By Richard Walters, GM and VP of Identity and Access Management, Intermedia

Free services such as Gmail or Dropbox are compelling offerings for small businesses that lack the available resources of larger organisations. But what these businesses don’t realise is that these free services can actually limit their growth potential – and can create huge liability risks.

When it comes to utilising free services – you get what you pay for. Here are a few downsides to consider:

Minimal integration – Existing services/infrastructure that are already in use may not integrate with the free options. This can cause loss in productivity from both your IT team and employees.

Lack of support – Free services are DIY. Users have to figure out the features, adoption issues and, more importantly, if something goes wrong (e.g., data loss or malfunction), end users are left to provide their own support.

Less storage – These services often don’t have the long game in mind. Files can be lost and usually have restricted storage maximums and/or short-term expiration dates. When that occurs, businesses usually spend even more time and money to move files down the road.

Narrow user capabilities – While free services may seem to have what businesses need on the surface, once organisations begin to integrate these services into their daily workflow, many realise personalisation, IT management and other features require a more specialised solution than what’s provided.

Limited access control – With little-to-no ability for admins to manage users, services or devices, the possibility of rogue, unauthorised data access drastically increases.

Reduced security – Some of the more popular, free cloud storage solutions may seem great to users, but they are often too insecure for businesses. Tools like Dropbox have partial (and therefore insecure) encryption, and also lack administrative control with no remote wipe capabilities should a device be lost or stolen. There is also no way for admins to manually decommission employees that leave the company.