Five programs you can afford in a financial meltdown

The choice is clear: switch to open-source software

3) Quicken: GnuCash. Chances are you've heard of the other programs I've mentioned, but GnuCash 2.2.7 may be new to you. It shouldn't be. It's an outstanding money management program. And, if there's anything we need right now, it's some good money management.

GnuCash has all the important features of Quicken and some of those of QuickBooks, Intuit's small business accounting program. Beside the basics of managing cash flow and checking accounts, it can also handle invoicing, accounts receivable and accounts payable. The program also works with OFX DirectConnect and HBCI (Home Banking Computer Interface) so you can use it online with the same banks, credit card companies, and so on that you use Quicken with today. Finally, it lets you import data from Quicken and Microsoft Money, so you won't need to rebuild your financial data.

Have I mentioned the price yet? That's right: zilch. Quicken Starter Edition 2009? It will cost you about US$30.

4) SharePoint: Alfresco. Microsoft SharePoint Server, to give it its due, does a fine job of organizing users' information so that you can easily get to it from a Web-based interface. There are just two things. One, it's proprietary, and, two; there's nothing SharePoint can do that Alfresco can't do. I mean that quite literally. When Microsoft was forced by the European Union to cough up its proprietary network protocols, it had to open up the SharePoint Protocol. So Alfresco starting adding support for the SharePoint Protocol so soon any application that can use SharePoint can also use Alfresco.

And, of course, you can always get directly to your information from any Web browser. I do hope though that you'll use Firefox or Chrome.

If you thought the cost savings with GnuCash over Quicken was small change, here's something that will get your CFO's attention. SharePoint requires you not only to buy the server, but also SQL Server and Windows Server 2003 or 2008, CALs (Client Access Licenses), and a hodgepodge of other odds and ends of Microsoft server software. My back-of-envelope calculations give me a cost, for five ordinary user CALs, getting everything on the cheap, and no list prices here, for about five grand. Alfresco? Do it yourself and it won't cost you a dime.

5) Windows: Linux. I know some of you think that you're not paying Microsoft because "the operating system comes free on my computer!" No, it doesn't. But, I'm not going to get into that discussion now.

What I will point out though is that no one in their right mind runs Windows without security software. That means people buy, at a minimum, an anti-virus program. If you go for the whole she-bang of anti-virus, firewall, anti-spam, etc. etc., Norton Internet Security 2009 will sock your wallet for US$50. Linux doesn't need a lot of that junk and what it does need, like a firewall, comes bundled in it.

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Tags businessopen sourcesoftwarecostspropritary

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