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Vendors offer free remote work technology for telecommuting

It's more than a marketing ploy: Cloud technology vendors, seeing their own issues enabling remote work, extend paid products to customers for free.

Cloud applications and services vendors who specialize in remote work technology are fast coming to the realization that if they don't help customers -- and their IT admins -- during the global coronavirus work-from-home quarantine, some might go out of business.

In response, vendors are offering for free some of the products for which they normally charge, including productivity and management tools for remote work as well as security tools.

PandaDoc, which integrates with CRM platforms to process transactional documents such as contracts and proposals, made free a $25 per-user, per-month e-signatures package that includes payments processing. CEO Mikita Mikado made the call after reading an angry reply to a sales email a rep had forwarded from one of the company's 17,000 enterprise and SMB customers.

"He said, 'Are you nuts? Why are you trying to sell me now? You should be offering something for free,'" Mikado said, adding that the customer called his company's sales outreach a "PandaDoc fail," requested to be removed from mailing lists and canceled a free trial.

Mikado responded personally to the customer, agreeing that the sales outreach was tone-deaf. He also told the customer that his email spurred PandaDoc into action. The company had noticed an uptick in e-signature use as the coronavirus pandemic forced people to work from home and sales reps weren't able to ink deals in person. E-signatures quickly changed from a convenience to a necessity. So, the company made that service free.

"We're going to get into a recession," said Mikado, who hopes his move will help, in some small way, keep vulnerable customers afloat. "A lot of people are going to be deciding if they're going to cut a software tool, or fire somebody."

Wrike supports remote work management

Companies such as Google, Dropbox and Zoom offer free access to basic document collaboration and meeting tools as a matter of course. But for many managers who aren't used to managing teams remotely, work-management cloud applications such as Workfront, Trello and Wrike and can organize work and monitor team members' progress.

Wrike made its $9.80 per user, per month professional subscription free for six months to new customers and eliminated user limits for its approximately 20,000 existing customers. Moreover, Wrike quickly realized that the company also needed to help its customers use work-management platforms. Even those who were accustomed to remote work technology underwent a massive change when the entire office suddenly had to work from home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A lot of our customers -- some of them who already transitioned to distributed teams -- are absolutely not ready.
Andrew FilevCEO, Wrike

"A lot of our customers -- some of them who already transitioned to distributed teams -- are absolutely not ready," said Andrew Filev, Wrike CEO. So, Wrike began documenting advice from lessons its own employees learned when they began working from home, such as a tips presentation that overflowed live Zoom participant limits.

A flash survey Wrike conducted of 1,000 workers at companies with 200 or more employees earlier this month showed that about half (49%) had never worked from home, and another 23% said they only worked from home during special circumstances such as extreme weather or to care for a sick child. More than half (52%) felt remote work would harm productivity.

"We want to be helpful adapting to and navigating the transition," Filev said. "There's a lot of work still to be done."

Choose free remote work tech carefully

Just because something is free to acquire doesn't mean it's free to implement, points out Forrester Research analyst Andrew Hewitt. Companies scrambling to enable teams to work remotely should take into consideration the costs of security and usability.

"Almost every technology purchase has a long tail of RFPs [requests for proposals] where enterprises evaluate how secure the technology is, and how it integrates with their existing infrastructure," Hewitt said. "With the free purchases, there's not enough time to realistically evaluate how secure any of these technologies are." 

He advises companies to go with known vendors with a proven track record of enterprise security, as opposed to taking chances on cloud vendors they've never heard of. usability testing with end users is crucial during normal times, but that might not be possible as whole companies suddenly pivot to remote work.

"This is less of an issue right now since speed is of the essence," Hewitt said. "But enterprises may want to revisit these 'purchases' further down the road and see if they truly do fit the long-term business need." 

