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The open source alternative

Herald ZimbabweHerald Zimbabwe

In a recent conversation with an uncle of mine, he asked me to find him a license key for Microsoft Office. I replied “why do you need that when you can use a free open source alternative?” His answer was simply “It is what I know”. This response struck me as fascinating because it was not the first time I had heard that exact statement with regards to computers and software. In this day and age people still opt to use illegal or unlicensed copies of software instead of using free open source solutions because that is what they learnt in school or were taught at work. It seems a lot of people especially in developing countries would still opt to use illegal copies of Windows & Office than use the free and I must add impressive alternatives such as Ubuntu and Open Office. 

Open source vs. paid solutions

Gone are the days of free equates to substandard. Due to the vast penetration of the internet across the globe, many online communities have spawned to help each other develop great applications. One no longer has to reside in the same geographic location as their team or business partner to collaborate and build world class applications at an international standard. Some good examples of this can be found on Sourceforge where many open source applications are readily available with their source code which with the technical expertise and some programming skills can be customised to suite your needs. 

Another major issue when comparing paid software solutions to their open source counterparts is cost. Open source alternatives are usually available completely free and a good example of this is on the operating system and small business software front. Currently if you wanted to purchase Windows 8 from Microsoft it will cost you approximately $250 USD. If you opted for one of its open source alternatives such as Ubuntu or others  it be will cost you time and a little bandwidth but no purchase cost. This is the same with Microsoft Office 2013  It will set you back approximately $450 USD compared to its open source counterpart Open Office which has a purchase price of $0 USD.

Online vs. offline solutions

With the internet becoming faster and more stable, this has brought about the rise of cloud computing…. and more free stuff! Quite a few free solutions such as DropboxGoogle drive,  EvernoteGoogle Keep and Skydrive have gained popularity internationally. These solutions allow you to save your information online and access it from anywhere. On free accounts there are storage limitations which the average user would rarely exceed, however power or more resource hungry users most certainly will find these free storage data limitations insufficient. When these limits are exceeded a cost then applies per MB or GB used over the limit. Cloud computing tools such as DropboxGoogle drive,  EvernoteGoogle Keep and Skydrive  allow users to collaborate on projects and share changes instantly as well as work on the same documents at the same time saving your business time and money in the process.


If you haven’t considered open source and free online alternatives for your business I strongly suggest you give them a try. I’m almost certain you will be impressed by the standard of the products out there as well as the fact that they won’t cost you a cent to purchase plus you will still benefit from free product updates from the communities that maintain and support them. Some laptop manufacturers as well as mobile device manufactures such as Samsung & Lenovo ship their deviceswith open source alternatives such as Android and Ubuntu and if device manufactures can entrust millions of their devices to run on open source technologies surely you can give them a try and save yourself money as well as enjoying the experience of learning something new.