In a small business, every dollar matters. Open source offers opportunities for companies to cut their software costs. Even if you need paid support, you'll probably pay less for an open source solution than for a comparable closed source solution.
In addition, many small businesses don't need all the fancy features that drive up the prices on commercial software. In some cases, those extra features just get in the way and make the applications more difficult to use. While many open source tools are quite complex, others are much simpler, allowing companies to pick the level of functionality that works for them.
In addition, many small business owners are trying to do something completely new or do something in a different way than it's ever been done before. They need software that can be customized or personalized to meet the unique needs of their businesses. Open source software gives them the freedom to modify the code so that it suits their needs.
With those benefits in mind, here are 58 open source tools that can replace the software you might use at your small business.
This bookkeeping app boasts more than 80,000 users and invites users to compare its extensive feature list to QuickBooks and Sage. Although its owners are based in the UK, it's available in a US edition and has been localized for many other countries and languages as well. Operating System: Windows.
If you run a very small or home-based business and you've been using Quicken to track your accounts, GnuCash can give you some of the additional business features you need, like tracking customers, vendors, invoices, accounts payable and accounts receivable. And it's compataible with Quicken and OFX formats, so you can transfer you existing data. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
If your business is large enough to have multiple users who need access to your accounting system, FrontAccounting offers a Web-based app that also adds some ERP features. The interface is basic but easy to use, and the site includes an extensive wiki with lots of support. Operating System: OS Independent.
Another Web-based accounting and ERP package, Phreebooks is designed specifically for small businesses. It offers a comparison chart that shows how its features compare to Sage and QuickBooks as well as some other open source products. Operating System: OS Independent.
If you've been doing your accounting old-school, that is, keeping track of your books with a paper and pencil or a simple spreadsheet, Lazy8Ledger gives you a step up. The interface looks just like a paper-based system, so you won't have to spend any time learning something new. It's also available in a Web-based version that can be used by multiple users. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
This Web-based app combines basic CRM features with accounting capabilities. While it can be accessed from any browser, you'll need a Linux server running Apache, PHP, Zend, and PostgreSQL to host the software. Operating System: Windows, OS Independent.
Areca Backup offers compression, encryption, file version tracking, backup simulation, and many other features. In addition to typical incremental, differential, and full backup options, it also offers delta backup, which only stores the modified parts of files. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Used by a variety of ISPs, telecoms, ASPs, media and software companies, jBilling makes it easy to manage even the most complicated subscription systems. It's Web-based and completely scalable, so it can grow with your company. Operating System: OS Independent .
According to NetApplications, almost 23 percent of people used Firefox in July 2010. This browser from Mozilla boasts better performance, security, and customization than Microsoft's IE. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
This app isn't quite as fancy-looking as WinZip, but it can compress files more tightly so that they take up less space on your drive and are easier to transmit. 7-zip can also read and write WinZip files and many other popular compression formats. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
PeaZip reads and writes WinZip, 7-zip and dozens of other archive file formats. It also offers powerful search capabilities, encryption and secure deletion. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
If your business is large enough to need a content management system, Alfresco claims to be able to reduce your content management costs by up to 96 percent compared to Sharepoint, Documentum and Open Text. It's used by a wide variety of organizations, including the Small Business Administration. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
"The leading open source collaboration platform," MindTouch focuses on helping companies manage "strategic content." Like Alfresco, it's geared to slightly larger companies. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
Unlike Alfresco and MindTouch, Owl is aimed at smaller companies or even single users who want to create an intranet or knowledgebase to manage documents. You can choose the regular version or the lite version, which doesn't require a separate database. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
As you might expect from the name, this content management system prides itself on its simplicity and usability. Its lite, database-free setup is ideal for small businesses who don't need the full features of an enterprise-focused CMS like Sharepoint. Operating System: Linux.