Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: The new SMB stack

Free tools and services for businesses during the COVID-19 crisis

Companies like Atlassian, Okta, Tableau and Intermedia are extending free versions of their offerings to organizations to help them stay afloat during the global pandemic.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted business as usual, around the globe and across business sectors. Weathering the economic fallout will be hard for many, including small businesses that may have to drastically alter their day-to-day operations. To help those businesses adjust, a number of technology companies are offering free versions of their services and tools during the outbreak.  Here's a roundup of some of the offers that can help organizations stay afloat during the outbreak. 

Also: Best video conferencing deals

Communication and collaboration

ATLASSIAN

Atlassian, the collaboration and productivity software provider, is making its flagship cloud products available for free for teams of up to 10 people. This comes in addition to its existing free offerings for teams of all sizes, and the offer is not time-bound. 

The new, free offerings include the cloud-based edition of Atlassian's signature product, the project tracking software Jira. It also includes access to the cloud editions of the collaboration software Confluence, Jira Service Desk and the project management software Jira Core. 

The company has also launched a remote work hub where business teams can find resources like access to third-party integrations and advice on staying productive. 

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Additionally, Atlassian is giving educators free, one-year subscriptions to Trello Business Class, to help them stay organized and connected as they transition to remote learning.

"While working remotely is the right thing to do during this time of social distancing, making the transition with little or no warning is unavoidably disruptive,"  Atlassian co-founder and CEO Scott Farquhar wrote in a blog post. "Virtually every familiar feature of office life – from the bulletin board where your team tracks work in progress to the whiteboard you use for brainstorming – has to undergo its own version of digital transformation."

INTERMEDIA

Communication and collaboration firm Intermedia is offering the AnyMeeting Pro video conferencing and webinar service for free to all new users through Dec. 31, 2020, with no usage restrictions. The video conferencing tool lets remote workers hold global on-line meetings with features like high-definition video and audio conferencing, screen sharing, call recording, chats, and note-taking.  

Additionally, Intermedia is offering one free Webinar Pro license per account, allowing organizations to hold larger, live broadcasted events for up to 200 people. 

The company has also published a Remote Work Success Kit, which includes articles and best-practice recommendations for managing distributed workforce programs.

"Intermedia is in the business of helping organizations stay connected," Intermedia CEO Michael Gold said in a statement. "So, as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down offices, classes, religious services, and more around the world, we felt a significant obligation to act."

8x8

Earlier this month, cloud communications provider 8x8 hastened the global rollout of its free 8x8 Video Meetings tool. The tool gives companies and employees location-independent access to unlimited meetings. It works with any internet-connected desktop or mobile device, without any additional software.

With the global rollout, the tool now offers features like unlimited usage, international dial-ins in more than 55 countries, a browser-based interface, calendar plug-ins, cloud storage for meeting recordings, real-time closed captioning and transcription, noise detection and alerts and support for live-streaming large meetings to YouTube. 

8x8 has already seen a big spike in Video Meetings usage, with the number of new users more than tripling since Feb. 1. 

"8x8's mission is to deliver cloud solutions that allow companies to be ready, resilient and responsive. This ensures business continuity and allows people to work safely and productively from anywhere around the globe," CEO Vik Verma said in a statement. 

While not free, 8x8 also launched the Rapid Expansion Program to allow existing customers to quickly extend their 8x8 deployment to newly-remote workers. 

WINDSTREAM

Windstream Enterprise is offering a free 90-day trial of OfficeSuite UC and HD Meeting services and video conferencing.  Both new and existing customers are eligible.

Identity Management and Security

OKTA

The cloud identity management firm Okta launched Okta for Emergency Remote Work, which offers core Okta services for free to all new customers for six months (with possible extensions based on the situation). The services offered include Okta Single Sign-On (SSO) and Okta Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to five apps for all users, as well as best practices guides, community access, and support and training.

Okta has also compiled a list of some of the most popular remote work tools -- including tools for videoconferencing, document collaboration and VPNs -- and links to their respective free trials.

"We believe any organization that could benefit from leveraging the Okta Identity Cloud for remote work to keep their workforces productive during the crisis should be able to do so at no cost," CMO Ryan Carlson wrote in a blog post.

PING IDENTITY

Ping Identity is offering six months of free cloud single sign-on and multi-factor authentication (MFA) for new customers. This offer applies to any number of applications and identities. It gives users one-click access to SaaS applications, as well as authentication for VPN connections. 

