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Using Open Source Software

It makes good sense for small businesses to save money by working with free software like 'Open Office Suite' instead of the costly Microsoft Office Suite, and there is even more to it! Trim your expenses with just the tiniest bit of know-how:

In financial crunch times one may consider becoming acquainted with computer technologies and their costs. Most of us are used to software that do a pretty good job for surfing the internet, making presentations and managing some business accounting – basic or more elaborate. Proprietary software has a cost as does 'Open Source' but the costs are weighed differently.

Example: 'OpenOffice' is compatible to 'Microsoft Office'. OpenOffice can open and edit files created with the newest version of Word and save them in a format the Microsoft Office can open and use. OpenOffice is a full fledged office suite and has become a serious competitor to Microsoft's office suite because it works..., and it's free!


Application Proprietary Software Open Source
Office program
Microsoft Office
Open Office
Outlook (Microsoft)
Thunderbird, Gmail* & Google Calendar*
Mind map Mindjet Freemind
Collaboration, Intranets
Sharepoint (Microsoft)
Oracle MySQL
Image work
Phototshop (Adobe)
Project planning
MS Project (Microsoft)
Websites with Content Management System
Alfresco/Sharepoint (Micrososft)
Plone, Drupal,
Browser (for internet surfing)
Internet Explorer (Microsoft)
Blogs, Blogger* (Google)
Micro blogging (140 character posts)


* Not Open-Source but free LogoFor online data management, collaboration, enterprise content management systems, with high security, Plone is a great by all accounts a better solution than Sharepoint from Microsoft. Why? Microsoft is a proprietary software, hard and expensive to customize. With Plone one gets 'out of the box' goodies like accessibility, high search engine ranking through structure, and high security (intelligence agencies are using it) and most important: one can get functions customized to needs. In short, with Plone one gets more value for the same, or less cost (sometimes dramatically less depending on the application needs).

Wordpress.comFor a blog and/or small content management system Wordpress can do a great job for your small or start-up business. is free with free hosting by Wordpress. is hosted by yourself, and gives you a lot of customization possibilities and functionality.

I think everybody knows YouTube for uploading (and free hosting) of video clips that also can be embedded into your own website. And that leads to explaining a bit about the term 'Open-Source' and 'free' since they are often similar but not the same. Open-Source means generally that the source code of an application is open for developers to adjust and customize.

If the out-of-the-box-solution is not exactly what you need, and you like to have the product/application customized for your specific needs, there are companies to do that work that are familiar with the application – usually on any website for an Open-Source application there are links to companies who can do that work for you. And of course, customization is not free. But the value one receives is much higher since there are no software license costs involved. And if you are happy to use a software as it comes with the download, then the software is free to use and to modify as you become familiar with its features.

Now, there are other things that are free on the market but are not Open-Source, for example Facebook and Twitter, or Flickr for free photo sharing, YouTube for free video sharing, etc. These are handy tools to use for social networking and for promoting your business.

There are many valuable free tools that are not Open-Source, meaning there is a company behind that controls the source code and business structure, it is free for regular users and the company makes money with advertising appearing on the site, or by selling upgraded 'pro' versions, or with accumulating users shopping behavior and monetizing that information – that makes Facebook controversial, the California courts and a Canadian commission are suing Facebook over privacy concerns, for disclosing information to third parties for commercial purposes. But yes, Facebook can be a strong tool to promote certain types of business.

Google Docs is great to share work online. It lets you upload from and save to your desktop, edit and access the documents in real time from anywhere and any computer. It is compatible with regular office documents, such as Word and Excel – and it is free with some 'pro' up-sale possibilities.

And one more and relevant tip for businesses of all size: Google Apps. Google Apps combines all the Google free tools and more. It has some costs to it, but is certainly a big money savor. The Swiss printing enterprise 'Ringier' made the decision not to upgrade to Office 2010 but to use Google Apps instead – and to save over a million dollar per year – not bad!


Article by Harito Reisman, Feb. 20, 2010

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