Three Reasons Small Business Owners Should Shop For Open Source Software
1. You usually have a number of open source options to choose from.
When you first set out to find an application, it's hard to know which ones will do what you want and which ones don't. What makes this an even MORE difficult process is that you don't usually know something isn't going to work unless you've already bought and paid for a copy.
So, let's say you need an accounting/bookkeeping application for your small business. The biggest proprietary applications I'm aware of are Peachtree and Quickbooks. Those may or may not do what you need, and I don't know that you can test drive a fully functional version of their software before you cough up cash for the program.
In the open source arena, there's Postbooks, GNUCash, SQL-Ledger, Tryton, OpenERP, OpenBravo, and others. In most cases, there's a completely free and fully functional download you can use.
2. You can get open source software fixed.
If you find a bug in a proprietary app, chances are you'll have to wait quite a while to get it fixed. On the other hand it might never get fixed. You are completely at the mercy of your software vendor. They will fix it when they're good and ready, if they ever decide that it's something that needs fixing at all. With open source software, there's nothing stopping you from fixing it yourself (if you happen to be a programmer) or hiring someone else to fix the problem. What might also happen is you finding a few other end users that are having the same problem; nothing stops all of you from pitching in together and paying some independent programmer (like someone who is already involved with the project) to fix the issue. One of the benefits of open source software is that the underlying code is there for anyone ot look at and manipulate if they know how and want to.
3. Technical support is usually all over the place
Tech support for proprietary apps usually include a phone number, long hold times with music that would make Kenny G fall asleep. Some apps might have a user community where customers fix each other's problems with occassional lipping in from official staff members.
With open source apps, there are boards, mailing lists, usually an irc chat, and sometimes even local meetups for users. One other option some folks go with is paid tech support, offered either by a third party or one of the developers themselves. Pick one, or a combination of them, and run with it.
Well, there are three reasons. I haven't even mentioned price (which is often $0) or a few other benefits, but these three should get you going. Have you got a particular application you're looking for or at? Let me know and I'll see if I can help you get moving on it.