Reducing business setup costs – Open source software

One of the major problems for any business – especially a startup business – is reducing startup cost. Thats the time when money has not started to roll in and every dollar needs to be spent carefully. One very good way to reduce costs in such a situation is by using open source software to help curtail the cost that would be needed for the purchase of software licenses. Operating system, word processors, email clients, music players and whatever else you can think of. Most probably there is an open source software to cater for your needs. In some cases it is not the best or the most refined piece of software but when you consider the amount of money that can be saved the bargain is not very bad at all. According to leading IT analyst firm Gartner(quoted from zdnet):

“By 2012, more than 90 percent of enterprises will use open source in direct or embedded forms”

The trick in using open source software is to take a realistic approach to evaluate your needs and then make the purchase/open source decision. If setting up a linux based operating system sounds too intimidating and awesome then don’t go for it. If your needs for a word processor are simple and all you need is to type the occasional letter and manage a bit of inventory in a spreadsheet then go for OpenOffice. Some of the key points to consider before making the decision are listed below(these are ofcourse not a complete listing so if anyone additions/modifications would be welcome).

1. What is the level of your usage of the particular software?
If you need it for the basic stuff then open source would generally suffice.

2. What level of sharing of files do you need? In short what are your portability requirements.
If you need to share info with your friends or clients then go for what is the most compatible option rather than what is the cheaper option.

3. What is the level of support that you will need?
A lot of open source software comes without any proper support. There are a number of online forums and guides to help you with it but if you fail to get help there then thats really the end of the show. Most open source software that have a large user base comes with good enough support as all the members of a particular forum behave as customer support agents and problems can be resolved quite easily.

4. Do you need to extend the functionality of the application?
Open source software comes with the application code. So if you intend to do any customization(or have someone else do it for you) then its really the only option you have. Licensed software sellers will hardly ever accommodate your request for a change/addition of functionality unless its asked for by a large number of their clients (and even then it will be made available in the next version)
It is important to see that you can really create your own mix of software to help you get the most benefit with the least cost.

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