Alternative Office Applications for Small Firms and Cloud

Small accountancy firms and indivdual management accountants may have tight budgets and find it difficult to spend on software applications like Microsoft Office or individual email ids for their employees. However there are good alternatives available in the market which either free or cheap. You must read the End-user license agreements (EULA) before downloading the application to ascertain whether it is available free for individual and commercial purpose.
The top software free applications are
  1. Open Office / Star Office: They are very good alternative to MS Office since they have all the applications similar to Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Star Office has the ability to convert the document into pdf. This is now a industry standard which could be your standard for sending soft copies to your clients. Star Office 8 is available for free with google pack. The latest release is Star Office 9 which is available for $ 34.95 as opposed to MS Office Small Business Edition $ 449.95.
  2. Website / Personal Domain/ Email ids: You have to make yourselves known in the internet world. When someone asks you for your address, 4 line address will not impress them the most but one line www..... Google Apps Standard Edition is an affordable alternative. Google started with unlimited accounts initially and now they have restricted to upto 50 accounts. So you have to watch the space for the change in end user agreements. You should register your own domain, and then use google apps for email ids upto 50 for you and your employees and collaborative features like calendar, sites and chat. You may spend $10 p.a. for domain registeration. You can design your own simple website in few minutes. But if you need professional help, then you should negotiate with the web designers.
  3. Free Antivirus: The most popular free antivirus software is AVG free The free version provides an excellent protection to your PC and it is value for money. Free Norton anti virus is available on google pack. Sometimes you get McAfee free when you buy laptop or PC. My personal experience with McAfee is it slows down your computer and that could affect your work. My suggestion is to use AVG and avoid McAfee.
  4. Internet Browsers: Almost all the browsers available in the market is free and most dominant is Internet Explorer. The question is which browser is open, collaborative. and makes your task easier The answer is Firefox which is a open source application. It has most number of add-ons for a browser.
  5. Email Client: The email clients were primarily designed to download the emails on your computer and read mails offline. Google Apps offers 7 GB space for your emails. So I do not see the need for you to have an email client unless you are paying for your broadband on a hourly rate. Mozilla Thunderbird is a popular choice.
  6. Social Networking: Linkedin and Xanga are free professional networking sites that are very popular which you should extensively. Facebook is for keeping in touch with your friends. Facebook Pages is a useful application to promote. You need to check guidelines from your accounting body for website whether Facebook pages is acceptable for use for your firm.
  7. Accounting Softwares: You need to shop around to find good accounting software. It would be difficult to find any accounting software available free on the internet.
Cloud Computing - A emerging concept

According to Wikipedia,

Cloud computing is Internet ("cloud") based development and use of computer technology ("computing"). It is a style of computing in which typically real-time scalable resources are provided “as a service” over the Internet to users who need not have knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure ("in the cloud") that supports them.

It is a general concept that incorporates software as a service (SaaS), Web 2.0 and other recent, well-known technology trends, in which the common theme is reliance on the Internet for satisfying the computing needs of the users. An often-quoted example is Google Apps, which provides common business applications online that are accessed from a web browser, while the software and data are stored on Google servers.

The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet, based on how it is depicted in computer network diagrams, and is an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it conceals.

A good example would be Google Apps. "Software-as-a-service for business email, information sharing and security"

With the advances in the technology, the relationship with the Service Provider changes. Earlier the business had to manage the procurement of software and its IT department and now it has to manage relationship with its software service providers or BPOs or KPOs. Companies have to get the best services to keep its business running smoothly since the business revolves round use of technology. Services will become expensive and so do Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

The vendors that provides the best and affordable ervices to the companies are the ones who will continue in the long run.

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Santosh Puthran

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