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Business

Open Source Collaboration: The Right Solution in a Tight Economy?

The end of the first quarter of 2010 is approaching and still the economy is not showing any great signs of improvement.  So, as we all continue to wear our belts tight, white-knuckle our pennies, and make efforts to cut (make that a buzz, please) costs, we must consider alternatives to the new, "must-have," and fairly expensive technologies that have entered the business world.
Written by Dave Greenfield, Contributor

The end of the first quarter of 2010 is approaching and still the economy is not showing any great signs of improvement.  So, as we all continue to wear our belts tight, white-knuckle our pennies, and make efforts to cut (make that a buzz, please) costs, we must consider alternatives to the new, "must-have," and fairly expensive technologies that have entered the business world.  In times like this, one must wonder about open source collaboration tools.

There are several open source collaboration softwares available on the wonderful World Wide Web.  Three of the most talked about versions are Alfresco, Spicebird, and Mindtouch.  The tools provide some or all of the following: RSS feeds, chat capabilities, email, calendar, and wikis.  While this is an impressive list of features and the reviews of these services tend to be on the positive side, there are a couple of concerns to be addressed.

First, unlike many open source software products, these collaboration tools are not always free.  Spicebird has a free beta version available now, but it is not clear what the cost will be once the trial is completed, and the Alfresco and Mindtouch options for enterprise have fees attached.  Still, the fees are reported to be significantly less- claimed to be as little as ten percent of the costs associated with traditional collaboration software (though quotes must be requested).  However, one also has to wonder about the levels of security with these products.  While there may not be as many hacker attempts on these servers as there would be with the larger, more well-known collaboration clouds (i.e. Google Wave or Amazon EC2), one still has to wonder how well equipped they are to handle your company's most intimate information.  Furthermore, if the company does suffer a blow to security, fails financially, or is- for some other unforeseen reason- unable to remain in operation, how will that affect your company?

So, like investing, one must weigh risk versus monetary reward.  Though these- and other- open source software providers can offer many of the same services as the higher priced options, you will likely have to pay something and must make an educated estimate of the level of risk associated with use.

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