Open Source Software Can Save Small Businesses

One of the biggest expenses that many small businesses that do a large amount of their work on computers – as opposed to manufacturers or retailers, for example – may run into is the high cost of software licenses. This can often be difficult to bear, but there is an alternative that can save companies of any size thousands of dollars or more.

For every brand-name and well-known type of software, there is often an open source equivalent that can be obtained by a business for free, or at the very least an extremely low cost, according to a report from CIO. For example, even one license for the latest version of Microsoft Office can cost hundreds of dollars, and multiplying that out for even five employees can put that software well out of a smaller company's price range very quickly. Now add in that many copies of other programs, such as Photoshop or Quicken, and the price tag can soon become astronomical.

Open source options typically offer most of the same features, and even familiar layouts, as their better-known competitors, and most are regularly updated by programmers absolutely free, the report said. However, there may be some shortcomings depending upon each company's needs. For instance, most open source programs don't offer the kind of support that Microsoft or Adobe does, and will instead lead users through online FAQs and forums, which then require employees to manually troubleshoot whatever problems they encounter. Fortunately, though, these are often spelled out clearly, and are thus easy to understand, as many users have likely experienced similar problems at some point.

At this point, a company in just about any industry will be able to find an open source solution for their software needs, including programs that provide simple office suites, financial tools, business planning or customer data solutions, communications setups and even content management and ecommerce programs, the report said. It may be wise for owners or managers to research each option they come across to make sure the things they offer will suit their needs.

Owners who are trying to be more conscious of their expenditures may want to consider the benefits of finding more affordable small business insurance as well. Cutting costs for coverage such as workers' compensation or general liability insurance can go a long way toward helping to improve a company's bottom line.