Welcome to another post in the series, where I’ll be expressing my views on open source technology and the benefits to Jamaica. This is the second write-up and I’ll be showing how open source software benefits the business sector. If you missed the first post please feel free to catch up.
The economics and social benefits derived from the application of open source technology in the Small and Medium Business Enterprise (SMBE) has been tremendous. The sector has seen an upward trend in the rate of adoption for open source technology and it is expected to continue growing in the coming years. This sharp upswing is not a result of open source offering a more cost-effective option but also stability, security and agility to the industry. Yes, open source has been a force for change on a globally and I believe our local business sector is ripe for change.
So instead of providing high level solutions/suggestions for local organisation, our only focus will be on the usage of practical open source tools and their comparable ratings.
The Basic Tools Used By Organisations
There are some basic functions every organisation must or should execute: accounting, client communications, business analyst, data storage, payroll and resource management. So let us have a look at some of the tools offered by the open source community. In this section, I’ll be doing a quick comparison of a few open source tools and how they match up to the big spenders in their respective space. I personally choose the side by side comparison with popular proprietary software as this is much easier option. Here is the list of tools we’ll be focusing on:
- Office: Microsoft Office vs LibreOffice
- Mailing: Microsoft Outlook vs Thunderbird
- Account Management: Quickbooks vs TurboCASH
- Project Management: Microsoft Project vs 2-Plan
You will realise that I’ve made an effort not to make mention of any cloud-based architecture. This was done intentionally for two main reasons:
- Cloud base setup pricing plan varies and would have made this post too complex.
- I try to focus on the tools companies would rather have in-house and will incur little or no financial cost.
Office Suite: Microsoft Office vs LibreOffice
Despite Microsoft being the most popular candidate in this sector, there are other open source software which performs the same functions in like manner. One such popular software is LibreOffice, which has been rated by PC World as the desktop suite available on all major computer operating system. One of the main features is that it is compatible with Microsoft documents, even down to their legacy versions. Other than being a free software, LibreOffice provides greater stability and updates are more frequent. The data backup and recovery feature is my favourite as I’ve seen it in action and I was amazed. Another compelling feature is that this software is ideal for small and medium size business. Don’t believe the hype? Please take a look at this side by side comparison.
Mailing Clients: Microsoft Outlook vs Thunderbird
There are companies who may choose to use cloud platform email services such as Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. While there are others who are in need of greater privacy and control over their mailing system will have their setup on-premise infrastructure. Yet again Microsoft Outlook is a well-known option among the business community, but its open source competitor, Thunderbird, provides more benefits. Firstly, Thunderbird has more flexibility and can scale according to your business needs. Secondly, there are much more configuration options available. Its portability across the various operating system is another feature which makes it more viable than its ~$109USD counterpart. A review done by G2Crowd clearly indicates that Thunderbird is ideal for SMBE. Here is a quick extract from their site.
Book Keeping: Quickbooks vs TurboCASH
I’m not an accountant or have any professional experience in this field so I relied solely on word-of-mouth and online research for this comparison. Both sources agreed that Quickbooks is the most popular software in managing accounts related operations such as invoice, payable, account receivables etc. TurboCASH is one of the main open source competitors to Quickbooks and this heavy weight comparison seems to show both products are actually similar. The comparison done by itqlick.com and smallbusiness.chron.com reflects that but the main differences are around the cost and support level. On that note TurboCASH run rings around its ~$300USD per year/user cash guzzling counterpart with such great flexibility and an excellent support community.
Project Management: Microsoft Project vs 2-Plan
Managing your projects is another integral part of any organisation and therefore the tools used in managing the various tasks are of great importance. This is another sector where open source software is going toe-to-toe with the industry giants. Based on my research, Microsoft Project seems to the most popular tool in this category and in the same format we will be comparing it against 2-Plan – cool name. They both perform similar functions and the main distinguishing features boils down to the cost and the level of support.
Return on Investment (RoI) and Business Impact
What is the RoI and business impact? Before a company says yes to any exciting product, these are the two main criteria they seek answers to. So let me make an attempt to answer this deal breaker question.
If our primary focus is cost reduction, then open source will provide the most return on your investment. However there are some hidden cost, no pun, associated with this strategy and I believe it is my duty to share those with you. Open source technology offers great flexibility and as a result the learning curvy is higher when compared to other proprietary software. The learning curvy maybe higher for companies who’ve used other well integrated proprietary software. If that is the case, then I’d encourage you seek advice from a company who is an expert or other business owners who are using open source. Still feeling scared, just visit the software community blog and folks are there happy to provide assistance at no cost.
On the point of business impact, you’ll be more pleased that open source has played a significant role in driving growth, providing security and sparking innovative ideas. Don’t believe me? Just do a search and you’ll realise the economic and social benefits derived from these community-driven open source tools. You will also realise that open source does not only impacts the bottom line but it encourages the sharing of new ideas and knowledge thereby foster community development.
Use More Open Source
I have no experience in running a SMBE or a Startup, yet. However, I’ve been using open source tools not only in my place of work but also in my personal life for over five years. In addition to that, I’ve done presentations on how small entities may utilize these open source tools in benefiting their organisation.
I believe Jamaica, as a developing country, should be using more open source tech in achieving business objectives. Why not follow the million dollar companies who have been using open source since their inception and has proven its worth. I believe that we should copy this approach and apply it to our local industry.
On a more technical note, if you glance back at all the open source tools mentioned above, you will realise that they are cross platform and operates on minimal hardware. Testing or implementing these new tools doesn’t require additional budget in purchasing new hardware. Therefore enabling your organisation to operate on the current infrastructure rather than chasing down the latest and most expensive computer hardware. Essentially I’m saying you may run open source software on your old computer or any platform you choose – now that is a deal maker.
So with all the information on the web and the ever mounting evidence on the benefits of open source I do hope that the information shared maybe of good use to you and your organisation. After all that is what open source is about: sharing and growing together.
So catch you in the next one!
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