When we’re talking “small,” we’re thinking about lowering costs as much as possible. Luckily, Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is a great option. These crowd-sourced tools are peer-created and tested by users just like you, to do what you want and get out of your way.
The same Apache as in the world’s most popular web server, Apache OFBiz is a full-featured enterprise suite that handles:
- enterprise resource planning (ERP)
- customer relationship management (CRM)
- resource planning
- asset management
- supply chains
- pricing and promotion
It has extensive documentation including its own YouTube channel.
SugarCRM is an award-winning web-based customer relationship management tool. It’s used by major corporations including Coca-Cola, Men’s Wearhouse, and IBM. The community edition is the free version, which runs as an installed FOSS application, but there is also a licensed web and cloud version with a modest fee.
Used by enterprise clients like Hyundai, Toyota, Jack in the Box (restaurant chain), and Jamba Juice, Odoo is a one-stop e-commerce suite that supports:
- point of sale (POS)
- human resources
It also comes in a paid cloud-based version or an enterprise-level install for a paid subscription.
ClearOS bills itself as a “next-generation business server.” Its user base includes Samsung, Toyota, Hilton Hotels, and Xerox. The single-package web interface includes enterprise-level networking for virtual private networks (VPN), servers, and security tools. Versions range from a free download for basic use to enterprise-level support licenses starting at $2K.
Worth mentioning because it’s practically a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Office. LibreOffice is full-featured, cross-platform, and unlimited. It will take you very far before you outgrow it.
For handling small details, there’s a range of popular options in several categories. All of these are FOSS applications that can be installed to run for unlimited use:
Money management and invoicing:
- Wave Accounting
- Simple Invoices
- Zen Cart
Online content management systems (CMS):
There are some areas where the FOSS world is still lacking. In those cases, proprietary licensed software is your only option. The topmost popular software in this category:
- QuickBooks – One-stop accounting.
- TurboTax – Tax preparation.
- Microsoft Office – there are some proprietary file formats and edge features that Microsoft just handles better than LibreOffice.
What software you pick matters more if you’re the sole proprietor. When you start expanding your staff, your best picks might revolve around who you hire and what they’re trained in. GNUCash won’t be much use to you after you hire an accountant who only knows QuickBooks. At the least, it’s best to have a few options open so you stay flexible.