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Healthscreen has seen benefits from its open source strategy. For example, using SugarCRM, an open source CRM product, to track sales to doctor clients, forecast future sales and manage operational and sales workflows, has helped the company grow significantly in recent years. The reporting module and dashboard included with SugarCRM give Healthscreen critical business metrics that would be difficult to collect manually.
How can the company be sure that open source solutions deliver the same level of reliability it would get with commercial offerings? By piloting the software before putting it into production--the same as with commercial software, Ross says. Both open source and commercial software come with risks, he says.
"In the commercial world you risk the supplier going bankrupt or discontinuing the product," Ross says. "In the open source world you risk the community disappearing or losing interest."
Smaller open source projects tend to be more like commercial products in that there is really only one group that supports the software, he says. Larger projects are better than commercial offerings, "since you have multiple groups/entities that can provide support," Ross says.
Not all companies are implementing open source as broadly, but are seeing benefits in specific areas. Hersha Hospitality, Harrisburg, Pa., a real estate investment group that invests in hotels in business districts and suburban office markets mainly in the Northeastern U.S., several years ago replaced its aging time-division multiplexing (TDM) phone system with an open source voice over IP (VoIP) system called Asterisk from Digium Inc.
The older system provided limited calling capabilities, was running out of capacity and couldn't support Hersha's growing business, according to Jason Shane, director of IT. Shane says Hersha implemented VoIP because of the expected cost savings and added calling functions such as in-house teleconferencing. To save even more, the company elected to build the VoIP system internally using Digium's open source software, rather than buying a commercial VoIP system.
Hersha uses the Asterisk-based system as its voice telecom backbone, with VoIP servers handling direct-dial calling between various sites and providing voicemail, conferencing and other functions. "We found that the phone system was and continues to be a great win," Shane says.
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