Well, nobody gets tired of making predictions, or at least thinking of what the future looks like. Predictions were made for several technological categories like Security, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and a more generic forecast on Information Technology as a whole. Similarly, we can never stop thinking of making forecasts for one of the most loved technology solutions in the world – Open Source.
Photo by Andrew Abogado
Open Source has substantially altered the dynamics of the software business that runs in the competitive world. It is not just a strong competition in the web-servers’ business, but a reason for Microsoft to cut down the cost of its propriety software. Microsoft shall not be scared of Linux taking it for a ride but there certainly is a price check. The areas for operations in Open Source have increased phenomenally and it is used in sectors where proprietary software once dictated the ethos. The increasing use of OpenOffice in organizations is just an example.
Open Source ensures win for those who adopt the Darwinian principle. It helps in propagating technology which is deemed to be successful in a business use-case, thus creating value for a customer which is the supreme goal of a business. It is better to face a real competition than existing in an oligopolistic market where the professionals always surpass the amateurs. These amateurs are the ones more often who have the passion and enthusiasm in them.
FOSS for the community
The most interesting thing that Open Source has to give the community of startups, bloggers, hackers, coders etc. is the ability to work from an environment which is driven by a society of like minded people and is free to use, share and extend. What sustains over a period of time is the bottom-up approach in which Open Source compels the amateur user to make what he wants; and if that’s good enough it survives and succeeds.
The greatest lure in FOSS is of it being free and community driven. Support can be made available at a price, when needed. There are companies minting good money, just by providing support, add-ons and customization to the already available open source softwares.
Back at a conference I attended earlier this year, someone said, “There are no free lunches”. I agree. But how about paying a small amount and you get to have the lunch and dessert come as an assortment? Above that, you’re entertained as a privileged guest. That’s how most businesses which work on Open Source development make money.
The CSC Leading Edge Forum report on ‘Open Source for Business‘ correctly says, “Open Source is a movement that is technical, political and sociological”. Though Open Source chairs Linux in the hands of the world as software environment, the open for everyone and collaborations with anyone approach makes the competition equal for all. There are also several key business driving decisions that have over a period of time placed Open Source and its relative strategies as the most important ones.
The promise that Open Source beholds for the business fraternity is real. Matt Asay shares a great list of 10 things that the world can learn from the Open Source fraternity. Open Source paradigm gives a feel that the software industry’s work culture can be well drafted and replicated in the other industries. Newer terms such as Open Source Business Intelligence and their implementations in real time business scenarios have proved that they are not just fad or jargons like others. Open Source is here to stay and it is also set to make a bigger impact on the software world.
Photo by SuMarDi
Over the last several months, majority of businesses have been hit brutally by the recession wave. However, it has served as a blessing in disguise for Linux and the FOSS world. A lot of large organizations have found Linux as a pillar to operate upon and migrate to, in today’s cost cutting scenario. This change is pretty much functional in the BPO sector as well. There have been numerous news on them shifting to OpenOffice and Ubuntu, leaving behind their MS counterparts. Free and Open Source movement has traditionally proved to be beneficial for innovation or research related work.
Open Source is one such model which has not been hit hard by the credit crisis and it’s aftermaths because of its open exchange business model wherein users contribute towards the success of one common goal and the companies make money but offering support to the client after the deployment of the product. The same happens with Linux distributions like RedHat Enterprise. The best part about Linux is that it’s not chained to a corporation, instead a community of enthusiastic developers and fanboys.
The severe liquidity crunch prevailing in the markets have resulted in a boon for the Open Source propagators. Many operations which can be run at a bare minimum cost will find its way up the organizational ladder and will prove its usage in critical times. Open Source will also benefit as it is often shipped with a free-license.
However, experts would know that Linux still has miles to go before it becomes a household name as Microsoft is. An IDC Survey reported,
“55 percent of the 300 IT executives surveyed already had Linux systems in use; a full 97 percent were running Windows.”
The key to promote Linux effectively not only lies with Linux enthusiasts but also with Open Source vendors who are yet to find out a way in which it can be monetized efficiently to expand recognition amongst its probable user base.
Keeping all considerations in mind, Linux is doing pretty well in the times when the best in other business have shut down. Earlier this year, Ken Huss wrote an interesting article on five reasons why Linux is recession proof and it surely does instill a hope within the Linux community. Today, when money and not time is the problem with most companies suffering with the recession wave, such initiatives can act as a motivating source to develop a product or service that the world needs; proving to the software fraternity that FOSS shall contribute in overcoming recession and probably stand out as a winner.
Photo by Unseend
If you’re looking forward to start up a small business enterprise, investment happens to be a key concern. How much, how less and where exactly; these are the preliminary encounters.
Open source software has a lot of options for the business world, alongside the home user bandwagon. Apart from the other generic features, Open Source Software at times have a greater degree of customization as compared to their proprietary counterparts. This very fact is pretty evident with the fact that several large companies like — Google, Amazon, Yahoo, et al run their servers on Linux, again an Open Source OS.
