IT & Infrastructure
Almost every business problem can be solved in part or in whole by IT using an astute selection of software and the hardware it runs on. Business can automate, capitalise on previously unseen trends and bring people thousands of miles apart together through IT.
Yet, even today, there are organisations that are relying on paper for mission-critical business processes. Most businesses are paying costly annual software licences when they can have similar software for free.
Onley Group can dramatically cut your annual IT bill. We can replace cumbersome business processes with secure, low-cost automated systems that get the job done effectively and release more value.
Open Source Your Business IT
Open source software has come of age. The last decade has seen open source develop from an interest of the computing elite to become user-friendly and suitable for the the mainstream. Open source software is any computer program where the code is available publicly with express irrevocable permission to use, adapt and redistribute the code. For that reason, nearly all open-source software is distributed free of any licence fees. Major organisations such as Google, Amazon, Cisco and even the New York Stock Exchange depend upon open-source, and because it is free of licence fees, these businesses save large sums by using it.
Most businesses use IT and software for the same common tasks: word processing, accountancy, slideshows, graphic design, e-mail communications, scheduling and collaboration. However, the majority of businesses use proprietary products for these, mostly from Microsoft, requiring the payment of recurring licence fees. Yet there are easy to use open-source alternative programs for all these tasks, programs which cost nothing to obtain, and are free to keep using forever. Many companies can save hundreds of pounds per computer they own each year, just by switching to open source.
Open-source is built by communities of often highly skilled programmers who donate their time for the wider purpose of providing free useful software. Open-source isn't, however, perfect. There is a wide spectrum of quality in the numerous open-source programs available, and a bewildering array of communities producing different open-source products. There are situations where open-source outshines the proprietary alternatives, and situations where open-source isn't quite up to the proprietary product standards. In addition, open-source products often require the investment of time to configure and deploy, and support services for open-source can be patchy. In any case, when correctly deployed, using open-source always saves you money.
The following guide explores what open source software can do for your organisation.
We are providing this information because we believe in the cause of open-source, and because we hope that you'll choose Onley Group to help should you require some assistance in making the switch.
Summary of open-source benefits:
- Zero cost to obtain (low cost to obtain and configure if support required)
- No licence fees
- Zero cost to maintain (low cost to maintain if support required)
- More secure, almost no viruses / trojans
- More stable than Microsoft software
- No risk of expired licence fines
- Faster cycle of upgrades, all of which are free
- No single vendor lock-in
- File types based on open standards – more portable
- Requires lower spec machines (cheaper hardware)
- Completely customisable, adaptable to precisely suit needs
- Outperform Microsoft / Apple in certain areas (servers, cloud, remote working, automation)
- Software as good as or almost as good as proprietary leading software
Summary of problems:
- Fewer options for ongoing technical support
- Expertise required in setting up and configuring initially
- More difficult to recruit for in-house IT staff
Examples of Open Source equivalents to popular proprietary software:
|Proprietary Software:||Open Source Equivalent:||Software Type:||Comparative Quality of Open Source alternative:|
|Microsoft Windows||Ubuntu / Xubuntu / Linux Mint / openSUSE||Operating system||Better than XP, as good as Windows 7 on most hardware. Issues with some higher-end gaming graphics cards. More stable than Windows.|
|Microsoft Windows Server||Ubuntu server||Server operating system||Much better, more stable, more secure.|
|Microsoft Office||LibreOffice||Office suite||Missing some niche advanced features but as good for most users, much more stable. Can open and save in MS Office format.|
|Adobe Illustrator||Scribus||Desktop publishing||Almost as good, some advanced effects missing|
|Microsoft Publisher||Scribus||Desktop publishing||Better, more stable.|
|Adobe Photoshop||GIMP||Photo editing||Missing several advanced features, almost as good for basic uses.|
|Dreamweaver||Geany / Bluefish||IDE||Better, more stable, more languages supported.|
|Adobe Illustrator||Inkscape||Vector drawing||Far better. Optimised for the job.|
|3Ds Max / Artlantis / Zbrush||Blender||3D graphics & animation||User interfaces similar, some advanced features missing, more stable.|
|Internet Explorer 9||Firefox / Google Chrome||Web Browser||Better, more stable, more secure, more add-ons.|
|Windows Remote Desktop||Remmina||VNC / remote desktop||Better, more protocols, more stable.|
|Adobe Audition||Ardour / Qtractor||Multi-track audio editing||As good but a little difficult to configure due to complex Linux sound support.|
|Windows Media Player||VLC||Audio & video playback||More stable, more formats supported, more features (streaming & transcoding), less user-friendly though.|
|iTunes / Windows Media Player||Clementine / Songbird||Music library playback, sync and management||Just as user friendly, more formats supported, more freedom to copy files.|
|MS SQL / Oracle||MySQL / PostgreSQL||Databases||More stable, less user-friendly but good third party tools to assist.|
|Microsoft IIS||Apache2||Web server||Vastly superior. More stable, more efficient, fewer security vulnerabilities.|
|Microsoft Exchange||Citadel, Evolution, Open-Xchange, Open Business Management||Mail server and client||Email management as good. Advanced tools less well integrated, more complex to configure. More stable.|
|Windows Backup||BackupPC / rSync||Backup||Better, more stable, more advanced features.|
|Microsoft Dynamics CRM||Dolibarr / Open Business Management||Customer Relations Management||More difficult to set up, more stable, more features.|
|IBM Cognos / SAS / Microsoft BI||Spago BI||Business Intelligence Suite||Similar features. Similar performance.|
Reasons businesses give for not moving to open-source:
- Lack of awareness (what is open-source and how do I get it?):
Obtaining and setting up open-source software requires some knowledge of open-source community and the places to find software (Ubuntu website, Sourceforge, GitHub, package repositories) for those who wish to do things free. For those with a budget, any good open-source technical consultancy firm such as Onley Group will be able to obtain, install and configure it all for you to your specifications.
