The Internet is awash in free tools, and I love them, both for my own personal use as well as for our clients. With all that’s out there and wonderful, why wouldn’t you want to use a free tool? There’s always a caveat. If a company changes its business model, goes out of business, or just plain decides they don’t like you, you can lose your data, with little to no recourse. I wrote it about this in April of 2010, when Ning changed it’s business model. And now it’s happening again on a wider, more noticeable scale.
There is an excellent article in the Washington Post by Cecilia Kang on what happens to your data when a service goes under or is acquired. The results range from the good (Google takes over, imports all your data and makes the user experience even better), the bad (you’re data gets sucked into a vortex never to be seen again), and the ugly (your data is sold to the highest bidder).
So remember – what is free today may be gone tomorrow. Always good to have a backup plan.