Considering Free and Low-cost Alternative Computing Solutions for Entrepreneurs

Photo: pixabay.com

Photo: pixabay.com

Adjuncts don’t have huge budgets for computers. That said, a reliable laptop essential for writing, managing classes, keeping track of expenses, and basic day-to-day work. When the computer dies, it’s a serious issue and there aren’t many options when funds are scarce.

The situation is not very different from that of an entrepreneur who needs to stay employed while also balancing the budget. In addition to the cost of the computer itself there is also the cost of the software. Sure, a new laptop can be had at Best Buy for a few hundred dollars, but then there is the Microsoft & Adobe licensing, not to mention security software, cloud services, backups, and basic business applications. Most of these are now subscription-based and can add up to hundreds of dollars per month, more than basic cable.

As a former IT manager myself, I am often the go-to-person when a computer breaks and I do a lot of this for adjuncts, volunteers and entrepreneurs who do not have ample means to support their computers properly. I do suggest open-source & free alternatives, but they usally balk at the unheard-of branding, strange naming conventions, and the belief that it simply cannot be as good as the commercial stuff. They would prefer to stick to what is familiar and pay for the convenience or, in many cases, use software that they aren’t licensing properly.

This is not the case with larger companies and organizations who have large budgets and seldom consider alternatives, even when there is a clear cost-benefit case to be made. I had this very discussion with a colleague of mine who still works on campus. His institution receives incredible discounts on commercial software that small businesses and entrepreneurs simply don’t have access to. Hence the cost-benefit discussion is moot for his employer.

He followed that up with a challenge to me: if I’m going to recommend non-commercial, free alternative computing solutions to others that I help out, why not do this myself? Sounds fair enough, but I am now heavily involved in managing the Colégas Group and we have standardized primarily on a commercial (& expensive) environment. How will I be able to work such system into this environment and my daily workflow. Is this even possible?

That is what I am going to explore in this new series of articles. I will make every effort to stay as close to the concerns and needs of both adjuncts and entrepreneurs. To that end, my goals will be as follows:

  • Keep costs to an absolute minimum

  • Have as little impact on our existing operations as possible

  • Keep it as simple as possible (our pre-teen kids should be able to follow right along)

  • Consider long-term viability for these solutions

There are other blogs out there that cover this in a general way, but none of them are really targeted at adjuncts, small one-person operations, and collegiate gigsters. These articles will be for our specific audience and I hope it will offer real alternatives to you all. I can’t say at this point whether every solution will be a resounding success, but I do hope that it will be interesting, entertaining, and that it will offer real savings to those of us who really need them.

If this speaks to you, then I encourage you to follow along. Who knows, you may implement many of these solutions with me and learn a thing or two on the way. In the next article I will tackle the first issue everyone comes across: finding a working computer.

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