SOURCE: Bruce Boyers Marketing Services

April 21, 2011 07:22 ET

The Hidden Cost of Free Software

BURBANK, CA--(Marketwire - Apr 21, 2011) - There was once an owner of a piano store who had a sneaky sense of humor. Near the front of a store was displayed a grand piano, with a traditional piano lamp sitting atop it. A sign hung from the lamp proclaimed, "Buy the lamp, get the piano free!" Then, in very small print below the outrageous claim was written, "Price of lamp $25,024 plus tax."

Sayings such as, "There is no such thing as a free lunch" and "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" obviously come to mind, and obviously apply. Behind many claims of "free" often follow hidden costs. A free buffet brunch is accompanied by a 2-hour pitch on timeshare condos. The free built-in sound system that comes with the car you just bought sounds like music played through a phone receiver. And, probably the most annoying type of all, having to spend time and effort getting a free item to perform as well as something one would have paid for.

The last example seems to apply most to software, and probably the most graphic example in the realm of free software is that of the free defragmentation utility. It is designed to address fragmentation -- the splitting of files into thousands or tens of thousands of pieces (fragments), which natively occurs with the file system. Defragmenters came about many years ago to put these fragments back together again, restoring access speed and performance.

Fragmentation can take a heavy toll on a system -- on hardware, through IT personnel hours in trying to solve it, and on performance. On the surface, then, a free defragmenter sounds like an incredible bargain; eliminate the countless funds lost in performance and time with a free utility. But the question really becomes, does it actually perform that job?

Today, the answer is a resounding "No!" First, it is a defragmenter. With the many storage technology innovations that exist today, including thin provisioning, replication, snapshots, Continuous Data Protection (CDP) and deduplication, to name but a few, it takes more than a defragmenter; a robust and broader optimization solution is required.

Second, even as a defragmenter it is limited; it simply cannot deal with the enormous drive capacities, huge files and high rates of fragmentation in today's environments.

With a proper optimization solution, fragmentation is of course addressed -- in fact, a majority of it is prevented altogether. But it also includes intelligent ordering of files for faster access, and other technologies designed to automatically maximize I/O reads and writes for ideal performance and reliability. It is truly up to the task of dealing with today's environments.

In doing any sort of side-by-side comparison, it will be found that a "free defragmenter" is anything but free -- the costs in continuing fragmentation problems, and in IT hours continuing to be spent, will be endless.

Do yourself and your company the favor of investing in the right solution to begin with.

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