I Do Not Want Free Web Tools

Might this post title have your attention? It has mine too, as I consider and struggle with how to manage both my, my family’s, and my school’s web presence. Don’t get me wrong – I’m an educator and I love free as much as the next person. But it comes back to the old saying:

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Personally, I’ve used tons of free services for web mail, web pages, etc. I’m currently using Posterous for my family news blog, as it is super simple to post updates, and there is good privacy protection in place.

Professionally, we are about to launch GoogleDocs for our district. Every single user will have access to the Google cloud for documents.

What I (and many others) struggle with is what happens if the provider decides to change something, or gets bought out? What happens to the data in the service? A recent change in Ning’s pricing scheme brought this to the forefront for a lot of people in the educational community. Those who flocked to the service (which is excellent) were shocked that suddenly they had to pay for the same service.

When it comes to school- or district-wide systems, we have to be very careful about our expectations for free services. While we are about to roll out GoogleDocs, we have to consider the implications if Google decides to do something in the future to change the service, and the impact it may have on our users.

I’m much more comfortable with a pay service. Paying for a service directly, as was done pre-web, creates a relationship where you have a vested interest in the service provider to support your endeavors. This does not mean that I’m happy to shell out tons of money at every turn. It does mean that I am willing to pay a fair price for a good and reliable service. This applies to my personal web ventures as well. I pay for the web hosting for this blog so I know that I have service and support behind the site to make sure it is running. The content is in my own space (yes, still on a server farm somewhere, but my space).

I do not want free web tools. Well, maybe that statement is too strong. I am still going to use many of them and advocate for many of them. But I am going to think very carefully about what is out there on the free sites and consider the implications if the service disappears suddenly one day.

That’s all for now – I have to go Tweet this post check my Gmail account…

Image licensed from iStockphoto.com