Eighty-four percent of large organisations use at least six pieces of free software in the business, according a survey by free software provider Global Graphics.
In addition, 54 percent of CIOs use more than 10 different free software products.
The free software company reported its findings in the ‘Enterprise free software deployment: Adoption, usage and benefits’ paper, which surveyed 100 CIOs in the UK and 300 CIOs in the US from organisations with more than 1,000 employees.
The most widely-used software is Adobe Reader, which was used by 78 percent of CIOs at enterprise and departmental level. This was closely followed by Java Runtime Environment and Adobe Flash Player.
Other popular free software products included QuickTime, OpenOffice, GoogleDocs and Skype.
The high demand for free software is mainly attributed to pressures on CIO’s budgets (81 percent), with free software helping to drive down software licensing costs. Fifty-two percent of respondents also saw a reduction in desktop management overheads as the biggest benefit.
Meanwhile, 59 percent of CIOs said the main benefit of free software was that it enabled product standardisation across the business, and 36 percent said it allowed for easier software asset management.
This year, at least half of the respondents are planning free software implementation at the enterprise and departmental level. Eighty-five percent said they will consider using it, while 47 percent said they will give serious consideration to its use.
Global Graphics carried out the research as part of a launch of its free product gDoc, which may be upgraded at a cost, into the corporate enterprise market.
Gary Fry, Global Graphics’ CEO, said the findings showed that there were now more acceptable options for CIOs.
"People are starting to look at how they can support the business with a mixture of paid and free applications," he said.
However, Fry also warned: "There is always a catch [with ‘free’ software]. Work out what the catch is, and if you’re happy with it, that’s fine. If you don’t know what the catch is, then look for it because there will be one."