Microsoft Office and other full-blown enterprise resource planning systems are expensive, but there are alternatives out there that tailor their services to small businesses. Using open source software may be the right fit for your business, and some are even free to use. Despite the clear financial advantage, there are a number of considerations to be made when deciding whether or not to make the jump, so here are a few to mull over while making your choice.
Look and feel of open source software
Perhaps the most obvious and noticeable consideration is that of the appearance and operability of open source software. Over the years, individuals have become quite accustomed to how big-ticket enterprise systems look and feel. Microsoft Office has become synonymous with the typical American corporation, and the first question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you and your employees are ready for lesser-known open source software that could be different. There will be training to consider, as well as a learning curve for most everyone involved, but once you've cleared those hurdles, the advantages will become crystal clear.
Considering the best of high-end ERP and open source
Some lucky small businesses do well enough to use elements of both the marquee enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and open source software. Utilizing a bit of both can help you decide if transitioning to a full open source is the right choice for you, or if you would rather pick and choose which elements work best for your business. Even if you chose to maintain a closed source operating system, there's still plenty of open source software out there to compliment your systems, cutting your costs in the end. Many open source software programs are free to download and run, though they will not have the level of technical and user support that the bigger ERP systems enjoy. Still, for those who want that extra helping hand, many third-party companies offer their services to support these systems for low prices.
Which open source software programs to consider
If you have decided that open source is right for your business, then there's a plethora to choose from these days. It may take some trial and error, but once you find the right program, you will be good to go and can start watching your savings grow. For a comprehensive office suite, Apache OpenOffice is a highly-rated substitute for Microsoft Office that runs on Windows, macOS and Linux. For finance and accounting programs like Quicken, a great open source option is GnuCash, which also runs on Windows, macOS and Linux. Lastly, for an alternative to large, expensive ERPs, the popular ADempiere, which runs on Windows, macOS, Linux and Unix, can help your small business with things like material management, project management, as well as finance and human resources.
This article was written by Michael Ferro for CBS Small Business Pulse
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