Workstation peripheral compatibility
One of the biggest issues for the small business usability of desktop Linux is whether a company's existing peripherals are compatible. Even more confusing is how the small business owner must be familiar with where to look for help should the need arise and the peripheral be detected when first plugged in.
If you think that is confusing, it gets better. HP and Epson generally have the best support available for desktop Linux users, even if said solutions are not "formally supported." Yet based on compatibility lists elsewhere, the user is never made aware of this. (On odd decision, it appears.)
So is it viable for today's small businesses to take on the task of trying to determine whether their existing peripherals happen to be compatible? Its doable, sure. Is it going to happen? Not without a qualified Linux consultant leading the way, no.
Small business wireless connectivity.
For some small businesses, providing access to wireless connectivity is key in an effort ensure that customers seek out their businesses as an ongoing destination for future visits. For example, if I owned a coffee shop, I might employ a system from Sputnik.com to allow my patrons to connect to their favorite websites or to check their email. The service is cheap, sustainable and has a history of working under a heavy load.
So despite my own frustration with a lack of MAC address filtering to this very day, Sputnik provides a variety of low cost options for rolling your own WiFi access hotspot with relative ease. Assuming the ISP happens to be okay with it, a small business owner can even charge their patrons with optional payment modules from Sputnik.
Viable? Yes and sort of. Setting up a wireless access point for a small business is fairly straight forward should the small business owner happen to be considered a PC power user. Just be prepared to get your hands dirty when it comes to learning to operate the hardware's user interface. Simple to understand for the casual user, it is not.
Daily management of the small business
Cloud computing Web-based tools such as AirSet are fast becoming the new normal for small business management. To-Do Lists, Calendars and even direct messaging can be provided using AirSet's Web services and their Firefox add-on.
AirSet users will find that using the tools provided by the Web application ensures two critical benefits never go overlooked.
Data loss. Hosting your own calendar, documents, etc. means should your workstation/server go, potentially so does your data.
Everything is central, regardless of whether employees are working locally or remotely.
AirSet works just great on most modern Linux distributions. Not depending on Internet Explorer, AirSet even goes so far as to provide special functionality with its Firefox add-on.
Another side benefit: if your company bundles AirSet with Google Apps, they can actually forgo worrying about the need for consistent backups. If back-ups are deemed necessary, just use an external hard drive to back-up important documents as the applications are all Web based.
Linux POS systems.
Providing a solid point of sale (POS) system is for many businesses considered to be a backbone tool. Even non-retail offices have the need for POS-type management systems that can keep up with the needs of small businesses.
Because each need for small businesses is so vast in the area of POS systems, I will highlight some of the best I know of.
Pizza, Pizza! Yes, you might be shocked to discover that many pizza chains use highly configured POS systems running Linux (or Unix in some cases). Known as oneSystem, this POS system vendor recognized the value that the stable Linux installation can provided to their customers. Well supported, highly recommended.
Bookstores, mini-mart, etc. Assuming you are not after a ton of support or help getting the system setup, Lemon POS might help to make your business transactions a bit sweeter.
Retail, Medical and Veterinary. If having options pre-installed and supported is important to your business, then TuxSoft POS solutions is where its at.
-- VetTux for the Veterinary business. Simple to use, complete package for animal care.
-- TuxShop for retail. Again, very simple, support for barcode scanning while also supporting a cash register. It also ensures that current stock and supplies are on hand.
-- MediTux for medical practice businesses. Reception to consultation is handled here.
-- TuxDiner for restaurants. Orders taken, processed to the kitchen, table management it handles everything.