Earlier this month, we shared a post discussing the incredible strain on IT resources resulting from the sudden influx of remote workers as employers try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. Over the last several weeks, we’ve heard similar sentiments around supporting remote teams echoed by reporters from Diginomica, eWEEK, NetworkWorld and more. This coronavirus has shown us, now more than ever, that the Internet is a utility and not a luxury.
Free Software for a Productive Remote Workforce
In the spirit of continuing to do what we can to help other organizations manage a growing remote workforce, we wanted to put together a round-up of some of the free offers we've seen that IT teams can consider leveraging to support remote workers in these challenging times:
- Microsoft Teams - Microsoft is offering free access to its collaboration tool, Teams, for six months. This offer includes video meetings for up to 250 participants and Live Events for up to 10,000, recording and screen sharing, along with chat and collaboration. Microsoft is also making updates to its “freemium” offering, such as lifting restrictions on user limits and making it possible for team members to schedule meetings.
- Google Hangouts Meet - Google is helping to ensure distributed co-workers can still meet “face to face,” regardless of where they are located geographically. Until July 1, 2020, customers can utilize larger meetings (up to 250 participants per call), live streaming (up to 100,000 viewers) and the ability to record meetings to Google Drive at no additional cost.
- Salesforce Quip - Organizations can use Quip Starter, a productivity tool that combines chat, documents, and spreadsheets into one platform for free until September 30, 2020.
- Cisco Webex - While the company already offers a free version of its popular platform, it is expanding the capabilities on the free version of Webex to include unlimited usage (no time restrictions), support for up to 100 participants, and a toll dial-in (in addition to existing VoIP capabilities). In addition, Cisco is providing free 90-day licenses to businesses that are not Webex customers in this time of need, and it is helping existing customers by expanding their usage at no additional cost.
- Zoom Meetings - Another popular option for video conferencing, Zoom Meetings, is expanding on its free offering. Basic (free) users in several markets can expect to see the 40-minute limit on meetings with more than two participants lifted, which will provide unlimited time to collaborate. Zoom is also hosting informational sessions so that remote employees can learn how to use the platform and take full advantage of the features included in the free Zoom Meetings license, such as unlimited video meetings (up to 100 participants), breakout rooms, and private and group chats.
- Akamai Enterprise Application Access - Akamai is offering its enterprise security solutions for free for 60 days. This solution can be deployed to secure and manage remote access globally. This offer could be particularly valuable to IT teams that are grappling with scaling their VPN capacity to accommodate an unforeseen increase in connections. A cloud-based security solution like Akamai’s would enable IT to more quickly handle enterprise access challenges going forward.
- Cloudflare for Teams - Cloudflare is offering Cloudflare for Teams free for organizations of all sizes through September 1. Teams makes it secure and seamless to connect to corporate applications without a VPN. Link to offer: https://www.cloudflare.com/teams-general-offer/
- ThousandEyes User Experience Agents - Of course, we want to do what we can to help, as well. We are offering free usage of our user experience agents until July 31, 2020. With this endpoint solution, you get on-demand and real-time visibility into each employee's experience of SaaS and Internally-hosted applications, as well as underlying wireless LAN, WAN, Internet connectivity and system health. If this is of interest to you, reach out soon — enrollment for this offer ends on June 30, 2020.
Providing reliable and consistent access to the applications and services your remote employees rely on to do their jobs is critical to maintaining productivity during work-from-home scenarios. These vendors show us that they are committed to making the remote workforce productive by offering technology and services free of charge during the coronavirus crisis. We will continue to update this list as more details emerge and other providers are added.
Until then, stay well and stay connected.