Open source tools to run a small-medium sized business

Many people ditch the rat race, to start anything from a one-man show right up to a medium-sized business these days. Globally, computers are being accepted everywhere, and its always been touted to help the business owner, improve business processes. From an open source perspective, how do we help the small business owner?

We start by studying what a small business owner requires:

  • contact management – the business is in the network. Without contacts, there’s no exchange of services, and definitely no exchange of money.
  • document management – businesses, no matter how large or small, end up with lots of documents. Moving to the e-society that we’re all aiming for, we should aim to manage documents well, right up to the backups of these crucial business data.
  • accounting – taxation, income, expense, credit, debit, etc. are what make the business world work. You need to keep track of absolutely every last cent.
  • collaboration/whiteboard – this is where a Wiki tends to shine (or some form of CMS).
  • weblog – these seem to be the promotional tools of the 21st century.
  • e-mail client – long gone are the days of telex, faxes, and postal services. A lot of people live life out of their e-mail clients in business, so one that makes life easier and more productive is very important.
  • office suite – just as typewriters, accounting books and transparencies (slides) go out of fashion, a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation suite are very significant in how modern business are run.
  • server software – you need a domain, email, web hosting, and possibly some of these applications should be online, in a secure location, (say, that requires a login.

I haven’t mentioned a database, because I presume most of the above requirements do tend to use a database of sorts (usually MySQL). I haven’t even mentioned an operating system, because without a doubt, as a small to medium sized business, you will want to be running an open source variant – BSD or Linux is a war we shall not get into, neither is a war such that we go down the road of Fedora vs. Ubuntu or something similar.

Now, dear Interweb, what else do you think a small business owner needs to have? I’m just after the software processes that make a business happen. In fact, if it currently involves something Windows, OS X or (God forbid) DOS based, I’d still like to know.

Why? Things like the NGO-in-a-box project make a lot of sense. In fact, for open source to become more mainstream, we need to provide usable, workable, and reliable systems. With the launch of Vista, and the ease-of-use for business folk, combined with Office 2007 and all the stack they have to offer (which are surprisingly becoming less costly than before), the open source world needs to have the same, if not greater strength.

Oh, and because, all the cool kids are playing with virtualization, today. Tomorrow’s cool kids will be thinking about appliances.

One Comment

  1. Just a thought I have been playing with since Ubuntu….for many small businesses, they will need your suggested items. But, with Ubuntu it will possible to put the server on their desktop; leave the laptop at home, and use a cell phone as an appliance. Most small businesses have very low bandwidth and volumn requirements vis a vis the current bandwidth of the cable companies and the processing power of their laptops. Availability, even if they are down for days, will have little impact as the customers come for their value added service. Browser support on the cell is now common.

    Any thoughts?