For many small businesses, open source software represents an unexplored gold mine. When you run a small business, budgets are always tight. While you need many of the same kinds of software that larger businesses need, you don't have hundreds or thousands of dollars to spend on that software like bigger companies do.
The open source community offers accounting, office productivity, project management, communication, customer relationship management and other types of software for SMBs for free. If your small business doesn't have any technical people on staff and you're worried about support, you can purchase services or use many of these applications on a software as a service (SaaS) basis -- and you'll still usually pay a lot less than you would for comparable commercial applications.
It's important to note that many of these open source apps really are comparable with their better known counterparts. They usually offer most of the features small businesses need, and many even read and write files created with proprietary software. For example, both OpenOffice and LibreOffice can open and save Microsoft file formats, so your partners, clients and suppliers will never know you aren't using Word, Excel or PowerPoint.
Below, we've updated our annual list of open source replacements for popular small business software. You'll find some new entries, as well as plenty of noteworthy applications that we've featured before. If you have another recommendation for our list, feel free to make note in the comments section below.
Boasting more than 80,000 users, TurboCASH calls itself "one of the world's first fully-featured open source accounts packages for small business." It offers multi-user and multi-company capabilities with features like debtors, creditors, general ledger, full stock control, invoicing, bank reconciliation, trial balance, balance sheet and income statements and full reporting and analysis. Operating System: Windows.
If you own a very small business, GnuCash probably offers all the features you need to track both your personal and business finances. It features double-entry accounting, investment tracking, customer and vendor tracking, invoicing, payroll, budgeting and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Designed for small and medium-sized businesses, Edoceo Imperium offers Web-based billing and accounting software, along with basic CRM functionality. It integrates with Google maps and calendar, imports e-mail, generates work orders and offers double-entry accounting capabilities. Operating System: OS Independent.
Another Web-based option for small and medium businesses, LedgerSMB offers financial management features like accounts receivable, accounts payable and general ledger, as well as some ERP functionality, like inventory control, sales tracking, and POS. It aims to greatly reduce the time it takes for small businesses to get up and running with an ERP system. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
5. Areca Backup
Best for very small businesses, Areca Backup makes it easy to archive files from standalone PCs. Key features include compression, encryption, delta backup, filters, as of date recovery and more. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
A better option for slightly larger businesses, Bacula offers network-based backup of multiple systems. Commercial support and an enterprise version of the software are available through Bacula Systems. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
The self-proclaimed "most popular open source backup and recovery software in the world," Amanda provides network backup for more than half a million systems worldwide. It comes in both a free community version and a paid enterprise version, as well as a pre-configured backup appliance. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Replaces: Internet Explorer
Mozilla's open source browser features the "awesome bar," app tabs, integrated search, fast performance, one-click bookmarking, private browsing and much more. Numerous add-ons are available to extend its capabilities. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, Android, iOS.
Replaces: Internet Explorer
The open source project that provides the foundation for Google's Chrome browser, Chromium boasts advanced security, superfast speed and excellent stability. Note that you'll need to be fairly technical to install Chromium on your system; otherwise, you may want to download Chrome instead. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X, Android.
This utility can read and create WinZip files, and it packs the files even more tightly so that your resulting file is 2-10 percent smaller than it would be with WinZip. For even smaller files, try the 7-z format. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
PeaZip can extract more than 130 different kinds of archive files, and it can write 11 different kinds. It also offers encryption, secure deletion, and an encrypted password manager. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
One of the most popular content management systems in the world, Joomla powers millions of sites, including some for MTV, Harvard, IHOP, Citibank and other recognizable organizations. It offers a vast library of features and extreme flexibility and customizability so that you can create exactly the type of site your small business needs. Operating System: OS Independent.
Another extremely popular CMS, Drupal's users include Popular Science, the Economist, Fast Company, Sony Music, MIT, Ubuntu and others. It's mature, flexible and robust, with loads of documentation and support available. Operating System: OS Independent.
Users of this enterprise content management system include Yell.com, Toyota, Cisco, Sony Pictures Imageworks, the New York Philharmonic, and the Sesame Workshop. It combines document management, records management and Web content management in a single platform designed to encourage collaboration. In addition to the free community version, it also comes in paid enterprise versions available for use on-site or in the cloud. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
MindTouch counts PayPal, the Mozilla Foundation and Intuit among its well-known users. This content management system is particularly well-suited for building online help and support-related websites. The MindTouch Core is available with an open source license, or you can use the cloud-based paid version. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
16. Get Simple
With an intuitive user interface, five-minute setup and no need for a separate database, Get Simple is one of the easiest content management systems for non-technical small business owners to use. It's been downloaded more than a million times and has a very active support forum and excellent documentation. Operating System: Linux.
With more than 1 million users, Sugar claims to be "the third most widely used CRM solution in the world," and it costs up to 50 percent less than SalesForce.com. It comes in multiple versions (including the free community version) and you can use it in the cloud or deploy it on premises. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Used by more than 100,000 businesses, vTiger offers a simplified approach to CRM that suits the needs of many small businesses. You can use the online version (hosted at Amazon EC2), or you can download and install the open source version for free. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
SplendidCRM comes in three editions: the free community version offers basic tracking for accounts, contacts, leads and opportunities, while the professional version adds product and order management. The enterprise version adds workflow, ad-hoc reporting and an offline client. All three can be deployed on your own servers or accessed on an SaaS basis. Operating System: Windows.
This Java-based app calls itself "the first front office application suite to integrate customer relationship management (CRM), Web content management and team collaboration capabilities into a single, easy-to-use Web application." Like the other projects in this category, it's available as a hosted service as well as a download, and it comes in both free and commercial versions. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.