One of the courses I have recently developed at abelski is ‘PHP Open Source Code Projects’. Though it is mainly a technical professional course its introduction slides present more than a few samples for various types of open source products developed in PHP and available for free usage. Those samples include CRM, ERP, CMS and LMS various products you can download and use for free in your business.

The first question many ask is why do we still see companies making money from selling similar commercial products. I will leave the answer for this question for another post.

Another question many tend to avoid is whether we can indeed save money from using a free open source product. Many tend to avoid this question assuming that if they choose to use a free open source product they will necessarily save money. The truth is a bit different. Using an open source free software product doesn’t necessarily mean saving money. The answer for this question as for many other similar questions in computer science is (as my professor from UBC used to say) ‘depends’.

It would be impossible to address this question (in detail) in one single post. Instead, I will try to focus on the main factor that determines whether a company that chooses to use an open source software will save money. The main factor is, as many can guess, the available technical capabilities within the company.

Basically, we can categorize all open source free software products into two different categories. The first includes free open source server side applications that require installation and configuration (e.g. server side systems as CRM, ERP, LMS and others). The second includes free open source client applications that relatively require less technical installation and configuration (e.g. OpenOffice, Gimp, Zip-7 and others). 

Dealing with applications of the second group (client applications), the availability of technical capabilities within the company is less important. Applications of this type require similar technical capabilities to those required by their equivalent commercial ones. The availability of technical capabilities within the company is less crucial in this case.

Dealing with applications of the first group (server side applications), the availability of technical capabilities within the company is highly important. Lack of these capabilities requires getting assistance from consulting services specialized in open source products. When the required consulting assistance is intensive the question whether a commercial solution is the preferred one should be raised. The cost of the required consulting services might turn the open source alternative into the less attractive one. In such scenarios, taking the commercial solution might be the preferred one.

Assessing whether the required technical capabilities exist isn’t an easy task. Dealing with large scale projects I recommend on getting professional assistance in order to evaluate the need for consulting services in order to implement the open source product and in order to asses its intensivity.

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