Free open source software dives into a blue ocean of uncontested market space

What is open source software? It is the product of a movement to provide end-users with complicated software free of charge. Even more interesting, most open source software programs have vibrant communities of developers that freely contribute to the software, adding to its value by improving stability and extending functionality.

Whether you knew it or not- you already have had extensive experience with open source software. Open source CMS projects like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal have permanently changed the appearance of the web, helping millions to make websites.

Open source means business

You may be thinking: Blogging tools? Well that is no big deal- but an open source CMS isn’t all play. Magento is making major space in the ecommerce realm, enabling quick deployment of legitimate web-based storefronts. Magento isn’t just a front-end website builder either, it has tons of features on the back-end for business administration, including sales reporting, invoices, a shopping cart, a lots more. (Ask me to create a login for you on my Magento demo site.) Non-profits are able to use open source distributions like civiCRM to manage donations, track customers, and keep in contact with stakeholders.

The wild success of other open source customer relationship management tools like vtiger and SugarCRM sends a strong message to proprietary software CRM firms. Those two programs alone may be what prompted to brandish a “No Software” crest with their logo.

Small and medium organizations are not alone moving into open source space. Heavyweight corporations are implementing open source tools, slashing IT costs and redefining how traditional software companies compete. New database and server management systems are now almost exclusively based on open source’s champion Linux. Even the most proprietary of software firms like Citrix and Oracle are releasing once vigorously protected software in accordance with demand for open source.

Even government, in all its glorious efficiency, has battled declining tax revenue by turning to open source through Open Office.

What is the driving force behind open source?

Cloud computing lends tremendous liquidity to the open source frenzy. Firms like PHP Fog may enable faster uptime, while rock solid hosting firms like MediaTemple and Rackspace make web serving easy. Demand for hosted software/services will continue to rise with the proliferation of feature-rich open source software distributions.

The practice of taking something really valuable and sharing it with others – sounds noble but impossible to sustain. Still somehow open source momentum seems unstoppable. And don’t be fooled, there is money to be made in open source. Loads of it- Just examine the synergy between Red Hat and JBoss.

Ready to get on board? You can find lots of open source software at Sourceforge.

Try your hand at a CRM implementation: Locally host SugarCRM’s community edition. Mac users can use MAMP, Windows users can use XAMPP and be running in 15 minutes.

Website Setup – Page 1 of 2

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If you are interested in building web content at your own URL (ex:, the path to website setup can be unclear. The process is even more complex for those interested in building a website that is reliable, fast, and flexible enough to work with popular open source software like WordPress, Drupal, or Magento Commerce.

While there are many different ways to get online, the following is a combination of tools that has worked great for me. It’s a system that in my opinion meets the basic needs in the VAST majority of website applications.

If you are ready to get online, and don’t want to pay a 3rd party to get going, then do it yourself. I’ll show you how.

Here are the basic steps to setting up a website:

  1. Domain Registration
  2. Setup web server
  3. Setup email
  4. Publish content (Not really a step, this is an ongoing process!)

That’s it! Let’s dive in.

Step 1- Domain Registration

Before you can setup your own website, you need  a domain name.  You can purchase that through a domain registrar. There are lots of domain registrars. Arguably, the most widely recognized registrar is Godaddy.  Once you create an account, (PS this link will give you 35% off) you can follow along.

VIDEO: Registering a domain on Godaddy

Step 2 – Setup Web Server

Once you have your website registered, you need to get started setting up the web server that will host your website.

As you know by now, there are lots of free or low cost services on the internet that allow people to build a website. However, you most are terribly disappointing.

So for speed and flexibility, setup your own server. If you do, I suggest Rackspace.  Once you create an account, you can follow this tutorial video. Accounts are free, and cloud servers are pay per hour (starting at 4 cents).

VIDEO: Setting up a LAMP server on Rackspace Cloud Sites

This process is simple, and only takes a few steps:

aptitude update
aptitude upgrade
ufw allow 80
ufw allow 22
ufw enable
shutdown -r now
curl localhost

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Website Setup – Page 2 of 2

Step 3- Email

Do NOT be that business with a [email protected] email address. It isn’t professional. Now that you have your server up and running, it’s time to manage your email. A Google Apps setup is arguably the most reliable and cost effective email setup.

DNS records connect domains to web servers and email servers. There many types of DNS records, but the most popular are A (hosting), CNAME (sub-domains), MX (email), and TXT (general information / verification).

Once you create an account, you need to verify ownership before you are ready to receive email.

VIDEO: Email configuration for Google Apps with Godaddy DNS management.

Step 4 – Content Management

Now, with your server should be running and email deliverable at your domain, it’s time to get down to building a website. As you know by now, there are lots of free or low cost services on the internet that allow people to build a website. Most cheap hosts have cheap website builders that use pre-configured but somewhat customizable content managers.

And most of these website building services are terribly disappointing.

Thanks to open source, if you have a web server, you have some better alternatives – whether you are building a blog, a business website, or even an commerce site. So find an open source CMS that suits you, and then get it loaded on your server. It will save you time and money, while giving you loads of freedom to customize that paid CMS systems don’t afford you.

VIDEO: Setting up a LAMP server on Rackspace Cloud Sites