Add Amazing Functionality to your Business with Open-Source Tools
In today’s tough economy, companies are always looking for ways to cut cost. One of the first things that gets cut are valuable employees. In the mean time many companies and governments are spending insane amounts of money in maintenance and upgrades of software. Then when the next update comes out they spend that money all over again.
This seems backwards to me, especially with so many amazing open-source projects available today. I have put together a list of some applications that will add amazing functionality to your workplace or your new startup business, without impacting the bottom line.
Note: Some of the following applications offer two levels of their products. Projects such as SugarCRM, RT, Zenoss, OpenERP..etc offer a Enterprise edition which provides support as well as a cost. They also offer a community edition which is free and your support is up to the community (forums, mailing list.etc). If you have the money or need the support please do get it. It will go towards improving the software that everyone can benefit from.
Seems like every one is aware of the Microsoft alternative OpenOffice. Since Oracle acquired Sun (OpenOffice) the project did not move forward much. Since then the project has forked and has been taken up by The Document Foundation. Things are moving forward very quickly again under a new name (LibreOffice). LibreOffice runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. You are able to open and save in Microsoft Office format, PDF, and open standards format. So the real question is, why are you not using it?
If you are looking to start a business or just need to help improve the work-flow of your current work place, you may need an ERP system. OpenERP is a open-source ERP that runs on a webserver such as Apache. It offers a large amount of modules allowing it to fit just about any business needs.
Marketing and Design:
GIMP is a versatile graphics manipulation package. Gimp is very similar to Adobe Photoshop without the expensive cost. Gimp even seems to inspire Adobe with one of the big features in CS5 being the content aware fill feature. This has been around for quite some time in GIMP with the Resynthesize plug-in.
The Link below shows a shoot out between Adobe Photoshop and GIMP and the Content Aware fill feature.
Scribus belongs to the family of applications known as page layout programs or more commonly known as Desktop Publishing programs. Scribus gives users great flexibility in placing objects like photos, logos, text frames and shapes in the exact place where you want them. You can use Scribus to do things such as CD covers, greeting cards, company brochures, newsletters and posters. Once you finish creating your master piece Scribus allows to print your files easily at your commercial printer.
SugarCRM is a customer relationship tool that helps your business keep up with leads on potential customers. You can delegate workloads to other co-workers and get notifications through email. SugarCRM even offers amazing import options allowing you to import data from big vendors such as SalesForce.
Building A Web Presents:
You can start to build your web presents by using a reliable apache web server running some flexible CMS tools. These tools can be used to build internal web services or offer a eCommerce platform to sell your product to customers. You don't need to be a developer any more to run an amazing website.
Drupal is a very flexible and scalable content management system to run your website on. Drupal is used by a large number of websites today, even the whitehouse.gov is running on a Drupal.
When looking at content management systems Drupal was not something I favored, because it was different then what I was use to. Once giving it a fair run, I was blown away by what it could do and just how flexible it was. It provides a solid foundation from the ground up.
Joomla is another very popular content management system. It tends to be used by small to medium size sites. It is very flexibility and easy to use out of the box. There are a very large number of themes and plug-ins available which makes it a great choice for getting your website up and going.
Magento is an open-source eCommerce platform that does an amazing job integrating and adapting to ones needs.
A while back I worked for a company that ran their sites on Websphere. When we wanted to add new features and functionality to the sites we were tied up in large development time. One day we came to realize that instead of trying to recreate the wheel, we could utilize Magento's amazing and rapidly developed features to help stay ahead of the competition.
Many companies are running blogs as marketing tool, keep their customers informed and to help improve Search engine Optimization (SEO). Wordpress is a very popular and easy to use blogging platform licensed under the GPL. There are tons of free plug-ins and themes available to help you accomplish your tasks with little or no programming skills.
Asterisk is popular open source telephone server. Allowing you to run a PBX, VOIP phone system. It is used by a ton of businesses around the world. Asterisk can be a bit tricky at first to install, but once up and running it will give even the big money competitors a run for their money. It also does a great job of bridging the world of VOIP and regular lines to help businesses make the transition from physical to virtual phones.
RT is an enterprise-grade issue tracking system which enables thousands of organizations to intelligently and efficiently manage tasks, problems, conversations or just about anything else.
I have personally used RT as a help desk ticketing tool but it can bring so much more to the table.
Zenoss is a server and network management platform. It can notify you if business critical services go down. It provides a central location to keep you notified of error logs and systems resources such as disk-space. This help keep you on top of your network and preventing outages. If you can ping it, you can use Zenoss to help monitor it. It also works with other services such as SNMP, Nagios agents, SSH, and Windows WMI.
Clonezilla is an open-source alternative to Norton Ghost. It allows you to make an image of your computer. What this means is it makes a bit for bit copy of your operating system and all the files. You then can take the image and apply it to multiple machines or just restore your computer to the exact state of when you created the image.
Many companies will create a base image and then apply it to all the computers. This helps to insure all the computers have the same settings, software, security policies..etc. This can be a huge time and cost savings.
Clonezilla offers two solutions, Live disc and Server Edition. The Live disc is a great for working with a few machines, while the server addition allows you to manage and work with larger number images.
VirtualBox is a easy to use virtual machine software. It allows you to share resources of a computer and run multiple Operating Systems in a virtual environment. VirtualBox can run on windows, Mac and Linux so there is no excuse not to give this one a try.
VirtualBox allows you to test out new operating systems, configurations, and applications without messing up your production system.
What kind of article would this be if we didn't mention Linux with open-source software?
Linux servers are used all over the place, anything from file and print server to web servers. You can easily implement and run most of the applications we have already talked about on a Linux server. This allows you to get away from paying for an expensive Microsoft Server license while allowing you to play nicely with an existing Windows network.
Pick your favorite flavor of Linux such as CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian..etc and start implementing some of these amazing open-source applications. Heck even run it on VirtualBox to give it a test run!