When you’re at the helm of a small business, your first priority is to keep the enterprise above-board. The second most important thing is the continuing process of figuring out how to work smarter, not harder. Working hard is well and good, but the more effort you’re putting into the down and dirty operational logistics, the less time and energy you have at the ready for innovative solutions and the series of breakthroughs that will bring your enterprise to the next level - it’s simple math and proper business.

The natural next step is to apply this logic to the actual tools you use everyday (not leaving out some consideration for what’s around the bend! You’re not planning just for this quarter, after all).

So why should you consider alternatives to the Microsoft’s suite of business tools?

Couple reasons for your thoughts:


Every business has a degree of organic growth to their systems, few of which are as much planned as a response to the natural challenges faced along the way from their alpha days. This often means that every enterprise is going to have its own unique compilation of tools that may well become indispensable before you realize it. So what do you do when you’re in a tight quarter and Microsoft decides it’s time to make its most recent set of ‘upgrades’ more than just an annoyingly consistent suggestion and makes it mandatory? And what do you do if all of a sudden you discover that these upgrades render your business-critical systems suddenly incompatible? Panic, usually.

Which brings us to:


If your business-critical software you depend on every day suddenly isn’t compatible with your upgraded operating systems, you’re screwed. In this scenario you have no options but to bring everything else in-line with your backbone systems.

Imagine the fairly common example, in which several unfortunate businesses have run face-first into with their suite of accounting software. Say company X has been using Quickbooks circa 2010 (or some other popular alternative like Peachtree) and have encountered our scenario. How much would we like to be in their position?


Odds are you’ve looked into the possibility of a business upgrade to Microsoft Office 2015, and, like many other small business owners, reeled away in horror at the price tag. And god help your poor, flailing budget if you need to run it on more than one desktop.

This scenario, while a bit specific, shouldn’t really be that much of a stretch to wrap to your own budgetary considerations around. Especially for those of you who were doing business back in 2011. You may even have been using Microsoft Windows Small Business Server, as it was immensely popular with small businesses of up to 75 employees, and came with a host of useful tools. As such, a great many small businesses came to depend on the platform. Then in 2012, Microsoft announced SBS was being ‘rebranded’ into Windows Server Essentials. This was generally regarded as a miserable move, as it cut critical systems and operational tools (namely Exchange and Sharepoint) and, among other issues, necessitated a hefty price tag to get them back.

One of the only things that can and will get people to try something new is being forced into an alternative they don’t like and wouldn’t choose.

Fortunately, there are a veritable host of extremely well-developed, open source alternatives specifically designed for small business needs.

Need a viable and robust server alternative? A couple of the most popular Linux options out there today are Zentyal SMB Edition and Univention Corporate Server.

Need a high-quality Exchange alt? You can choose from Sogo, Scalix, or Zarafa (Zarafa being a particularly popular choice, as it’s functionally and aesthetically very close to Exchange).

If you’re looking to build some of those all-important spreadsheets, look no further than Abiword or Gnumeric.

Google docs is a personal favorite as a replacement for traditional Word documents, offering incredible functionality and a much smoother user experience - Gdocs is especially adept for collaborative projects, and works perfectly well in off-line environments.

But if what you need is a full suite of tools in one package, and aren’t thrilled at the prospect of Microsoft’s expensive Office, then Panther has you covered. We run Libre Office on our MPC systems–which is, of course, fully compatible with most modern computers as well–which offers a full house of vital applications: a writing program, spreadsheets, drawing, presentations, database management, and more. Libre Office is so popular because it goes the whole nine yards and then some.

So while you’re making your business plans and working on some Microsoft alternatives for your business, consider some of these ideas to cutting costs and moving forward into an open source arena of better solutions!