Not Using Open Source Software? Must be nice to have money to burn!

If your manager of HR came up to you and said, “I’d like to send every employee out for a $500.00 to $1,000.00 training program in the coming year,” as a business owner you would probably wince. After all, times are tough.

What if the HR Manager said to you — “by the way, there’s an free training alternative that may be just as good. But I still want to spend this money.”

I’m not sure what you would do? Fire him/her on the spot? Call for a paramedic? Or would you just throw him/her out of your office.

In those terms, it sounds like you’d have to be nuts to be that HR Manager, right?

So if that’s true, why aren’t people up in arms about software? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doing Microsoft bashing here. But I still don’t get why companies will spend a small fortune on “name brand” software when the “generic” (Open Source) is often free.

And if people are telling you that its because Open Source isn’t ready to run a “real business” — let me be the first to say it. That’s nonsense.

As I pointed out on someone else’s blog — I’m a power user of Office. I do things that 90% of your employees wouldn’t even know how to do. And I use Open Office almost all the time. But 99% of your employees aren’t “power users”. The last time I checked, the average worker was using less than 10% of the functions of office software.

Now do the math. Microsoft Office costs how much? Open Office is free. Yes. Free. Free as in “can you save more money than free?”

Why pay a premium price for functionality nobody even uses? Even if you factor in the cost of switching over — and some training, can you really lose out?

I want to say it’s funny, but it’s really sad. The objections are, as my kids would say – lame. Take the question of training. Did you do any training on Office? How about when it made it’s big shift to 2007, which baffled the hell out of me. Did companies do training? Or did it just arrive on the desk? So what is the big worry about shifting to Open Office? I still recommend training – but it’s not a barrier.

Or the one I hear all the time. Open Office — there might be bugs. Who will fix them? Are you serious? Do you really think MS Office has no bugs? And who fixes those? Personally, if I had to bet on fixes, I’d stick with the Open Source community. Although its funny that somehow that community is not seen as serious by some. Newsflash. For those who must have a corporate involvement, Sun Microsystems is a big sponsor of Open Office. IBM and others are big players in the Open Source arena in general.

Or the big final one. The world is Microsoft, you say? Guess what. I save my Open Office documents as Microsoft docs before I send them out to all my friends who have money to burn. In fact, I have less problems going between Open Office and Microsoft Office than I have in going between versions of Microsoft Office. Try sending a 2007 document to a 2003 Office user. Now that’s a pain.

If it were only office. I use an open source (free) anti-virus, not because it’s cheaper, but because I can’t stand the paid alternative. My list goes on and on.

In fact, I started this journey not because of Office, but because of Sharepoint. We needed a document management type of system in our office and since we had access to a Sharepoint license, we installed it. Now we are IT consultants. But within a week the technology consultant who implemented the Sharepoint system was in my office telling me we had to hire an administrator to take care of the system. It needed specialized skills to get it up and running. We would have spent thousands.

I threw it out and went Open Source and never looked back. I (or any other reasonably intelligent techie) figured out Drupal (the Open Source CMS) in a weekend. It cost us nothing in licenses, was a dream to install and a year later, we do everything ourselves.

I could go on and on. Scalix replaces Microsoft Exchange. Our CRM is SugarCRM and even though we do pay for a license (we use the Enterprise Version) it’s still a gift in terms of price compared with the much more expensive Salesforce.com (just so I’m not picking on Microsoft)

Mind mapping? I use Freemind. As in free.

Even this blog? Word Press. Not costing me a cent.

Don’t get me wrong. We will pay, when there’s value. We have a secure email system that does cost a few shekels, but it’s remarkably reasonable. We pay for our conferencing platform, but that still saves us a ton of money and time. It allows us to do business all around the world.

The one barrier for most companies is that they just don’t know. But there is no reason for that anymore. We’re offering a license review where we’ll do a review of all your software licenses. This isn’t just individual licenses. We go into the corporate licenses as well. You would be surprised what we find. We’ve found duplication, over purchasing, maintenance programs that are way more than the company needs — sometimes you’d be shocked at what these are costs. Heck, we’ve found software that nobody is using that is still being paid for with maintenance charges every year. Hey, a few thousand here, a few thousand there — soon, you are talking about real money.

Now we’re adding an Open Source audit as well. We don’t expect our clients to just jump and replace all their software with Open Source. There are learning curves, due diligence, training and all of that. But we do expect that they will do a business case and have a strategy to migrate over time — or a damned good reason why not.

We offer this service to companies around the world. Our Open Source VOIP phone system allows us to reach anywhere and do this type of work. We offer — not everyone takes us up on it. But then, some companies have money to burn.

If you DON’T – give us a call. We’ll even pick up the tab for the call. With the money we save on phones, I don’t sweat what we pay for our 1-800 line — it’s VOIP anyway.  So call us at 1-800-741-9375 ext 1000

You have nothing to lose — and a lot to gain.

Update: March 5, 2009 Here’s a link to an article that someone sent me. It deals with some of the wrong headed ideas about open source and some hope about how our federal government in Canada might be waking up.

Jim Love, Managing Partner, Performance Advantage

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