Open Source is a technology approach alternative to your traditional or standard software solutions. Open Source Initiative is the governing body behind Open Source. Open Source, on many occasions, has been met with skepticism when implementing this strategy for mission-critical applications. Why? Simply there has traditionally been concern about those behind a particular Open Source product and the stability of the group behind the product and the stability of the product itself. If there are issues, is there support? Is there sufficient enough documentation that an IT organization can resolve an issue? Is there formal education for the product? What about the company behind the product? How many companies use this product and so on.
All of those questions are good things to consider in any software technology evaluation, regardless of open source or traditional software technology. I wouldn’t handle it any different. The key here is to be sure there is a solid organization behind the product, one who compares and competes favorably with your traditional software technology companies. Open Source software is a very cost effective solution and in a number of cases, the free version of the software has features not available in the low-end products from standard software companies. Why pay tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars for a product that you can get free or very inexpensively, comparatively speaking? Why pay big dollars for features that are contained in a free version of software when that software meets my overall goals and objectives?
First, when evaluating an Open Source product, research the company behind the product. The key question to ask is whether there is commercially licensed product available by this company, whether there is a technology support line, and education to support their products. This is critical. Once you have found that the company is solid and has a product you are seeking, such as ERP, then you are ready for a deeper dive into the product as related to your business and business needs.
I’ve established a partnership with an Open Source ERP solution called xTuple. I’ve been very impressed with their product and their company. They continue to roll out improvements to their free version and commercially licensed versions of their products. I’ve found their solution to be a very robust product at a minimal cost. In fact, their free version, called PostBooks, will support most any small business needs. That product, in and of itself, has features found only in expensive ERP software from standard software companies. I was pleasantly surprised to read a posting by TEC (Technology Evaluation Centers) recently which stated that xTuple is competing favorably with NetSuite, Microsoft, and even SAP.
Open Source is a great community to seek to meet your business needs. There is a plethora of software available that competes very favorably with the traditional software companies. Nailing down the fundamental questions and getting answers to those are critical. Seeking and securing an Open Source alternative to traditional or standard software solutions is something that any company working through a software selection process must consider, especially when it brings such a favorable cost benefit to any organization.
Are you considering Open Source today? Are you headed down that traditional highway to software selection? Let me encourage you to step back and take a look at the software evaluation process and consider evaluating an Open Source product or two in comparison as part of your software evaluation. You will be pleasantly surprised at the results and you may just look like a genius in the process when you deliver a solid technology solution at a very affordable price. Give it a try!