Look around, most corporations, government agencies, and small businesses are all using Microsoft’s Windows, with Apple’s macOS a distant second. At the same time, open-source operating systems like Linux and Ubuntu have a tiny niche market share. Businesses seem to have an aversion to open source software and aren’t prepared to make their employees use them.

Conversely, most employees aren’t too keen either. However, open-source software (OSS) is widely used for e-commerce application, like the Python machine learning language. As such, businesses can benefit greatly from OSS: mainly because it’s available to download and run for nothing. Let’s have a look at some open-source options for your business and touch on some of the legalities.

Replacing Windows with Linux

If you’re thinking of migrating your entire operation to a Linux environment from Windows, then you’re thinking in the right direction. Many organizations pay a huge premium for Windows IT support and for small businesses and startups that doesn’t make good business sense. As a free replacement for Windows, you will never pay a purchase price for Linux and only pay for tech support when you need it. Linux is highly customizable allowing you to pick either light or more heavy-weight distributions designed with business-grade features. Once you weigh the costs and the system requirements, it’s not such a drastic step as many businesses and employees fear, and companies have successfully shifted and never looked back.

Chief technology officer at GymBull.com, Ethan Schmidt switched the company’s computers to Linux, specifically Ubuntu, and his staff have never been happier. Schmidt explained that since the company is a medium-sized tech company, switching from Windows and Office for overhead activities like financial tracking and basic office work, has saved them thousands of dollars by using Ubuntu. While there was some staff apprehension about using a Linux based operating system, it was nothing more than false perception and misunderstandings. After those were cleared up the transition was almost transparent.

Using OSS on Top of Closed Source OS

If you want to stick with a closed source operating system, however, you can still take advantage of a variety of open-source software tools for your business. CIO notes that open-source suites are fully compatible with Microsoft Office file formats like .doc and .xls, for Word and Excel respectively. If you need an accounting program and don’t have a big budget, open-source programs also offer small businesses alternatives to traditional propriety accounting software programs like Quickbooks and Peachtree.

Office Suites

While support usually isn’t available for free software, the fact is that very few companies using Microsoft’s Office actually require support, and chances are pretty slim that you will too. Some of the open-source business productivity tools include Apache OpenOffice, which are a full suite for Windows, macOS, and Linux; NeoOffice, a fully Java-based version of OpenOffice for macOS; and Calligra, which similarly runs on Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, and macOS.

Finance and Accounting

If paying a few hundred dollars for a comprehensive accounting suite does not fit within the budget of your small business, consider ADempiere Business Suite. It combines everything from enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and even supply chain management (SCM). Even if some features aren’t currently applicable for your business, as you scale, the software allows your business to grow without requiring you to pay for extra features. For a cloud-based solution that allows you to access it from anywhere you have access to the internet, Compiere also features CRM solutions and is a good fit for any industry. In fact, it’s used across industries in government, retail, manufacturing, and healthcare among others.

Legalities of Open Source Software

Open-source software has created enormous value throughout the software industry and has allowed businesses to make use of free tools that come very close to costly, premium software tools. But for the OSS model to continue, viable business models must be created to legally protect and reward creators of OSS. For example, the rise of cloud technology providers has drastically changed open-source models for many technology companies.

As such, organizations are creating specialized OSS licenses to address these new issues. In this sense, developing technologies continue to reshape the legal industry, which is why Special Counselobserves an increase in the demand for specialized experts who can handle everything from document management and security to eDiscovery —the process of lawfully gleaning useful info from digital/electronic sources. Especially with the next wave of technological changes like blockchain and the IoT, for example, there will be a need for more complex OSS licenses to protect the interests of software innovators.