By: Larry Farris, Staff Writer

Open Source Business Software: The Price is Right, but How’s the Quality?

Some experts believe the meteoric success of Google comes from its willingness to create and distribute open source software. With today’s rampant piracy plaguing software developers, open-source software seems the inevitable solution. With an irresistible price of FREE and an array of productivity software available, is open source software really a cost-saving solution for your business?

Mac vs PC…vs. Linux?

For decades, you were a Mac person or a PC person. Fierce loyalties and heated debates flared up over operating systems, and consumers rarely crossed the lines. Apple’s series of commercials depicting Mac as a cool, confident hipster (and PC as a portly middle-aged accountant) defines this debate better than any. But during all this rhetoric, there was a third, quieter camp. The Linux camp.

Readers that don’t know of Linux may have heard of Ubuntu, it’s most popular and successful operating system. Those that haven’t may have heard of a series of OS that rely on the Linux kernel (the skeleton of the software): Android.

This quiet, calm camp cared nothing for the debate because they had nothing to sell; the software was free. Free to own, install, distribute and alter. Try doing that with Mac or PC OS and armies of lawyers will slap you with a lawsuit…or toss you in jail.

Offering Open Source Software for Business

Describing all the Linux/Ubuntu/Android/Google software available would fill volumes, and programmers are evolving new software for it every day. For the average business owner, what software is readily available, trustworthy and performs as well as any offered by Microsoft or Apple?

Apache OpenOffice

When considering Apache OpenOffice for business use, you need to honestly ask how you and your employees use productivity software. If you are like 99.9% of computer users, you simply type on it. Sometimes you toss out a few spreadsheets and make a few presentations. That’s about it.

Unless your business demands a mountain of features, Apache OpenOffice works just fine. It contains programs for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawing, databases…everything that Apple and Microsoft suites offer. Best of all, the price is free. As of this writing, Microsoft’s Office 2013 Professional cost $399.

AVG Antivirus for Business Security

Antivirus software is a mixed bag. On one hand, it protects your network and computers from infection and invasion. But it also slows down many PCs dramatically and raises false alarms. Paying $40 a year per computer for antivirus software seems ridiculous, which is why AVG is a great solution.

Although not technically open source, it is free for personal use. Of course, you’ll be using it for business, but depending on the size of your business, simply installing it on individual computers takes only a little time. Put a fully-updated version of AVG Free against Norton or McAfee, and there is little to no difference…except for the price tag.

Researching Open Source Solutions

The needs of an individual business vary dramatically, and trying to anticipate your needs is impossible, but do a little research to see what open source solutions are available. As we become more and more connected digitally and software needs increase, open source software for business may be the best way to lower business costs without lowering business productivity.