Additionally, customers already using PingFederate for workforce authentication and SSO can receive six months of free MFA. This will help them improve security while expanding remote access. 

"The trend toward a mobile, distributed workforce, including working from home, has been underway for many years," Ping product marketing manager Zain Malik wrote in a blog post. Unfortunately, sudden events like COVID-19, the disease caused by Coronavirus, can shine a harsh spotlight on the need to provide a more comprehensive workforce access and productivity solution than what many companies have in place currently.

1PASSWORD

1Password is offering 1Password Business, its enterprise password manager (EPM), for free for the first six months to ease the digital security concerns of businesses.  

SECUREAUTH  

SecureAuth is offering new customers its Intelligent Identity Cloud package for free through December 15. The package includes risk-based multi-factor authentication (MFA), single sign-on (SSO), passwordless/biometric access and phone fraud prevention

CONTENT MANAGEMENT

BOX

Cloud content management company Box is making Box business edition, for small and medium-sized businesses, free for 90 days in response to the crisis. 

Additionally, the company is allowing existing Box enterprise customers to add additional users beyond their license limits for the next month, at no cost. Box CEO Aaron Levie and CIO Paul Chapman have talked to hundreds of customers over the last two weeks that are dealing with unplanned bursts in remote work, a spokesperson said to ZDNet. 

CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT

FRESHWORKS

For businesses with fewer than 50 employees, Freshworks is offering free and unrestricted use of its customer engagement tools, Freshchat and Freshcaller, for the next six months. Small businesses can use these tools to manage surging customer queries via digital channels and to switch to remote work. 

SALESFORCE

Salesforce is offering packages of tools and services for companies in any industry to help them stay connected to employees, customers and partners during the crisis. The tools can be added on for existing Salesforce customers, and they're available for free to noncustomers for a limited time. 

Initially, Salesforce launched its Salesforce Care for Healthcare package of tools for healthcare systems experiencing an influx of requests due to the pandemic. It's available at no charge for six months and includes access to Salesforce Health Cloud, Salesforce Shield for security and privacy, Salesforce Community Cloud and Salesforce myTrailhead. Additionally, the Salesforce Health Cloud added a free app from Bridge Connector to enhance data system interoperability and streamline communications for providers impacted by the pandemic. 

Following that, Salesforce launched the Salesforce Care for Employee and Customer Support, a pre-configured employee help center, customer service, and contact center application. They also launched the Salesforce Care for Social Community Engagement offering, which provides access to Marketing Cloud Social Studio. Next, in partnership with United Way, Salesforce rolled out Salesforce Care for Philanthropy with free access to its Philanthropy Cloud through September 30. There's also Salesforce Care for Small Business, which provides access to Salesforce Essentials. 

Meanwhile, Salesforce also launched the AppExchange COVID-19 Resource Center, a dedicated resource to support employee, customer, and community needs during the COVID-19 crisis. Salesforce is also offering free 24x7 support, coaching, and guidance with Salesforce experts to help customers deploy and use Salesforce Care solutions.

BUILDING DIGITAL STOREFRONTS, MARKETING

MAILCHIMP 

Until May 31, Mailchimp is providing small businesses with free five-year custom domains to help brick-and-mortar businesses move online. The offering is available to new and existing Mailchimp users and is applicable toward domains worth up to $25 a year. Eligible users can access free  built-in templates to help them build and publish multi-page sites. Every purchased domain includes free WHOIS privacy protection and a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate.

GODADDY

GoDaddy launched Websites + Marketing Free, a free package of tools to build a website, as well as marketing tools. It's a free version of GoDaddy's Websites + Marketing, which launched in September. GoDaddy initially planned to release a free tier later in 2020, but the company sped up the release in response to the pandemic. 

Websites + Marketing Free includes the option to publish a website with unlimited pages, as well as social media tools, email marketing, one-time appointments, SSL, and PayPal. It also includes a gift card widget to facilitate the purchase of gift cards. 

BUILDER.AI

Builder.ai, a no-code software development platform, is offering its recently-launched Studio Store for free to SMBs for the first three months. The Studio Store is a collection of pre-packaged apps, beginning with e-commerce and delivery, designed to make it relatively cheap and easy for businesses go digital.

