Businesses and Open Source Software: Advantages and What's Available

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Why Use Open Source?

But why should business use open source software over time-honored programs like Microsoft Word and Excel? Well, a number of reasons.

The most obvious one is cost. Open source software, depending on the licensing, is either free or extremely cheap, much more so than their proprietary counterparts. This can really cut down on operating costs.

Increasingly, open source software tends to be more reliable and more secure due to the fact that every piece of code is under public scrutiny, a public that is constantly supplying new patches and fixes for every aspect of the software. This is an ongoing process, one that is free for you to take advantage of. Open source communities are endlessly helpful and inventive.

Open source software develops quickly, and can easily be customized to suit a business’s particular needs, either through derivative works or by simply adding features. With open source, a program is just clay on the wheel, ready to form fit to what you need.

Many businesses also just find open source a philosophically preferable source of software.

With that, here are some open source software solutions that many businesses are taking on for themselves:

Office Software

Perhaps the most popular and fully featured open source software suite is OpenOffice, developed and maintained by Sun Microsystems. Open source accounting software is also readily available, such as GnuCash. Most open source software has all the same features as proprietary software, all the same file formats, everything else you might want. It’s just open source. Whatever you need for your particular office needs, chances are, someone has made an open source alternative for it already.

Who’s making these open source programs? Oftentimes, they’re just businesses such as you who have turned to the open source model for business to create open source software.

Operating Systems

Open source has a whole world to offer as far as operating systems are concerned. There are a myriad of Linux distributions, from Ubuntu to Debian, many of which are perfectly suitable for use in a business. Just check out what you need for your particular business needs.

Servers and the Internet

You may not be aware of this fact, but most of the Internet already runs on open source software. Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP make up LAMP, the core programs with which most of the Internet is built. Chances are that your business is going to end up making use of one of these in its webpage and use of web tools.

Commercial Licensing

The catch? With most open source software, you’ll have to pay for a commercial license for, well, commercial use. (Non-commercial use tends to be free, typically part of a dual or multiple license system.) However, this tends to be very low cost, as open source systems are vastly cheaper than most proprietary companies. Just check out the commercial license for the software you’re interested in.

Training and Support

With most open source products, one can acquire full technical support for a low rate. That is, if the answer isn’t readily available within the troubleshooting pages or within the community forums. Many of the more popular open source projects also offer training in their software for employees.