Open source software provides small businesses with the ability to try and deploy enterprise-grade software without the associated enterprise licensing costs. Open source software also empowers small business by avoiding vendor lock-in and being able to access a broader market of service providers whom support the software.

There is a huge range of software available today for the small business market, including: email/collaboration software, document management, customer relationship management, Windows operating system alternatives, network security, data backup, data analysis / reporting and IP telephony just to name a few.

Moving a small business to open source software does not require radical changes. Here are a few low risk suggestions:

  1. Change the default web browser from Microsoft Internet Explorer to Mozilla Firefox
  2. If you employ staff that have basic Word processing requirements, then moving to Open Office can be both cost effective and a productive change
  3. Scan for viruses, using the open source anti-virus software engine, ClamWin
  4. If you are using Microsoft Outlook Express then try using the Zimbra Desktop or Thunderbird as an alternative.
  5. If you are having a website developed for your business, require that website be developed using a open source based content management system such as Drupal or Joomla. Rather than a custom-built content management system, a classic lock-in strategy.
  6. Often moving from a Windows Desktop environment is scoffed at as being too hard. However, many Linux Desktops these days provide a free Live CDROM which allows you to try the complete Linux Desktop without installing any software on your computer at all! So there is very little risk in just exploring what a Linux Desktop has to offer you, try:
    1. OpenSUSE
    2. Ubuntu

For more advanced steps you can:

  1. Put in place a open source Firewall to enhance security on your network, reduce spam and viruses. Good examples are Untangle, Smoothwall, Endian and IPCop.
  2. Replace your Microsoft Small Business Server with a Linux server running Ubuntu, OpenSUSE or CentOS. Replace Microsoft Exchange with Zimbra and Microsoft Outlook email clients with Zimbra Desktop.

You may require some technical support to implement these more advanced changes.

If you do try moving to Open Office, then I can highly recommend Solveig Haugland’s Blog, author of the Guidebook a great source of Open Office information, tips and tricks.

If you wish to learn more about open source software you can contact Agileware, Agilemail or for someone in your local area you can contact OSIA. OSIA is an Industry Association which exists to provide authoritive and consistent information about Open Source Software. OSIA members provide products and services based on open source software. You can contact OSIA members directly from the members list.

About the author Justin rotate

Director at Agileware. Justin has been developing and supporting software since the 90s. A strong advocate of free software and good customer service.

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