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Grow Your Business Technology

Need Free Software? Open-Source Options for Small Businesses

Need Free Software? Open-Source Options for Small Businesses
Credit: Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

Nearly all of today's software packages run on a monthly subscription model. It doesn't sound like much upfront, but if you spend $10 a month here and another $20 there, all of a sudden you're forking over a bunch of money each month for programs you're no longer sure that you even need.

If you're a solopreneur or a small business, you don't want the costs of effective software to eat too much into the bottom line. At the same time, you definitely need the right tools to get the job done.

This is where free, open-source software can come to the rescue. Not every icon may have the same type of excessive attention to detail and polish as paid software, but when it comes to getting the job done, these free tools can be just as effective. Here are a few of our favorite options.

This is a rather comprehensive office suite that works on Windows, Mac and Linux. You can create spreadsheets, documents, presentations, graphics and other files to suit the diverse needs of your business. Apache has a long history of building quality open-source software so you can use it with confidence.

This is another great alternative for a free, Office-compatible suite. It's based on the OpenOffice format, and it benefits from a very active development community that regularly rolls out a bevy of new features and updates. It's also available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

If you're looking for some small business-friendly financial and accounting software, then GnuCash may be the right fit. It's built for keeping track of your expenses, bank accounts and other important financial details. You're able to create reports that you can share with your team so everyone has a better picture of the finances. Some pieces of the interface are a little rough around the edges, but the zero-dollar price tag should make it worth it.

This is another offering from the Apache Foundation, which has a good reputation for the quality of its open-source software. OFBiz handles accounting, supply chain management, enterprise asset management and other critical functions. Apache offers an online demo if you want to know more before devoting the time to learn how everything works.

Maybe you're more concerned about the "free" part than using something that's open source. For this, a small organization could just create a regular, free Google account and get the benefits of Gmail, Google Drive and the company's other services. You don't get the same level of customer support, uptime promises and extra goodies that accompany a paid G-Suite subscription. However, if you just need to collaborate over some files and share emails with your team, a plain old Google account should get the job done.

Additionally, Microsoft Office Online offers enough functionality for some simple tasks. You can create Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations all within a browser. There are collaboration features as well so you can keep members of your team in the loop.

Your needs are going to vary based on the specific nature of your business. But the bottom line is that there are plenty of productivity tools out there that won't cost you a penny and will empower you to run many key aspects of your business.

Derek Walter

Derek Walter is a freelance writer in northern California. He is the founder of Walter Media and author of Learning MIT App Inventor. Follow him on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn or Google+.