• United States

Open-source solutions for SMB

Jul 08, 20042 mins
ComputersOpen Source

* New book answers all your questions

Catch-22 describes the problem of small businesses interested in open-source software. These companies, which most need affordable solutions, are least likely to find information on open-source software products. But now the catch is gone with the release of  “Open Source Solutions for Small Business Problems.”

Based on five years of consulting using open-source products, Locke’s book answers the questions every small business asks: What is open source? How does it work? Can you really run your business on this stuff?

I called Locke and asked him my own questions. What triggers a customer to move to open source?

“Most don’t have a sense of it,” he says. “I focus on the business aspects of the service model and lower costs. If they ask, I talk about open source, and mention IBM and HP’s support of the open-source software world.”

Businesses need solutions that work well and fit within the budget. Do customers ever refuse open source?

“I work in Seattle, so many customers have ties to Microsoft or get software from Microsoft employees. They want to be sure they can use all their existing Microsoft tools, and I show them how they can.”

Chapter 1 explains the open-source software world. Chapter 2 is “Why You Need a Server.” Locke is upfront about the advantages of open source: “There’s no good reason to ever install a Microsoft Windows server. You can keep your Windows desktops if you want and still realize great benefits from an internal [open-source] Web server for applications.”

Web site pioneers and open-source fans made Apache the foundation of most of the early Web, and Locke continues the tradition, for internal use: “Many great applications run on Apache and MySQL. Those two open-source applications alone save customers money every day.”

But when it comes to your external – public Web and e-mail – servers, Locke agrees with me about using a hosting service. Until a company gets big enough to afford technical employees and a reliable data connection, Locke recommends spending, “$15 a month on a host and letting them worry about security updates and high-speed connections.”

The book is full of examples of useful open-source applications and how to make them work, including CRM; document management; calendar and schedule management; financial applications; and ERP. Locke also includes plenty of help for data protection and backups, networking, security, wireless, and controlling viruses and spam.