Why is this important? You now have access to the same or comparable solutions that normally costs hundreds if not thousands to implement and deploy. Case in point, the Open Source version of SugarCRM, which is a Customer Relationship Management tool can be had for free while one of its proprietary and commercial competitors Salesforce.com cost about $1,000 to start per year for a five user license. Another quick example has Ubuntu, which is a full-featured Linux based operating system against Microsoft XP. XP Professional edition costs $299.99, while Ubuntu costs nothing and comes freely loaded with Office utilities that rival Microsoft’s Office software suite. You do the math. Remember to include per user and or per pc price and upgrades. Yeah, I know, you have been suckered for a long time and we didn’t even mention the server operating system and licenses. Ask yourself, why am I paying for something when I can get it done for little or no cost?
Using Open Source is like using “guerrilla tactics” for your small business IT needs. Does free mean cheap? Let’s take a look. Open Source software affords the user to have software developed by hundreds of developers instead of just a few. Most of the Open Source solutions mentioned here are tried and tested solutions. Did you know that you already use Open Source? Yep, in fact if you use a web browser or use email your using opens source software. The Internet is built upon open standards and runs on Open Source software. Who currently uses Open Source software? IBM, HP, Oracle, whole governments, Google, Yahoo and Amazon just to name a few.
So you might be asking yourself, what exactly is Open Source? Open Source software in its simplest form is software that freely distributes the source code along with the object code (the actual program that you install and use), so that any programmer familiar with the language can tweak, improve, modify or customize it without needing to ask anyone for permission or wait for a vendor to do it for them. For a more verbose definition, please visit www.opensource.org. The bottom line is, this model of software distribution can give you a freedom and a savings that compels you to at least become a bit more knowledgeable to its uses.
These are some useful links to help get you started on the Open Source road.
www.opensourceweekly.com (for the latest is Open Source technology for small business owners)
www.sourceforge.net (the world`s largest Open Source software development web site)
www.freshmeat.org (Open Source software repository site)
www.theopencd.org (a collection of high quality Free and Open Source Software.)
www.ttcsweb.org/osswin-cd/ (a collection of over 100 free/Open Source software for home and business.)
www.itservants.com (Open Source Technology Consultants)
Top Open Source Applications for your small business needs.
www.openoffice.org (Great alternate to the Microsoft office suite.)
www.firefox.com (Open Source web browser, great alternative to Internet Explorer)
www.mozilla.com/en-US/thunderbird (Thunderbird email application, similar to Outlook)
www.tightvnc.com (for remote connection to your computers)
www.mysql.com (The worlds most popular Open Source database)
www.phpmyadmin.com (database management tool)
http://filezilla.sourceforge.net (Filezilla- ftp application to upload and download your web content)
www.joomla.org (Website Content Management System or CMS)
www.mamboserver.com (Website Content Management System or CMS)
www.apache.org (Very popular Web server application)
www.oscommerce.com (online shop/ e-commerce solution)
www.sugarcrm.com (the CRM tool mentioned in this article)
www.dotproject.net (project management web application)
www.gimp.org (Image manipulation program)
www.nvu.com (complete Web Authoring System)
www.gnucash.org (personal and small-business financial-accounting software.)
www.subversion.tigris.org (Subversion- Document management and revision control system)
www.k5n.us/webcalendar.php (WebCalendar- Online calendar program for single or multiple users)
www.openvpn.net (full-featured SSL VPN solution)
Desktop Linux Distributions
You can also get the server versions to take care of your business client/server needs such as Email, file, print, FTP, Web, Database, Domain, Authentication etc., There are many distributions of Linux available please check www.distrowatch.com for additional resources.
What have we learned? Before you plunder hundreds of your hard earned or borrowed money into software seek out or find someone who is versed in this technology. Research and evaluate if an Open Source solution can fit your needs. Remember, Open Source Saves! I also find many good feeds about opensource at www.opensourceweekly.com
Let me know if this helped in any way, also list your favorite open source software.