Vendor Free Tool Notes
8x8 8x8 Video Meetings The free version of 8x8 now includes unlimited usage and closed captioning
Acronis Cyber Files Cloud File sync and share solution; free through July 31
Addigy Addigy Apple device management platform; free for 60 days
Air Labs Air Collaboration tool for remote teams; free for 30 days
AppDynamics AppDynamics New customers can get up to 100 free AppDynamics SaaS licenses through July 15; new and current customers can get a free 30-minute meeting with a technical consultant and free access to the company's Premium University through May 31.
Atlassian Jira, Confluence, Jira Service Desk, Jira Core Free for teams of up to 10 people
BigPanda IT Ops from Home Free access to BigPanda's IT operatoins platform for 90 days, with no obligation to buy later
BlackBerry Blackberry Desktop, SecuSuite for Government, BlackBerry AtHoc and BlackBerry Protect The remote working tools for businesses and government organizations are being made available free for 60 days
Box Box Business Edition Unlimited storage, 5GB file upload and more, free for 90 days
Calendly Free Zoom and GoToMeeting integrations The previously Premium-Tier offerings are free through June
Charter Spectrum WiFi Hotspots Spectrum WiFi Hotspots will be free for public use for 60 days
Cisco Cisco Webex Now with unlimited usage, supporting up to 100 participants. Free 90-day licenses for non-users
Cloudflare Cloudflare for Teams Free seats for small businesses through Sept. 1, with a free onboarding session
Commvault Metallic Endpoint Backup and Recovery Offers unlimited Microsoft Azure backup storage for up to 1,000 endpoint devices through Sept. 1
Google Google Hangouts Meet Free for all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally until July 1
HCYU HYCU for Azure HYCU's multi-cloud data protection tool for Azure is available free for three months
HiveIO Hive Fabric Free use of HiveIO's enterprise virtual desktop infrastructure software for 90 days.
Idaptive Idaptive SSO and MFA Free access to Idaptive's single sign-on and multi-factor authentication tools through October
Igloo Business Continuity Bundle Communications platform to dispense information to employees; free until July 6
Intermedia AnyMeeting Pro Videoconferencing software free to all new users through Dec. 31, 2020
Librestream Librestrem Onsight Free business continuity package for qualified aviation, defense, manufacturing, energy and inspection companies
Lifesize Lifesize video conferencing Unlimited free licenses for cloud-based video collaboration tool for six months
LogMeIn Emergency Remote Work Kits Free organization-wide use for three months of certain LogMeIn tools including GoToMeetings
ManageEngine Secure Remote Access Tool Kit for IT Teams Bundles Access Manager Plus and Remote Access Plus to provide remote access to critical systems; free until July 1.
Microsoft Microsoft Office 365 E1 Trial Free six-month trial includes Teams
Okta Okta for Emergency Remote Work Free access to Okta Single Sign-On and Okta Multi-Factor Authentication
PandaDoc Free eSign Includes document uploads, payment processing
PC Matic PC Matic Pro Free cybersecurity and remote management tool to businesses with 10 or more remote workstations, until June 30
Ping SSO and MFA Free cloud sign-on and multi-factor authentication for six months
Plutora Plutora Platform Three months free for new subscribers to Plutora's value stream management tool, which enables software delivery
Pronto Pronto Free access to chat and video messaging tool for businesses and schools
Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse Tool to help organizations assess remote work readiness
RemoteDesk RemoteDesk Offering 10,000 free licenses for its AI-based remote workforce management tool
Retrospect Retrospect Backup products Free 90-day subscriptions to Retrospect Backup - Desktop Edition or Retrospect Backup - Server Edition
RingCentral RingCentral Office Free for educators, healthcare providers or nonprofits
Salesforce Quip Starter Documents, chat; free to Salesforce customers
SAP Ariba SAP Ariba Discovery Enables any buyer to post immediate sourcing needs and suppliers to reply; free until June 30 TechSolutions Remote tech support service; temporarily free
Taskade Taskade Taskade is offering a free six-month upgrade to the Pro version of its remote workforce and collaboration tool
Tempered Airwall The VPN is free for 90 days; Tempered will also help deploy Airwall
TigerGraph TigerGraph Cloud and Enterprise Editions Free for applications with large data or high computation needs to analyze COVID-19 data
Vonage Vonage Business Communications Voice, SMS and team messaging, video collaboration and more is available free for 90 days
Vonage Free Conferencing Standalong video conferencing service; free through Dec. 31
Wanido Wanido The workplace well-being software will offer free access April 1-Aug. 1
Wrike Wrike Professional Project management for marketing, operations; free for six months
Wundamail Wundamail Remote team management software; free for a month
Xant Xant Cares Free access to Xant's Playbooks, a sales engagement tool.

Last updated April 13. Check back for ongoing updates. Editorial Assistant Taylor Driscoll contributed to this report.

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