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Running a business sans Microsoft

Jan 08, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

* keeps Linux software developer Partecs running smoothly across languages and time zones provides collaboration and groupware services to small businesses across multiple operating systems. That made me curious to speak with a customer running his business on Linux and

Rufo Guerreschi is co-chairman and CEO of Partecs, a software company based in Rome. The company has eight employees and offices in Bonn, Turin and Seattle.

The company name is short for “participatory technologies,” and it proudly follows the Free/Open Source Software philosophy, using open-source software as the basis of its products. Although Partecs had been developing a groupware product using open-source PHP (a server-side markup programming and scripting language) for internal use, and had tried other groupware, it eventually settled on ($50 per month for up to five users, then $10 per user, per month.)

Guerreschi says it’s the most useful and user-friendly groupware he’s tested, and wishes his developers could provide the same graphic and user appeal for their own products. He likes Intranets’ ability to deliver accurate and nearly instant translations from English to Italian and Italian to English, as well as the ease with which you can create a database and pull information from it. “You can know nothing about programming and easily create database entries and views,” he says.

The product helps Partecs manage offices across nine time zones. “Despite the time lag between offices we use Intranets to gather company information no matter when,” Guerreschi says. “It’s always updated, and you always have new things available when you access the systems.”

Since the groupware runs as an application service provider, users need only a Web browser to read their company information and e-mail service to receive notifications of changes in their groupware site. Partecs uses Mozilla for the browser and can do almost everything without Windows.

The exception is WebDev, which lets you drag and drop files to and from clients to WebDev-enabled Web pages (such as But this is more a Windows feature that supports rather than an one.

“We’re currently looking into different ways Linux users can leverage the same service,” the company says.

Partecs has two Windows systems on the network: one PC in Rome running Windows and Office to accept and convert Microsoft files, and another in Bonn used by a salesperson. The rest are Debian Linux desktops and servers. Partec states on its Web site: “Beyond important financial reasons, we regard the use of proprietary software for the decision-making processes of political organizations incompatible with any principle of democracy.”

But the question for open-source development companies is always the same: Can you make money? Guerreschi says yes: “I wouldn’t have invested 150,000 Euros of my own money if I couldn’t.”

His move to open source is political and philosophical, but putting up his own money makes it personal. Even so, Guerreschi understands the reality: “You’ll always need cross-platform access to your groupware apps. Regardless of your migration, there will always be a Windows PC somewhere.”