We love Free! Or do we? We do! But do we?

What is the cost of free? That topic came up in a great blog post I read on the Kinda Learning Stuff blog.

I’m sure we’ve all participated in the discussion around online tools (like blogs, wikis, podcasts – even email) and whether universities really need to have their own, in-house systems to offer them. It seems like the culture is moving away from our offering the needed services, and towards being open to supporting the tools available online.

In my daily job, these things come up all the time. Sometimes there aren’t the resources (human or otherwise) required to implement certain systems – and definitely not for ALL of the systems that people may want to use. I’ve always been of the opinion that if we can offer the services in house, we should. It offers the users a safer feeling environment, a possibility for better user support, possible integration with our existing systems, etc. There’s also the wee issue of the US Patriot act, which makes it difficult for us to recommend or support the use of any hosted online service that uses servers that aren’t in Canada.

Until I read this article, I hadn’t really considered another possibility: free online systems can magically disappear, taking all of your hard work with it! As the ‘Kinda Learning Stuff’ blogger learned the hard way, sometimes companies don’t feel that non-paying customers deserve notice of the end of their accounts (or the entire system!). Very risky!

Do I think that Google will remove all of its lovely services (Docs, Email, Reader, etc.) without any kind of notice? Not likely… it wants to succeed in taking over the universe!! But some of the smaller services could be at risk of going under, and we’d never be the wiser until it was too late.

Thought I’d share that new (to me) insight with you.