The idea behind this article is not to force start you to follow the Open Source path, but to make you look at the same as an alternative before you shell out a few hundred or thousand dollars for a close
source and non-free product which does pretty much the same as it’s Open Source and free alternative.
Before we move on, I would like to clear out that free software and Open Source Software are two different entities, though they often come as a bundle!
Today, we shall have a look at a few Open Source Software which may just help you kick start your business.
The first need shall be to have a robust, secure and customizable operating system, both for the server(s) and the workstation(s). There are a lot of options available when it comes to Linux. Have a look at them at one of our previous posts – Which Linux distro is right for you?
I would recommend Fedora for free, or RedHat, if you can pay a bit for a great enterprise support. They have a cutting edge robustness and come with a lot of applications like OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, etc. as pre-loaded, catering your major necessities.
The next big thing is an office suite which shall help you with word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, databases, vector drawing, mathematical formulas, etc. OpenOffice is the best of all under this segment.
You’ll be looking for a good Instant Messaging client for your Internet chat and of course a good Email application for your official mail domain.
Evolution is one of the best email clients available as free and Open Source. It provides you with an integrated email, an address book and calender to mark your appointments/schedules.
Thunderbird is a another cool desktop email client from Mozilla. It supports great customization, easy search, and enhanced security and privacy measures that keeps your information safe.
Jabber is the best known open source instant messenger. Apart from generic chat features, it gives you the ability to have VoIP conversations and transfer files.
They shall help your work get easier than otherwise.
Tomboy is one tool which I love a lot! It makes taking and tracking notes pretty easily. It can help people at work while looking for websites, emails or a few striking ideas during the day as they may jot them down by using Tomboy notes. One push and the Tomboy pops out!
Desktop search helps you find a document/email/note/music or a calender entry in a jiffy! Beagle is one such desktop search application which may help people at work. Thus making a disorganized desktop belong to an organized executive!
Though not always, but you might need to burn some DVD’s once in a while to backup your data. K3B shall help your business with an easy and free way to burn those disks.
Thinking of an sharing your desktop remotely? I know that’s a much desired feature in today’s connected world. RDesktop is a popular remote desktop client. It lets you share information remotely, or access your own workstation while being away from the office. What more, it can help interface Linux with desktops that are still running Windows!
PDF’s, you’ll need to read them every now and then! Evince provides an open source alternative to the propriety softwares, allowing you to view documents in a wide variety of formats in a much lighter and quicker way.
Imaging and Design
Depending on the kind of work you’re involved with, you might need to edit a few images at times.
GIMP is the Photoshop of open source world, though it is not as feature rich and friendly as Photoshop. Though it lacks some of the more advanced productivity tools found in Photoshop, but comes without the frills or a heavy price tag!
Inkscape is a great open source program for vector drawing, with its capabilities comparable to those of Illustrator or CorelDraw.
Once you look up to have an organized data flow in office, you need a Content Management System. We shall look for some good options under this segment.
Joomla! is an open source content management software (CMS), that allows easily upload and creation a variety of web pages. Features include page caching, RSS feeds, blogs, polls, website search, news flashes, making it a great tool for entrepreneurs doing business on the web.
Exponent is a good solution for the technologically challenged entrepreneurs. One can make great websites using Exponent. You don’t need to code web pages or manage site navigation directly. Instead, you can create a web page as you would see it on the web by typing, editing and rearranging the options in a window.
WordPress! I can not miss this. One tool that has changed the way people look into the web. A robust, neat and fast growing CMS built on php, which again is an Open Source scripting language. The kind of support WordPress has, both official and unofficial is matchless.
Network and Server Management
When we talk about communication within an office, we need to look at the network management. Let’s figure it out the open source way!
Asterisk is a PBX (Private Branch eXchange) software that can facilitates an easily and cheaply control of the telephone system in your office. It works with both VoIP telephony as well as generic telephone systems with the addition of some inexpensive hardware. It has some great features which you might get on heavy shelling of cash, otherwise.
Zabbix Zabbix lets you easily monitor and track the status of network services, servers, and other network based hardware. If your business needs to track and report status on network systems, Zabbix’s easy-to-use mapping and graphing visualizations shall by no means disappoint you.
Apache supports a large number of web servers, worldwide, in an open source fashion. It provides some of the most widely used and stable HTTP servers available . It supports a lot of features including virtual hosting, SSL and TSL support, custom log files, proxy module, etc. It can be used as a secure server for web pages or to safely share files across the Internet.
GnuCash helps you keep track of your finances easily and efficiently. This free tool allows you to track bank accounts, stocks, income and expenses with a lot of features to create reports, make calculations, schedule transactions, etc.
SureInvoice facilitates an easy system for creating and managing invoices. You will find it useful in time entry, automated invoice generation, customer self-service, etc.
These were a few inevitable tools for your office from the Open Source world. I would like to repeat that OSS is an alternative to the propriety softwares, you may not necessarily stick to them or follow an OSS regime.
Stay tuned for more!