Open Source your software budget
Cutting corners has a rather negative connotation; if you can’t do something correctly, cut a few corners and live with the diminished result. While generally true, there are exceptions to all adages. And for small businesses,
cutting some corners can offer avenues to serious cost savings.
One particularly costly expenditure for businesses is technology, particularly software. Many popular software companies are transitioning from single purchases to ongoing software subscriptions, turning one-time buys into neverending cash drains. Luckily, there is a small glint of hope in the expensive software barrage — an altruistic technology solutions movement called “Open Source.”
Before you start screaming how you can’t give up your Microsoft, Quicken, SalesForce, or Oracle, take a deep breath and consider the word “free.” Open Source only works because a swarm of programmers and engineers understand many people out there can’t afford software standard-bearers. What’s crazy is that many of Open Source solutions offer the exact same solutions only without big flashy brand names and marketing behind them.
For enterprise resource planning, there is Apache OFBiz. For customer relationship management, there is SugarCRM or Odoo. To set up a local email server, there is Zentyal. For business analytics, there is Pentaho Open. For online content management, there is Joomla. And so many more. The secret of these products is
they are all free, open versions of paid enterprise software. So, if you care to test drive the free open software and then realize they cover many of your bookkeeping, customer management, sales, data,or commerce needs, then making the transition is possible with the potential to jump to a more robust paid platform down the line.
Now there is a real negative to consider with open source software. Given these products are free (some supported by paid versions, some community efforts to generate alternatives), there is no guarantee they will exist or be serviced in perpetuity. The most popular open source tool ever, “Open Office,” offered a free facsimile of Microsoft Office, and even with millions of users, its benefactor shut it down.
So, at the very least, if you’re looking for shortterm relief from software expense, research an Open Source tool that might loosen your budget. Just be prepared to transition back in the event that your Open Source product announces an impending shutdown. ♦
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.