The most important goal of any business is to make profit. Small businesses (or yo could call them startups) face a lot of existential challenges in Nigeria. To ensure their survival every effort is spent in identifying ways to save time and operational cost.
In this post we would examine some benefits small businesses can derive from incorporating Linux and free open-source software (FOSS) into their ICT infrastructure strategy. This goes a long way to save cost compared to very pricey commercial softwares. But cost is not the sole reason why small businesses should turn to FOSS, but because of freedom, collaboration, flexibility and code transparency that come with it.
As always being emphasized on FN the DNA of the FOSS development model is the freedom it guarantees for it users to do whatever they like with the software by ensuring that the source code (that is needed for the modification of the software) is available to the public. A model like this would not impose any restriction on small businesses – like the number of computer system permitted to install on, the extent to which it can be used and so on. This means that small businesses have a lot of ‘free’ (as in freedom) softwares along with their source codes they can always modify or add feature to suit their businesses. Some free/open-source software available on the Linux platform for small businesses include the following;
Office Suit: LibreOffice, OpenOffice, WPSoffice, etc
Accounting (Bookkeeping): GnuCash, Quickbooks, TurboCash
Cloud storage: OwnCloud, NextCloud, Google Drive
Internet Browser: Chrome, chromium, Firefox
Database: mariaDB, NoSQL, SQLlte, MySQL
Graphics: GIMP, Inkscape
Email Client: Evolution, Thunderbird
Instant/Social Messaging: Pidgin, Empathy
Who is who? Just Collaborate!
Linux and FOSS fosters the principle of open exchange and collaborative community-oriented development. This is made possible with the open access to source code. People can contribute to a particular software at same time. So when venturing into business. Open source gives the opportunity to “stand on the shoulders of others” instead of reinventing the wheel all over every time.
Flexibility: how far can you bend?
Foss provide different development models through its various license, which a business can choose from depending on the goals and vision of the business. Among the numerous license the most common ones are the Gnu Public License (GPL) and the BSD License. The GPL is the most popular FOSS license out there. Its basic principle emphasize that if anyone modifies a FOSS and distributes the source code for their derivative work. While the BSD license places relatively few restrictions. A software licensed under it can be modified by another individual and this individual doesn’t necessarily have to release the changes publicly. Many small business in Nigeria would not need to worry about license issues such as these with FOSS, since most of their operations would not revolve around it.
Transparent or Open?
For anybody to use a particular piece of software, he (or she) must trust that the software does not violate their privacy – like through a backdoor. Nobody likes being watched, not even the watcher. FOSS guarantees the purity of software, since there are very many ways eyes looking through it. This is very important for small business that need to ensure that security of their information/data.
Though Linux/FOSS is not a utopic solution to small business problems, but it can go a long way in providing a level playing field for small businesses to innovate and develop.