So you want to offer new services for your clients and you're thinking of going the virtual route. What's the best, most efficient path to success? One possible way to a lightning-fast deployment is to use virtual appliances. If you use VirtualBox, you're in luck — there are a lot of virtual appliances you can use to make your business more efficient and to offer services you otherwise couldn't offer.
Why virtual appliances? They offer fast deployment of reliable turnkey solutions that have been thoroughly tested by a community of users and developers. If you're looking for virtual appliances to help expand and improve your business, these 10 appliances are worth a look.
If you're looking for a shopping cart system for your business, TomatoCart is what you want. Out of the box, TomatoCart features site management, catalog management and browsing, product management and browsing, customer management, order management, payment, shipping, checkout, statistics and reports, promotion tools and SEO, a content management system, SSL support, phpMyAdmin for MySQL administration, Postfix MTA (for sending mail), and Webmin modules for the configuration of Apache, PHP, MySQL, and Postfix.
Phreedom is a great ERP (enterprise resource planning) tool for small business. With Phreedom, you can track inventory, manage accounting, handle contracts, write checks, perform bank account reconciliation, and more. The Phreedom system features contact management, inventory management, payment, Phreebooks accounting, report generation, and a shipping module. Several optional modules are also available: RMA (return tracking), asset recording, language translation, and ZenCart integration.
ownCloud is what you want for the creation of an internal cloud service. With this virtual appliance, you can quickly have a cloud up and running that will offer access to files, folders, contacts, photo galleries, calendars, and more, from a desktop or a mobile device. ownCloud also allows the syncing of data across multiple devices and the sharing of data. Other features include undelete, documentation, an easy-to-use interface, file versioning, and migration and backups. And with public APIs available, it's possible to create your own applications for ownCloud.
If you're looking for one of the finest human resource management systems, look no further than OrangeHRM. It's a solid HR solution for both small and midsize businesses. You'll find features like employee information management, employee absence management, recruitment management, employee performance evaluation, and many tools that will allow you to keep your human resources department humming along.
Mibew is an outstanding solution if you're looking to enable one-on-one chat support for your company. You can use it internally or externally (for clients/customers). Mibew allows people to access the chat system directly from your current Web site with a simple click of a button. It doesn't offer a litany of features, but it does one thing and does it well. If you need to add a handy chat-based support system for your company, fire up a Mibew virtual appliance and give it a try.
BambooInvoice is a perfect invoicing solution for small businesses. This easy-to-run virtual machine offers client management, invoice management, reports, custom invoice notes/information, branding, PDF generation, email invoices, invoice payment entry, invoice payment history, multiuser support, and a Web-based interface. The only downfall is that BambooInvoice doesn't contain an inventory/service component. Because of this, you must manually enter items and services on a per-invoice basis. But if you're looking for a fast, reliable invoicing system for your small business, Bamboo is a great fit.
7: File Server
Don't let the simple name fool you. File Server provides Windows-compatible network file sharing via an advanced Web-based file manager. It includes support for SMB, SFTP, and rsync file transfer protocols. Users can take advantage of both private and public file storage in a user-friendly, AjaXplorer-like interface. Out of the box, File Server has a preconfigured workgroup, NetBIOS name, and shares. If you want to have a file server up and running quickly, File Server might be just the ticket.
phpList is an open source email campaign manager. If you want to create and manage email marketing campaigns in-house, look no further than this virtual appliance. The phpList system features one-way email delivery, a Web interface, no duplicate messages, open/view tracking and click tracking, multiple subscribe pages, templates, subscriber attributes, user-specific content, HTML email messages, multiple list administrators, and much more. If you don't want to trust your email campaign management to a third party, fire up this virtual appliance and see if it doesn't meet all your needs.
OpenLDAP allows you to implement the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol with the simplicity of a virtual appliance, removing setup headaches altogether. This take on LDAP makes it easy to set the LDAP domain and admin passoword, includes TLS support out of the box, and includes users/groups OU and default PosixGroup. The easiest route to LDAP might well be virtual.
If your company is looking for a powerful project management tool, consider Collabtive. This open source alternative to Basecamp features project tracking, milestones and tasks, Basecamp import, timetracking, and reporting. A plugin system allows you to extend Collabtive to include a mobile bundle, project templates, project prioritization, automatic time tracker, Gantt charts, and more.
Quick and easy
The ability to quickly roll out virtual machines to serve various purposes means you can easily enhance your business, your offerings, and your employees' productivity. In the end, this all equates to your business running more smoothly. Give one of these virtual appliances a try and see if it doesn't make the task of running your company easier.
- Virtualizing the enterprise (ZDNet special report page)
- Executive's guide to virtualization in the enterprise (free ebook)
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 jackwallen.com.