During the startup phase for any business, entrepreneurs are often trying to pull off miracles with limited cash resources. In such situations, the large sums of money required for business software and software-based subscriptions can stand as a significant barrier to growth. However, most companies cannot simply do without their software. To make the most of their situations, business owners can sometimes cut their expenses by taking advantage of free software and service solutions.
Small startups often save money by setting their employees up with used or refurbished computers. This can make sense especially when employees only need them for simple tasks like word processing and answering email. However, such older computers often come with outdated operation systems. Such a system’s registry may be full of spyware and viruses that pose security risks and make the computer run slowly.
Even if it has a clean registry, it still may not be up to par with current requirements. To take advantage of inexpensive computers while minimizing risk and inconvenience, business owners can set up their computers with a Linux operating system. Many such systems – specifically Ubuntu – can be downloaded and installed on computers for free. Although employees may face a learning curve due to differences in operational structure, Linux systems are secure and stable.
OpenOffice.org is a service that offers a free suite of office comparable to Microsoft Office. It includes a word processor, a database management program, a spreadsheet program, a presentation program, a vector graphics editor, and a mathematical equation editor. One drawback with using OpenOffice.org software is that documents do not always transfer smoothly to and from Microsoft formats. Another drawback is that employees accustomed to Microsoft may find the differences frustrating.
Google offers a variety of tools to help businesses succeed. One of these is the Google Docs interface, which allows multiple users to simultaneously access, view, and edit the same document. While businesses must pay a subscription fee to use Google Docs through their company email accounts, they may use the service for free by signing up for free Gmail accounts.
The industry standard for small business accounting software is Intuit’s Quicken. However, unlike Microsoft Office applications, the ability to share information with clients and partners on a common software platform is not typically a necessity when it comes to accounting records. For this reason, going with a free non-standard solution is less of an operational burden on business in this area. GnuCash is the leading free software solution for small business accounting, and it has features comparable to those of Quicken.
While all of these software solutions are of legitimate quality, remember that they do have their limitations. After all, they are free. If you run into any problems, either you will have to pay for support or you will not be able to find it at all. Your best option may be to go with free solutions for a while and then pay for premium software as soon as it becomes feasible to do so.