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Great Software Doesn't Need To Cost a Lot of Money: Part 1
by Jonathan Stoddard

When I talk with small business owners many of them understand that technology can be used to help grow and sustain their business. These same small business owners are often discouraged because many great software products are too expensive for the small business budget.

The good news is that great software doesnapostrophet need to cost a lot of money. In fact, a lot of great software is completely free. How much do you think it would cost to purchase the operating system that Google uses to run the majority of its servers? What about the cost of the email system for the city of Washington DC? Would you believe that you could get the same software used by these organizations for free? It sounds hard to believe, but it is true. There are literally thousands of great products used by many large organizations that anyone can use for free.

What is open source software?

The best free software falls into two categories: open source software and software as a service (SaaS). Open source software is software that can be freely distributed and edited. Open source should be thought of as a community project. Anyone with programming knowledge can contribute to the software. Linux is the most popular open source operating system. Google uses a version of Linux to run the majority of its servers. The breadth of open source software is so broad that you can find an open source version of almost any software you need for your business. In fact the Dutch government recently created a policy that states all government departments must use open source software unless they prove an open source option doesnapostrophet exist.

There are several benefits to using open source software. The first benefit is the cost savings. Merrill Lynch has seen a 90% cost savings in software applications that are open source. Etrade has also echoed the cost savings of open source software.

Another benefit of open source software is security and reliability. Remember that open source software is like a community project? When a bug or glitch is found in the software the issue can be fixed quickly because there is a large pool of people who are able to fix the bug. Because the inner workings of the software are available for anyone to see, open source software is subject to a great peer review process. A 2008 server reliability study produced by the Yankee Group, showed that various Linux distributions had the highest server reliability scores. In contrast, the the reliability for Windows 2003 server decreased by 25%.

What is Software as a Service?

SaaS is one of the newest categories of software. Instead of buying it, you use (or rent) the software when you need it. Normally you access SaaS through an web browser. Online email is one of the most common examples of SaaS. Instead of purchasing and running Microsoft Outlook when you want to check your email, you go to a website, like gmail.com and view your email. You didnapostrophet install Gmail, nor did you pay money to use it. Gmail is a software as a service.

Another advantage of SaaS is that you do not need to buy any computer hardware to use the software. This is very attractive to small businesses who do not have an IT staff to manage a server. With SaaS you no longer need to worry about a server or hard drive crashing.

About the author:

Jonathan Stoddard is the president of the Kahuna Technology Group. KTG helps small businesses use technology to further business goals. Each month Jonathan provides practical technology advice through his newsletter to small business owners. Sign up for this newsletter at www.ktgdenver.com/newsletter Learn more about KTG at http://www.ktgdenver.com/ Contact: Phone: 720.251.8177 Email: info@ktgdenver.com