At Skvare, we love using open-source software that comes with a great deal of functionality right of the box. Because open-source software is crowd-sourced, its major benefits are flexibility, security, and cost effectiveness. Unlike proprietary software, open-source software can be altered and extended by anyone, meaning if the tools doesn’t already do exactly what you want it to do, you can change it. This also allows you to leverage features that other developers have already created.
Several years ago, companies were afraid of using open-source content management systems for their website because they believed it would make their systems more vulnerable to hacking, however this is not the case. With community support, security holes are found and fixes are issued quickly. Unlike proprietary software where you are left at the mercy of the vendor to get a bug resolved, which can take months for a development team to patch the vulnerability.
Cost is one of the first benefits that draws people to open-source software. There are no licensing fees involved to use the software, however this does not mean that using it will always be 100% free. With open-source, it requires configuration, regular maintenance, and ongoing support. It's important that you have someone on staff familiar with these tools, or a contract with a development company that is familiar with the software.
Below is a list of open-source software that Skvare uses regularly.
Drupal by far is one of our favorite tools. It's considered one of the most powerful open-source content management systems (CMS) on the market. Its an extremely flexible and extensible tool to build and manage your website. It's scalable and can work for a small brochure-like website to supporting enterprise businesses. Drupal is also considered one of the more secure CMS’s which is why it's used for government websites such as whitehouse.gov to educational institutes such as the University of Minnesota.
Any organization needs a way to keep track of all of their contacts, customers, and constituents. CiviCRM is an open-source contact relationship management (CRM) system initially designed for non-profits organizations, but has also been adopted by for-profit business as well. CiviCRM can integrate directly with your Drupal website. By leveraging the Drupal module, CiviCRM Entity, you can get seamless integration with Drupal core and your favorite contrib modules. CiviCRM not only provide tools to track communication with your users and send e-mail blasts, but it can also handle membership management, donations, and event registrations (both paid and non-paid).
The internet would not exist without servers to host and deliver website content. Linux is a computer operating system and falls under the model of free and open-source development and distribution. Linux has been ported to more platforms than other operating system. Skvare’s hosting servers are powered by Linux and allow us the flexibility to build a hosting infrastructure optimized for the best performance of your site.
If you are a developer, you understand the importance of source control. Git is a free source control system that can manage changes to projects, files, and documents. GitLab is a web-based repository manager that has a user interface that enables users to access everything from one screen. Not only does our development team use GitLab on a daily basis, but our client’s hosted with Skvare have access to their own GitLab repository to empower them to develop new features without the fear of breaking their live website.
SSL certificates secure information that is passed from computer to computer on the internet, and is required if your website allows for online transactions and recommended for any companying collecting and storing personal information via their website. Security is also a top priority for Google and they even started ranking secured sites higher in search results. Let's Encrypt is a free, automated, and open certificate authority that, once configured, will provide free SSL protection for your website.
With the growth of the mobile device segment, it's a necessity to have your website render correctly on a smartphone or tablet. Bootstrap is one of the most popular responsive web design frameworks on the web. Its loaded with all sorts of components that range from icons, buttons, dropdowns, breadcrumbs, and much much more. Bootstrap gives us jump start on developing beautiful responsive websites.
The internet would be useless without a web browser to view web pages. Firefox was developed by the Mozilla Foundation and is completely free and open-source. Firefox can run on virtually any operating system - Windows, macOS, Linux, Android devices, and iOS devices. Firefox is intuitive and easy to use. It recent versions Firefox has adapted to run in multiple processes and use much less computer memory than its competitors. It's our browser of choice for its speed and privacy controls. (Not to mention we love supporting non-profit organizations!)
Since Firefox is open-source, there are no shortage of extensions available. Firebug was one of the first DevTools available. It allows you to inspect elements on a webpage, debug code, and analyze network performance. Firebug is no longer being developed and maintained and Firefox now has its own set of Developer Tools, but we felt it would be a disservice not to mention this powerful tool in this article.
All of our projects are tracked and documented in Redmine, a flexible project management web application. I personally spend the majority of my day in Redmine and we could not function without it. It allows us to track issues for multiple projects and has a flexible role based access control system allowing us to grant access to projects on a “need-to-know” basis. It has per project wikis and document/file management, as well as time tracking. While Redmine may not be the best looking project managment system out of the box, it has a wide variety of free themes available. There is also no shortage of plugins developed by the community. Want to grant your clients access to a project but restrict certain parts of the tasks from being viewed? Check out the workflow hidden fields plugin. Prefer to view tasks in a Kanban board layout? Install the Redmine Agile Plugin.
The internet has empowered employees to work virtually from anywhere. Our team stays in constant communication throughout the day in our own Internet Relay Channel (IRC). Adium is a free and open-source instant messaging application for Mac OS X. It not only supports IRC, but a wide range of IM networks such as Google Talk, AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger to name a few.
If you are considering using open-source software for your website or if you have questions about using any of the software above, please don’t hesitate to contact us.