How to Run Your Small Business With Free Open Source Software

From simple bookkeeping packages to full-blown ERP systems, open source software can provide free options for small businesses that don't have the budget for big-ticket enterprise applications.

By Paul Rubens
Thu, November 14, 2013

CIO

Take a look at the next desktop PC or laptop you come across. Odds are good it won't be running an open-source operating system. Microsoft's closed-source Windows has by far the highest share of the PC client operating system market, followed in a distant second by Apple's Mac OS X. Linux and other wholly open source operating systems have only a tiny market share.

Open Source Logo

It's not hard to see why. Despite the advances made by distributions such as Ubuntu, desktop Linux is still miles behind Windows and OS X in terms of the look, the feel and the slickness that most office workers have come to expect. The vast majority of companies simply aren't prepared to make office workers use an open source OS — and most office workers aren't prepared to use them, either.

Even if you want to stick with a closed source operating system (or, the case of OS X, partially closed source), your business can still take advantage of a vast amount of open source software. The most attractive benefit of doing so: It's generally available to download and run for nothing. While support usually isn't available for such free software, it's frequently offered at an additional cost by the author or a third party. It may be included in a low-cost commercially licensed version as well.

Is it possible, then, to run a business entirely on software that can be downloaded for free? There certainly are many options that make it possible — and many more that aren't included in this guide.

Report: Open Source Should Come First When Choosing New Enterprise IT

Paul Rubens is a technology journalist based in England. Contact him at paul@rubens.org. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

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