Monday, April 24, 2017

How to run your small business with free open source software

Open source office productivity suites

Very few companies using Microsoft Office actually require support from Microsoft, so using an open source alternative can make good financial sense. Open-source suites are compatible with Microsoft Office file formats such as .doc and .xls. Though their feature sets aren't quite as comprehensive as Office, that's unlikely to matter — most people only use a fraction of the available features available anyway.
Here are four open source alternatives to Microsoft Office:
  • Apache OpenOffice, a comprehensive suite for Windows, macOS and Linux;
  • Open Document Foundation's LibreOffice, a fork of OpenOffice for Windows, macOS and Linux;
  • NeoOffice, a Java-based fork of OpenOffice for macOS
  • Calligra, which runs on Windows, Linux, FreeBSD and macOS.

Open source finance and accounting applications

The following financial packages provide open source alternatives to commercial packages such as Quicken, Sage or QuickBooks:
  • GnuCash (Windows, macOS and Linux) helps very small businesses apply professional accounting principles and track bank accounts, income and expenses to help ensure balanced books and accurate financial reports.
  • TurboCASH (Windows), aimed at the small to medium-sized business market, provides a general ledger and offers core functionality such as posting transactions into accounts and producing financial reports. The product supports 80 tax regimes, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • xTuple offers both a free and commercial supported version of Postbooks (Windows, macOS, Linux, BSD) to medium and larger companies. It includes accounting (general ledger, accounts receivable and payable, bank reconciliation and financial reporting) as well as sales, CRM, inventory and distribution, and other business management functions.

Open source ERP software systems

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is complex and can be very costly. But open source alternatives to SAP or Microsoft Dynamics do exist. Here are three:
  • The popular and comprehensive open source ERP package ADempiere (Windows, macOS, Linux and Unix) offers accounting, manufacturing management, material management, finance, human resource, project management and maintenance management features.
  • OFBiz is the Apache Foundation's Java-based, multi-platform enterprise business package. It includes ERP, accounting, CRM, supply chain management, manufacturing resource management and enterprise asset management functionality.
  • Odoo (Windows and Linux) provides a full suite of applications, including sales management, accounting and finance, recruitment, purchase management and manufacturing resource management. A paid version ($25-$30 per user per month) includes support, automated updates and an unlimited bug fix guarantee.

Open source CRM software options

Commercial customer relationship management (CRM) software is available from niche vendors, software as a service providers such as and large software vendors such as Oracle. Here are three open source alternatives:
  • The SugarCRM Community Edition (Windows, macOS, Linux and UNIX) is the free, unsupported version of a comprehensive CRM product that includes sales force automation, marketing campaigns and customer support.
  • OpenCRX (Windows, macOS and Linux) is designed for organizations that need multifunctional, enterprise-wide coordination of sales generation, sales fulfillment, marketing and service activities for customers, partners, suppliers and intermediaries.
  • The multi-platform Fat Free CRM is a Ruby on Rails-based CRM platform that features group collaboration, campaign and lead management, contact lists and opportunity tracking out of the box.

Open source communications and telephony software

Private branch exchange (PBX) hardware used to be very expensive, but software-based PBX releases bring the price of PBXs down. The open source PBX market is dominated by Asterisk software.
  • AsteriskNOW (Linux) is an easy-to-install IP PBX that comes with the FreePBX administrative GUI. The Asterisk project is sponsored by Digium, which also offers a commercial version of the PBX.
  • Elastix (Linux) is based on Asterisk telephony software, but it also integrates fax, instant messaging and email functionality from other open source projects. Features include voicemail, fax-to-email, support for softphones, virtual conference rooms and call recording.

Open source content management systems

Content management systems power websites — and many of the world's largest sites use an cross-platform, open source CMS such as the following:
  • Big-name sites such as The Economist, and The White House use Drupal. Features include user account registration and maintenance, menu management, RSS feeds, page layout customization and system administration.
  • WordPress started as a blogging system but has evolved into a full-blown CMS with thousands of plugins, widgets and themes. It's the most popular blogging platform on the Web and powers about 20 percent of the top 10 million sites on the internet.
  • Second only to WordPress in implementations, Joomla is used by organizations including Harvard University and Citibank. Thousands of extensions, both free and commercial, are available from the Joomla! Extension Directory.
  • Java-based OpenCMS offers a browser-based work environment (including a WYSIWYG editor) as well as asset, user and workflow management.

