20 Ways to Save on Support Software

From a business standpoint, whether in the office or in the field, just about everything we do is software reliant. All those programs can cost a company a bundle. Fortunately, there are now numerous low- to no-cost options out there robust enough to handle the load.

To celebrate the New Year, I am providing some gifts to all our dedicated “Tech Talk” readers in the form of hot tips. In 2011, we covered technologies to help your operations run smoothly, fast, efficiently and economically. This proved to be a popular theme and therefore is one we will continue with throughout 2012.

We begin this month with a mix of software aimed at simply doing our jobs better. Recently, I posed this question online to the security trade: “What are some favorite open source or freeware program(s) you use in daily operations?” In several LinkedIn groups this was a very popular thread and much was discussed. I now share this insight with you.

Endorsing the Free-for-All Approach

Before jumping in, allow me to explain the difference between open source and freeware programs. While both have no cost, open source software is supported by programming groups and often has the source code, allowing for customization. Freeware programs are no-cost software provided by both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

Software manufacturers will often use freeware as a basic-features offering in the hope users will upgrade. At some point, the software manufacturer may start requiring a fee for a new version of its program. Older, still free versions can sometimes be found at oldapps.com. Many suppliers of free software also encourage small donations or tips that demonstrate user appreciation. One good reference location for open source software is sourceforge.net.

In the past, I would not have considered mentioning free software as it was perceived to be beneath the stature of a professional technology column. However, some of these programs have matured considerably in recent years with very impressive capabilities that can often compete head-on with similar commercial software. Let’s take a look at some of these nifty programs. If you see any of interest, just do a Google search to locate it.

9 Programs to Pursue

Neil Hellwig, RITP, CSP, a territory manager for SecurityReps of Orlando, Fla., states, “I use a lot of freeware/shareware/open source software on a daily basis. I find that the quality and functionality many times equals or exceeds commercially available products.”

Hellwig highlighted the following as some of his recommendations:

  • Microsoft Security Essentials (security suite)
  • AdAware Free (spyware detection and removal tool)
  • Malwarebytes (anti-malware utility)
  • Belarc Advisor (system information tool)
  • Gadwin Print Screen (print screen utility)
  • CCleaner (system cleanup and maintenance)
  • Glary Utilities (system cleanup and maintenance tool)
  • FileAmigo (data management tool)
  • OpenOffice (Microsoft Office file compatible suite).

That last one is also one of my favorites. OpenOffice can be thought of as an open-source MS Office clone. It is very extensive and actually has some features the big boys don’t. Tired of always paying for commercial upgrades? Then this program is worth a try. This article was written with OpenOffice’s text editor.

11 Utilities With Universal Appeal

Today’s security systems tech often has to support the installation and maintenance of computers and operating systems, along with application software, for systems such as access control and IP-based CCTV. In doing this it becomes important to compile supporting utility software for these types of installations. Below, I present some of my other favorites:

Google Docs — More and more you will find yourself working remotely with customers on documentation. This free online service provides you with a place for collaborative document storage and editing. I have recently noticed this being used as a collaborative tool for the new generation of security industry standards documentation.

FastStone Capture — I have used this program for years. It is a very flexible and intuitive screen-capture program with features such as hotkeys, annotation, resizing and cropping. The last free version is 5.3.

OpenProj – Worth a serious look if you need a good project management program.  It is an open-source desktop project management application similar to the commercial MS Project program. OpenProj has a familiar user interface and even opens existing Project files. It is also interoperable with Gantt Charts and PERT charts.

Q-Dir — Today we find ourselves working with several subdirectories at once. This freeware program allows you to display up to four directories on the screen at one time. It has been a real timesaver for me when I am working on many files in different directories.

Foxit Reader — It is important to have a standard when transmitting and sharing documents. PDFs have become that standard. I have been very impressed with the versatility and functionality of Foxit, which is why it is my default PDF reader.

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About the Author

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Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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