We’ve all heard the saying that the best things in life are free, but I’m not sure they were referring to software. Warning: If you’ve ever downloaded free software from the internet, your computer may be at risk for Viruses, Hackers, and Spyware!
Freeware (free software, not to be confused with open source software) such as the AVG anti-virus free edition, Spybot, and Ad-Aware are all programs you can download to your PC for the ultimate discount: free. However, you get what you pay for.
While these programs may work just fine for someone’s home computer, they are not business class tools and should not be trusted to completely protect your computer or network from viruses, spyware, hackers, and other problems.
Every month we receive calls from clients whose computers are infected with a nasty virus or a boatload of spyware who had these programs installed and running, and were under the false assumption that they were protected.
Why Freeware Doesn’t Protect Your Computer
In most cases, freeware is a light version of a software program that you pay for. However, this free version typically does not come with any online, e-mail, or phone support. It is also illegal to use it on multiple machines or in a commercial, non-profit, or educational environment (single home users only). And worse, more often than not, the “free” download is usually bundled with very nasty Adware.
You’re On Your Own
As you might expect, freeware comes with zero guarantees or promises to function correctly, to be compatible with your system, or to safeguard you from threats. You’re not a paying customer so you’re on your own to resolve any technical problems you encounter, and you certainly won’t get support if your computer gets infected.
Often free applications are plagued with bugs and incompatibilities leaving you with a big mess on your hands, and no one to blame but yourself.
Early Warning Signs Of Impending Computer Disasters
Computers rarely stop working overnight. In most cases, there are early warning signs that problems are brewing. Below are 5 surefire signs that your system has been infected. When you see any of these you need to act quickly to get a professional involved to investigate your network:
• Your workstation or server starts running very slowly, freezes up, or crashes.
• Your web browser has been changed to another strange browser you’ve never seen before.
• You are getting an unusual amount of pop-up windows, even when you aren’t surfing the web.
• You receive e-mails accusing you of sending spam.
•You are getting a growing number of error messages, and you are forced to create work-arounds to complete certain work tasks.
Bottom line: you get what you pay for. If the files, data, pictures, and functionality of your computer or network is of high-importance, then investing in a trusted, industrial-strength software program to protect it is a smart and worthwhile investment.
Your comments are appreciated

Bob Milliken is the president of Cascadia Systems Group.