Archive for January, 2010

Surviving Tough Economic Times Part IV: Using Open Source Software

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 by Clyde A. Lettsome, PhD, PE

In today’s highly competitive business environment, it is difficult to run a business without computers and, thus, without software.  As a business owner, you are always in need of software for word processing, data management, project management, spreadsheet creation, emailing, accounting/bookkeeping, and more.  Unfortunately, purchasing the necessary software is not a one time event.   For your business to remain competitive, you must update your business software on a regular basis. But how do you become or even remain current when you are trying to save money?  If you are trying to save money and stay up to pace with the latest in business software technology, all you need to do is a little research.  Affordable business software can be found by searching for “open source software”.

What is open source software? According to Wikipedia, open-source software (OSS) is “computer software for which the source code and certain other rights normally reserved for copyright holders are provided under a software license that meets the Open Source Definition or that is open to the public”.  This means users are permitted to use, change, improve the software, and to redistribute it in modified or unmodified form. This software is often developed in a public and collaborative manner.

Although the average business owner isn’t aware of open source software, they have been around for many years and better known by those in the tech community.  This is because many techies contributed to the actual development, the online instruction manuals, and the answers on forums during the early stage of their development.  Since the early years of the open source software, there has been much advancement in the development, documentation, support, and availability of open source software. Thus, the possible value of open source software to businesses now rivals that of commercial versions.  In many cases, they are as valuable and sometimes more valuable than most software developed for profit. In fact, because of their value and low cost, many of the largest businesses themselves now contribute to the development of these software and now use open source software in many areas of their everyday business.

So what are some of the open source software that many businesses may find useful? Well here is a list of popular commercially made software followed by popular open source alternative.

Where can you find open source software? Well, most open source software groups have developed their own sites and distribute software from those sites. However, there are a number of sites where you can find a number of open source software. Three of the most popular are:

These are three great sources you can use to download safe (from viruses) open source software.

So, before you run out to purchase the latest and greatest or before you assume there is not a good economical alternative out there, consider open source software.  These software solutions are free, and often perform as good as and sometimes better than their commercial counterparts.  Read message boards and blogs to find the appropriate and safe software for your business needs.  Then use the above open source depository sites or download directly from the web site of reputable open source software groups.

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