Open source ecommerce tools

Ecommerce software packages, such as the three cross-platform products listed here, include everything from product presentation to shopping carts, checkout and payment processing.
  • OpenCart is a turnkey shopping cart for small and medium-sized retailers. It includes order management and multiple payment gateways, provides the capability for customers to leave product reviews and ratings, and offers lifetime free community support. (Commercial support is available through an international partner network.)
  • PrestaShop is a popular and easy-to-use platform that offers product displays, translations, marketing, localization and taxes, and product export to eBay. Support is available as a paid service. Training is offered in France.
  • An older ecommerce platform that branched from osCommerce, Zen Cart is aimed at developers and advanced users. Features include discount coupons, gift vouchers and multiple payment options.

More open source essentials

Open source security tools
If you haven’t been looking to open source to help address your security needs, you’re missing out on a growing number of freely available tools for protecting your networks, hosts, and data.
Open source network management tools
Can open source products deliver enterprise-grade results? To answer this question we tested four open source network monitoring products: OpenNMS, Pandora FMS, NetXMS and Zabbix.

Open Source Software: 10 Go To Solution for Small Businesses

While closed-source operating systems such as Windows and Mac OS may still dominate the OS market, not everyone can afford the high costs that they entail. For small- and medium-sized enterprises where every penny matters, taking advantage of open-source software such as Ubuntu’s Linux is a good bet to boost productivity and cost effectiveness. The fact that open-source softwares have evolved to become somewhat user-friendly and sleek also helps a good deal. 
A number of open-source office productivity suites are available in the open market. The term implies that users can download these softwares for free, without having to pay a subscription fee. However, services and support are generally not available in these free versions, but can be availed of at a small additional cost. The good thing is that many of these open-source softwares are compatible with Microsoft Office file formats such as .doc and .xls, which is a plus point. 
We review here four open-source systems that you can avail of:
1. Apache OpenOffice: An open-source suite that is a comprehensive suite for Windows, macOS, and Linux, it allows various functionalities such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases, and so on. It has been developed over years of open development process, and now allows users to freely report bugs and suggest enhancements. The best part is that is it user-friendly and can be learnt very quickly and is applicable on Windows, macOS, and Linux systems. 
2. Open Document Foundation's LibreOffice: Another powerful office suite, its feature-rich and clean interfaces have a number of applications such as Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations), Draw (vector graphics and flowcharts), Base (databases), and Math (formula editing). It is compatible with document formats such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Publisher. It is free and can be shared, modified, and used by anyone. It can be used for Windows, macOS, and Linux. 
3. NeoOffice: For Mac users, NeoOffice provides a great office suite based on the OpenOffice office suite. It allows users to view, edit, and save OpenOffice documents, LibreOffice documents, and Microsoft Word applications such as Excel and PowerPoint documents.
4. GnuCash: A finance and accounting application that works on Windows, macOS, and Linux, it helps small businesses easily track bank accounts and income and expenses using standard accounting concepts. Book balancing and financial reporting are now a breeze with GnuCash, since it works equally well on Windows, macOS, and Linux. 
5. TurboCASH: Designed for small and medium businesses, it helps tax calculations and reporting for the US and the UK. It also allows business-as-usual financing tasks such as ledger maintenance and posting transactions into accounts. 
6. ADempiere: It is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) app that offers accounting, manufacturing, material, finance, human resource, project management, and maintenance management features. It runs on multiple platforms such as Windows, macOS, Linux, and Unix. 
7. SugarCRM: The community edition works on Windows, macOS, Linux, and UNIX as a comprehensive CRM application, including modules related to sales force automation (SFA), marketing, and customer support and service. 
8. AsteriskNOW: An open-source communication software designed for Linux, it utilizes the FreePBX administrative GUI. 
9. Wordpress: Though it initially started off as a blogging portal, it has evolved to become a full-blown content management portal. Various widgets and plug-ins make it a versatile platform, especially since it powers about 20% of the top 10 million sites on the Internet.
10. OpenCart: For small businesses looking to establish an e-commerce presence, OpenCart is a great shopping cart resource. It offers services such as order management, payment gateways, product reviews and ratings, and great support. 
Each of these open-source tools can add great value to your business by enabling and empowering you to independently carry out your core tasks to their optimum levels.