos restored. I’m waiting for certain people to remember to send me their copies of the photos I lost. The time I’ve spent rebuilding my photo collection could have been used writing new articles. My new rule is that, if a free service becomes a time-saver for me, I’ll probably take the upgrade to the paid version when it becomes necessary.
Subscribers, would you like to recommend a free online service that’s proved useful to you? Please comment and share the URL.
More on the Freemium Concept: