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A Big Ole Assortment of 50 Open Source Apps for Small Business

Accounting, Backups, Email

October 7, 2009

When it comes to businesses using open source software, medium and large enterprises seem to get most of the press. However, small office/home office (SOHO) setups with 10 employees or less may see even greater benefit from switching to open source applications.

Why should all the legions of small and home offices consider open source software? Cost savings. A simple switch from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org, for example, can save a small business around $400 (or more) per PC. When you're in the start-up phase and counting every penny, that savings can make a huge difference.

Of course, many small business owners are hesitant to try open source software. After all, if you have 10 or fewer employees, you probably don't have an IT guy to come and help you if something goes wrong. And many other small business owners have never heard of open source software or don't know about the high-quality applications that are available.

With these business owners in mind, we've put together a list of 50 superb open source apps for SOHO users. We tried to narrow the list to well-tested, easy-to-use applications that average small business owners with minimal technical expertise would be able to install and use on their own.

Whether you're sold on the concept of open source and ready to convert to Linux on the desktop or you've never heard of open source software before today, we'll think you'll find at least a few apps on this list that can help your small office improve its bottom line.


1. TurboCASH

Designed as an alternative to QuickBooks, TurboCASH is a simple but flexible small business accounting program with multi-user and multi-company capabilities. On the downside, it only runs on Windows, so you'll need an emulator if you want to run it on Linux. Operating System: Windows.

2. GnuCash

This app works well for personal finance management and also includes some small business features such as customer and vendor tracking, invoicing and bill payment, and tax and billing terms. It's not as full-featured as some other accounting programs, but it is compatible with Quicken and OFX formats. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.

3. Front Accounting

Web-based Front Accounting offers basic business accounting for small businesses plus enterprise resource planning capabilities for larger businesses. You will need your own server for this app. Operating System: OS Independent.


4. Amanda

The most popular open-source backup and recovery program in the world, Amanda protects more than 500,000 computers. You can use it to archive files on your own server, a tape drive, or you can back-up in the cloud with a commercial service like Zmanda. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, Mac, BSD.

5. Areca Backup

Simple to set up and very versatile, Areca lets you choose which files to archive on a local server, network drive, thumb drive, or FTP server. You can also choose whether to make a basic copy of all your files or a delta backup which includes only those files which have changed since the last backup. Operating System: Windows, Linux.


6. WordPress

Want to set up a company blog? WordPress offers three simple steps to get your blog online in just minutes, even if you're new to the whole concept. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.


7. Firefox

If you've never tried open-source software, Firefox is an ideal place to start. Switching to Firefox from Internet Explorer won't save you any money since both are free, but Firefox may save you time with its super-fast page loads and small memory footprint. Plus, it offers superior security and privacy controls and lots of customization options. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.

Compression Utilities

8. 7-zip

7-zip creates archive files with a very high compression ration. In laymen's terms that means it can take really big files and shrink them really small for e-mailing or file transfer. It reads and writes most well-known compression file formats (like zip and tar) and includes encryption capabilities. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.

9. PeaZip

This compression utility supports an amazing number of different file formats-87 different extensions at last count. If you have a compressed file you can't open any other way, give PeaZip a try. Operating System: Windows, Linux.


10. Thunderbird

These days it seems like more and more people are using Web-based e-mail accounts, but if you prefer an Outlook-like e-mail client or want to be able to check multiple accounts from one location, you may want to give Thunderbird a try. It's made by Mozilla, the creators of Firefox, and it boasts fast e-mail searching, easy message tagging, outstanding security, and the ability to save searches. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.

11. Zimbra

Owned by Yahoo, Zimbra offers a number of different versions of its e-mail client and collaboration suite, some for free and some commercially. For very small offices, the best option may be Zimbra Desktop which aims to combine the best of a desktop e-mail client with the best of Web mail. It offers e-mail, contact management, calendar, document management and offline access, and it's compatible with Gmail and Microsoft Live accounts. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac.

12. Evolution

Known as "the Outlook of Linux," Evolution offers an integrated inbox, calendar, to-do list, and contact list for Linux only. Operating System: Linux.