- Concerned about lack of support once installed:
Proprietary software products usually come with comprehensive support services. Open-source programs rarely have associated support services, but there are busy online communities devoted to every active open-source program who can often solve your problems via forums / IRQ channels within hours of posting (e.g. AskUbuntu) for free. For companies with a budget, UK based companies such as Onley Group have specialist open source knowledge and offer round the clock telephone and remote access support when responses are more urgent.
- It doesn't work “out of the box” / difficult to configure:
Self configuring is possible and is just as easy as the proprietary software or requires only intermediate knowledge for most software and some patience. Online communities can guide you through customising settings. For more rapid or out-of-the-box experience, companies such as ourselves can explore specifications with you and deliver whole systems fully configured for your needs.
- Less user-friendly:
Historically open-source software used to be more difficult to use, but in the last 5 years the open-source community have devoted much more attention to user-interfaces and documentation. Most programs now have user interfaces that are just as intuitive as their proprietary counterparts. People often confuse “user-friendliness” with familiarity, and find that once they learn the new open-source software, it is just as good.
- My staff need retraining / we're used to Windows or Mac OS:
Anecdotally, many people dislike programs that differ in their layout or user-interface to what they are already familiar with1, even if the new program is better and more intuitive. This is therefore a short-lived problem. Even still, most open-source software looks like or can be customised to look like the proprietary equivalent. For example, Xubuntu configured with the “Redmond” theme is almost indistinguishable from Windows XP except for the absence of the Windows logo, and LibreOffice looks very similar to the MS Office 2003 edition. There are some open-source programs aimed at highly skilled users which are very difficult to use. Open source consultancy companies can help you select the most user-friendly options and even customise your programs to suit.
- It could be full of bugs:
This is simply false. Open-source software typically has fewer bugs than proprietary software because it is built and reviewed by a larger community of people rather than a small corporate team, resulting in more bugs being identified and fixed. Open source innately has a feedback loop where developers and users can report problems and features, and in response the community provide patches and upgrades more frequently than proprietary providers can. For instance, Windows has a historical development cycle of 31 months versus Linux's faster 3 months2.
- If the code is open, the security holes are easy to find, so it will be less secure:
Again this is a fallacy. The open nature means that security holes are usually spotted and patched by the open-source communities before they can be exploited. In the case of Linux, strict user privileges are a fundamental principle of the system preventing unauthorised changes from being made. Consequently Linux viruses / trojans / exploits are almost unheard of, whereas Windows has hundreds of thousands, and Mac OS has thousands.
- Open-source software doesn't exist for the things we need to do:
This all depends on what tasks your business undertakes. There are good, stable, mature, user-friendly open-source programs for word processing, spreadsheets, accounting, slideshows, databases, desktop publishing, audio editing, video editing, graphic design, team collaboration, programming, email and communications, and human resources. Most of these are able to open, edit and save the same file formats as the proprietary software can, so for the majority of businesses, open source is fine. In addition, many very niche programs have been created, especially in the science and technology sectors. However, some applications are still yet to have an open counterparts created, a typical example being some of the bespoke software created for companies by big IT vendors over the last decade which only work with Internet Explorer 6.
Situations which suit proprietary software:
- Cash-rich organisations
- Companies with good software asset management in place
- Where saving time is more important than stability and security
- Where skilled IT support staff are difficult to recruit
- Where obscure hardware is being used which requires manufacturer's drivers
- When a big brand label (e.g. “Powered by [Microsoft / IBM / Apple]”) is required
Situations which suit open-source software:
- Cash-strapped organisations
- Absence of software asset management systems, or for companies that do not want to risk expired licence fines
- Where stability and security is more important than time saved
- Where commoner off-the-shelf hardware is being used
- Where highly customised software configurations are required
- Where file compatibility is required with other companies
- On servers
Can we help you?
Open-source works better and saves you money if carefully selected and configured.
Onley Group is proud to run entirely on open-source and self-built software. We'd like you to see the same benefits for yourself. We know where open-source is worth deploying, and where it's not quite ready yet. We are familiar with thousands of open source communities working on thousands of different open-source products and have strong working relationships with many of these. We can look at your company's IT requirements and replace most (and in many cases, all) of your software with equally performing open-source products. We can help you select your IT hardware and help design your company computer network to make the most of what is available. We can configure desktops, laptops and servers with all the appropriate software for your circumstances, providing you with something that feels like it works out-of-the-box, yet precisely in the way you want it to. We can hold training workshops for your staff to get them used to the minor differences encountered with your new open-source system. We can then provide 24/7 support for your open-source setup, ensuring you get the same quality of service and peace of mind as with proprietary setups.
With Onley Group, you can replace recurrent expensive annual licence fees with a cheaper one-off consultancy fee (and pay-as-you-go support available any time you need it). Most of our clients are able to slash thousands from their IT bills, yet end up with a better tailored, more stable, fully supported IT system.
To get started, tell us your situation and what you're looking for from your IT. With all Onley Group projects, the initial consultation is free.
Open-source Linux is so customisable, it can even be made to mimic Windows should you wish! This is a real screenshot of Ubuntu Linux with the Gnome desktop environment themed to look like Microsoft Windows 7.