If you rely on various software programs to run your business, you may find yourself overwhelmed by all of the options available to you. This is even more the case if you are just starting out and wondering which ones you should use. If you’re on a tight budget, you might try to look for the best deals for software that can handle as many tasks for you as possible. It’s important to know that there are benefits and pitfalls in every kind of software. Watch our video to understand what to look out for and become informed
Existing technology or build from scratch?
This is a decision that a lot of people have to make. I want to give you some the pros and cons of how this plays out.
There are a number of existing software options. I want to give you the different terms that exist.
Standard commercial software
There is what I call standard commercial software – the old versions of Microsoft Office, games, common industry packages. You buy them and generally you install them on your platform on your machine at work.
Software as a service (SaaS)
There is also software as a service (SaaS). This is becoming increasingly popular. Office 365 is the new version of Microsoft Office. You pay a subscription for that and you can use it online, you can do a range of other bits and pieces. The Google suite, Xero, our accounting software, Slack there are others.
So Content Samurai; the product we now sell, we sell as a subscription service; you log into a web page in order to use it. This is the trend. From a business perspective we are increasingly building SaaS products, software that is delivered as a service.
Open source software
This is software that you can download and install for free. Many people think this is something of a mystery, but if you have a WordPress based website, you are already an open source software user. Linux is by far the most popular operating system that controls the servers of the internet. If you’ve used the internet, you’ve run things through Linux without question. It is open source.
Android, there’s a little bit of debate there. Generally it is considered open source software. Interestingly, there are people in the room who use SugarCRM. SugarCRM is a competitor to Salesforce. It is a quite powerful CRM package that you can download and install for free and you can then make modifications to.
There are people in the room who love LibreOffice. LibreOffice is effectively an open source office package. It’s got WordPress, it’s got spreadsheets, it’s got presentation tools and it’s free. The last time I looked at it, it was about the equivalent of the Microsoft functionality from five years ago. When I use a word processor, I’m pretty basic in my usage. I’m not using a lot of the advanced features and so it can work really well.
Finding open source software
People often don’t know how to find it. Just simply type open source and your product category name into your favourite search engine and you’ll be away.
So for example, digital asset management software is a category of software that I happen to have had two enquiries about just recently. People were shocked to find that they could get their digital asset management software, which is software to manage lots of images around your organisation, with some quite good offerings that you could have in there for free.
Key open source issues
Commercial Support – One of the big open source issues that you need to be aware of is commercial support. It’s not made by someone who is trying to sell it to you, so they don’t have the support backing to sell it to you. Now there are people you can pay to support many of the popular open source packages.
Project popularity and longevity – There are a lot of projects that people build and they just run out of steam on. So one of the indicators you want to look for if you’re really going to use open source software well, is how popular or how regularly is the platform being updated; is the tool being updated. Depending on where you get it from, there are indicators of what is called contributions. How many people have contributed to that package recently? Lots of contributions recently means you’ve got an open source package that is being actively worked on.
Forking the code – Forking the code essentially means you take something, you pay a company like us to change it, and the changes now leave you in a position where you are no longer able to get updates to the open source package because we’ve fundamentally changed the game. We’ve made some fundamental changes. Now there are people in this room for who have knowingly forked the code, but their business is built on a piece of old open source software.
Commercial “source accessible” software – Another one that people often don’t think of is what I would call commercial “source accessible” software. A lot of people come to me and they’ll say, my business is like AirBnb for pets, or it’s like eBay for something else. It’s true, they’ve seen the model somewhere else and they’ve thought I can apply this to my business. You would be surprised that you can find clones for a lot of systems. The two that we’ve looked at recently are eBay and AirBnB. You find these essentially by typing in a popular product and the word “clone” or a popular category and the word “PHP script”. You type those in and you will find offerings.
Let me give you some issues here. I’ve looked at two in depth.
- One of them, the code was not good, it was really ugly. For some reason, it seems like there are people in the sub continent who have decided to write code to sell in this market. There is some good code, but there is some really lousy code that I’ve seen written there. I’ve also seen one that was done on the eBay side, I looked at it four years ago now and the code was really good. So they’re not always bad, but they can be pretty horrible.
- Long term suitability. You have the issue that you sit inside their world view. You want to change something and often there is a whole bunch of baggage that can make it difficult to change.
Build from scratch
The last of the software options is custom built software. That’s what we build and we’ve built for many people in the room.
Therefore, make sure that you consider all of your options when looking at the right software for your company. Consider how much support you might need. Are you technically proficient enough to resolve your own issues, or could it be crucial to have customer support that answers questions when you’re in a tight spot? Remember that anything free or open source likely comes at a cost in ways other than money. In the end, you’ll have to decide the right options for you, but now you are armed with a good road map to help you discern the best path.
Get in touch with us today if you need help deciding on the right software for your business.