Be open in 2009…..open source that is.Â Or at least as close to open, or free, as one can find.
From productivity tools like Open Office to numerous free wikis on the market,Â open source software has become more mature and ready for prime time in a year where CIOs will be looking to cut enterprise costs where possible while keeping teams intact and productive.
So where are the options to go from vendor to open?Â Here are a few to consider either for yourself or for your department/business:
Open Office is Sun’s response to Microsoft Office, just free.Â Five basic applications are provided, whichÂ are equivalent toÂ Microsoft Word (Writer), Microsoft Excel (Calc), Microsoft Power Point (Impress), Â Microsoft Access (Base), and Microsoft Visio (Draw).Â While this is close to being an apples to apples comparison, the main productivity feature that lacks, which may cause some companies to shy away from Open Office, is the lack of shared calendaring and other advanced calendaring and spreadsheet features Microsoft offers.
For a small business or independent consultant, Zoho will pretty much provide all the collaboration tools you need for free to manage your business, from CRM,Â Microsoft Office equivalents, to free web conferencing (sorry no toll free number included, but, just use Skype for free voice over IP long distance!).Â The only catch is to not go above 5-10Â users to keep the free version.
How are you keeping your teams learning and growing so you can continue to add value and survive the recession we are in?Â Moodle, though used in education, can also be used to help manage and track educational process while delivering virtual classes.
Don’t want to buy Quick Books?Â GNUCash has been at the top of 2-3 other open source accounting software technologies out on the market for the last few years.Â It provides double-entry accounting, invoicing capabilities plus many other features and functions to run anyone’s personal finances on or small business.
Google has become a major player in the hosted tools market, going beyond their search and Gmail capabilities to provide a number of Google Apps to help run one’s business.Â It’s not free, but $50/user (versus $1K+ for many desktop alternatives and reduction of needing inhouse IT staff to manage the desktop version of these Software asÂ a Service – SaaS – options)
So what should trigger you to switch or deciding on free versus commercial when kicking off your new independent consultancy this winter?Â Common reasons are anywhere from being fed up on paying exhorbatent fees for software that is available for free, usabilityÂ to having a philosophy that supports open source to how much or how little end user support you want these vendors/communities to provide to you and/or your employees.Â The other benefit of most open source softwareÂ is you can build in your own features if you are technical enough.
For example, an acquaintence switched to Open Office when Microsoft finally nailed the coffin on free Microsoft Office upgrades with Vista.Â He could upgrade Microsoft Office for free previously when he upgraded the OS, but not any more.
Remember there are options to continue digital productivity you do not have to pay for!