With the world economy in shambles many businesses are already battening down the hatches expecting rough seas ahead. IT budgets will shrink along with all other budgets, and maybe even more than other budgets. After all, companies still need to advertise and pay their workforce, but they may be able to do without new servers or software for a while. And that is where open source software vendors can help keep the ship sailing. Also read, Five Cheap (or Free) Software Programs You Can Afford During a Financial Crisis.
These days you have many open source products that are just as feature rich, reliable, useful, and usable as their closed source counterparts. And some would argue that they're even better than their closed source counterparts. There are lots of examples in this space. This article is being written in the newly released Open Office 3 word processor, which is just as powerful as the Microsoft Office suite. And that's true in pretty much every sector of software. Need a virtual machine? VirtualBox to the rescue. Need a content management system? Check out WebGUI. Need a desktop replacement for Windows? Check out Ubuntu. Need a customer relationship management system? Try SugarCRM. And this list goes on and on and on. (Interested in Linux? Also read, Seven Financial Reasons to Use Linux in the Enterprise and Making the Case for Linux Distros in the Business.)
But those who haven't tried out these products, might reply with. "I've never heard of product X." Or "Yeah, but I need professional support!" You might be surprised to know that every one of the products listed above has a company behind it providing professional support and services. OpenOffice and VirtualBox are supported by Sun Microsystems. WebGUI is supported by Plain Black. Ubuntu is supported by Canonical. And SugarCRM is supported by SugarCRM. And as for never hearing of them, you just did!
Open source applications don't have one thing that their closed-source brethren have: licensing fees. Certainly you'll still have support, deployment, and possibly hosting costs; but you have those costs with closed source software as well. The difference is that you'll save the money you would have put toward licensing fees and now you have that to put toward implementation and support costs. Whereas if you have a tight budget, and have to pay licensing fees, you might just be forced into a "do it yourself" support role. And in the end, at 2pm on Friday when the server goes down, isn't it nice to know that you still have the funds to pay the experts to get you back up and running again?
JT Smith is a renowned open source guru and the president of Plain Black Corp., the developer and distributor of the WebGUI Content Engine. He speaks internationally on topics related to Web content management.