SEMRUSH

SEMrush is offering free access to its social media and lead generation products. That includes free access to the full functionality of its Social Media Toolkit, enabling companies to track competition, edit images and bulk schedule social media posts. It also includes access to Oppty, a lead generation and prospecting solution for digital marketing agencies and freelancers. 

BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE, DATA ANALYSIS

TABLEAU

Additionally, Salesforce-owned Tableau has developed a free data resource hub to provide visibility into coronavirus data.  The data hub gives the public access to data from vetted sources, such as the World Health Organization and the US CDC, in a ready-to-use data stream. Organizations can blend that data with their own to track the impact that the coronavirus may have on their business or to make strategic decisions. For instance, they could map the outbreak against employee location data to build remote work policies.

IBM

IBM has launched a new "Incidents Map" of COVID-19 data available via The Weather Channel app and weather.com. Users can find local information from the map, which leverages data from the state and local governments and the World Health Organization. The company also used these data sources to build an interactive dashboard on IBM Cognos Analytics. It's designed to help researchers, data scientists, media and other users conduct deeper analysis and filtering of regional data.   

IT/OT OPERATIONS

PAGERDUTY

PagerDuty, which provides an incident managent platform for IT teams, is offering healthcare organizations 20 free licenses for six months. Additionally, any other business new to PagerDuty can get six free PagerDuty licenses for six months. 

"Whether you are a small restaurant dealing with online orders or a large enterprise fulfilling a consumer brand promise, PagerDuty can help you manage real-time, mission-critical work in minutes," the company said in a blog post. 

Also, through its social impact arm, PagerDuty.org, the company is providing financial support to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation's COVID-19 Response Fund, the CDC Foundation, and the UN Foundation / WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

PTC

Industrial IOT company PTC is offering free services for customers and educators in respose to the pandemic.  PTC's remote assistance app Vuforia Chalk is now available for free. Using augmented reality, the app helps offsite and onsite employees collaborate in the operation, maintenance and repair of all kinds of products. PTC says it's "like Facetime, with augmented reality superpowers for industrial settings."

Additionally, PTC is amking the Onshape SaaS CAD Solution, plus the associated learning resources, free for high schools and universities. Educators can use it to offer collaborative virtual STEM and 3D CAD classes to students learning at home, on their own devices.

DEVELOPER TOOLS

INTEL

Developers using Intel's oneAPI DevCloud can now automatically get free access through July 1. The oneAPI DevCloud is a development sandbox with cloud access to the latest Intel hardware and oneAPI software. Storage allocation on the DevCloud has been increased to 220 GB of file storage and 192 GB of RAM. Intel has also updated it with expanded forum support, expanded hardware availability, updated software development tools and simplified access. 

PRODUCTIVITY, WELLNESS

IGLOO

Igloo Software, which provides cloud-based digital workplace solutions, announced a free offering for organizations that are transitioning to remote work. The Business Continuity Bundle is free to organizations globally through July 6 to help workers remain productive. It includes a News Hub for communicating organization-wide news, as well as a "leadership corner" to provide leaders with a secure and restricted space to connect. 

"Igloo itself has recently, and successfully, enacted our remote working plan," CEO Jason Hahn said in a statement. "We have relied heavily on the Igloo Digital Workplace platform to help us with this transition, ensuring every employee has access to the people, resources, and systems they need to be successful, wherever they are. Our No. 1 goal with this new Business Continuity Bundle is to support any organization that needs to quickly and successfully implement a business continuity plan, support a work from home policy, and maintains effective and timely communication with their workforce."

QUALTRICS

Experience Management platform Qualtrics, owned by SAP, is offering free access to Remote Work Plus, to help organizations assess the wellbeing of their remote workers. 

SANS

SANS Security Awareness, a division of the SANS Institute, has created a "Securely Working from Home" deployment kit in response to the pandemic. The free kit includes a combination of public resources, as well as SANS training materials that organizations normally pay for. It provides a step-by-step guide on how to rapidly deploy a training program for remote staff. The kit includes videos, infographics, podcasts, newsletters and digital signage in multiple languages.

SANS also released a free "Secure Your Kids Online" resource kit for parents and guardians, given that many children will be spending more time learning online. The multi-lingual kit includes a step-by-step guide for teaching children about online dangers such as cyberbullying, predators and inappropriate content. 

"We understand that this is a unique situation and we want to do everything we can to help the community secure their workforce during these uncertain times," SANS Director of Security Awareness Lance Spitzners said in a statement.