Most businesses utilize apps to better integrate data, improve their mail service, and to speed up accounting, billing and invoicing processes. Conducting even the most basic of office activities, from word processing to filing, can also be made easier and more efficient. There is no shortage of expensive commercial programs and services that do all of those, and more. However, few small businesses can afford, let alone justify the expense of such programs, which is why many take advantage of open source apps, most of which are entirely free.
Operating systems for free
Windows, Mac OS X and other commercial operating systems have recently been the norm for most companies. Many businesses, however, are now choosing instead to go with Linux, Free BSD, Clear OS and other free apps. That represents big savings in terms of software purchases and licensing costs. They also require much less computing power to run and are not hardware dependent.
Open source servers
Businesses use servers to send, receive and access mail, and share data and other applications. Costs of running a business can add up quickly, but by switching your company over to an open source server you can noticeably decrease your expenses. Samba by Linux, VirtualBox by Oracle (formerly Sun Microsystems) and Virtualization are just a few of the open source options that can save a company thousands of dollars a month, yet still do what Microsoft and other commercial servers do.
Apache OfBiz, Zoho Office Suite, and many other business software suites can also be found for free. Open Office for example, now in its fourth version, does everything that a $250 box or download of Microsoft's Work Suites does, and for free. Even better, its word processing is compatible with Word, Adobe PDF, etc. Open Office is also compatible with any operating system that can use Java, including Linux, Mac, Windows, etc.
Some of the most popular and proven free apps
While it is impossible to list all of the free apps now available to businesses, there are a number that have proven themselves to be highly effective and efficient. These include ERPNext, ERP5 and InoERP for enterprise resource planning. GnuCash helps keep track of expenses and QuickBooks masterfully helps keeping the books, as the name says. There is a whole host of free apps for customer resource management (CRM), including project management (PM), master data management (MDM), database management (DM), and even business intelligence (BI).
Most of the best programs for each usually include those acronyms in their title, such as FatFree CRM and Maria DB. There are also numerous open source data integration tools, many of which do several if not all of the above, such as Talend Open Studio, CloverETL, Apatar, Hitachi Vantara Pentaho, and Jaspersoft ETL for extract, transform and load.
Hundreds of free options to do almost anything you need
There are hundreds of open source apps available, and most are entirely free or come with a free-basic version that can be upgraded if needed. There are so many to choose from that, according to a survey conducted by Black Duck Software, two out of every three companies in the nation have replaced commercial software with one or more free apps. These free apps not only save money, but are often more user-friendly, eat up fewer resources and are more customizable.
This article was written by Mark G. McLaughlin for Small Business Pulse