Open Source

10 best uses for open source software in the business world

Open source offers some compelling benefits for businesses large and small -- but you might be surprised at some of the ways it's being used.

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Certain inevitabilities occur in technology. For instance, open source software will make its way into your business. Ten years ago, this could easily have been called into question. Now? There's no way to avoid it — and there's no reason to. With so many powerful (and necessary) pieces of technology, open source has become, in various cases, the savior of tech. But what areas of your business are best suited for open source? The answer to that question is, of course, will be different from one company to the next. But some applications can apply in almost every circumstance.

Let's take a look at 10 possible best-case uses for open source software that can help make your business grow, bring you a level of flexibility and reliability you haven't experienced, or just save you a welcome percentage of your budget.

1: Server software

If you're still battling Microsoft's IIS platform, you need to experience Apache. The flagship open source web server software is one of the most widely used on the planet. It's free, incredibly reliable, easy to manage, and doesn't require the enormous overhead needed for IIS. But open source isn't limited to just web servers. If you need SMB sharing across your company, consider Samba. Samba 4 even integrates with Active Directory, so you don't have to worry about setting up separate user accounts on the Samba server.

2: Development

Developing with open source is a no-brainer. PHP, Rails, Perl — there are as many languages to develop with as there are tools (from IDEs to bug tracking). There are a lot of options for developing for open source or with open source tools (as are there with proprietary development). The biggest difference between open source and proprietary is the access you have to the software code. Within the world of FOSS (free open source software) the code is readily available. For many developers, the Linux operating system has everything they need to develop, built right in (especially those who code without a full-blown IDE). If you do require GUI development tools, open source has you covered.

3: Security

The route to security is a challenging one, but there are many paths to success. You can opt for the "security in a box" solution and go with the likes of Cisco (a solid solution) or you can craft your security to perfectly fit your needs with the likes of iptables. Yes, the open source security route will take a bit more time to deploy (with a much higher learning curve), but the end results are generally incredible. This doesn't even address the idea that using open source on the desktop is, generally speaking, a more secure platform than most proprietary systems. Deploy Linux on the desktops and your security woes will drop dramatically.

4: Desktops

This area is where most of the pushback happens. However, you must take into consideration the fact that the daily workflow has undergone a major paradigm shift. Most of what we do now is done via a web browser. So why not deploy Linux on the desktop? Not only does it work with the majority of today's tasks, it will do so without suffering from viruses, malware, and updates that cripple a system. It's not perfect — what platform is? But it's solid, and in the end, it can save you money. That's a win-win.

5: Workflow

Every business depends upon workflow. For some businesses, a smooth workflow depends upon tools. Open source has this arena covered. CRM, HRM, ERP, BI, BPM... you name it, open source handles just about every possible acronym you can think of — and it does it very well. With the likes of Pentaho, Collabtive, and SugarCRM, open source can keep up with closed source tools any day.

6: Collaboration

Without the ability to work together on projects, your staff wouldn't be able to get the job done. So the collaboration tools you choose are crucial. You'll find plenty of quality collaboration tools within the world of open source. Cyn.in community edition, Zimbra Open Source Edition, and Kolab are just three examples of the excellent collaboration tools that exist within the open source world.

7: Big data

When it comes to big data, open source can't be matched. Thanks to the likes of SUSE, big data and open source now go hand in hand. Innovations like in-memory data and live kernel patching make open source an ideal solution for big data. It can be perfectly tuned to meet the massive demands big data places on the platform. Closed source software can't touch this level of flexibility.

8: Cloud

The major players in the cloud are open source. Red Hat, Ubuntu, SUSE, Amazon, Rackspace — they all get it and know that open source is the best solution for cloud deployments. But if you don't want to go with the larger companies, there are always up and coming tools like ownCloud, where you can either take advantage of its hosted cloud solutions or build your own.

9: Multimedia

If your company does podcasting or video for PR, open source has you covered. With tools like Audacity and OpenShot, you can do just about anything with audio or video you need — and do so on the cheap. In fact, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better podcasting tool than Audacity or an easier-to-use video editor than OpenShot. Both pieces of software do an outstanding job of creating professional-quality results without the steep learning curves or the high prices often associated with closed source tools.

10: E-commerce

If your business sells products online, you'd be remiss not to give a tool like PrestaShop a try. PrestaShop is, hands down, one of the most powerful e-commerce solutions available — regardless of license. With just about every feature you could possible want (and some you probably haven't even thought of), the open source platform excels at e-commerce on every level.

FOSS for business

Open source is no longer hanging around the periphery of the business conversation. In many instances, FOSS leads and dominates that conversation. If you've been looking for areas to consider deploying open source solutions, look no further than these 10.

Your turn

Have you added open source software to your business? If so, in what way?

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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