The Hidden High Cost of Free ERP Systems

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Do a quick online search for “free ERP”, and you will find pages of sites claiming to offer free ERP systems.  Some of them are actually just free trials, while others are legitimately free of any initial cost.  Some are open source with freely modifiable code and others are not.

 The immediate benefit of a truly free ERP system is that you do not have to pay any license or subscription fees when you first download it.  If it is also open source, you get the benefit of being able to customize it to your own specifications.  For small businesses, this is very attractive as the initial cost of many ERP systems may be more than they have in their budget.

 The most obvious disadvantage to this is that you are on your own from beginning to end.  From the moment you download the software, through the implementation process, and to the final training and launch stages, you must do it all by yourself.  You will not have technical support of any sort, so you will need to have an IT staff that is competent enough to manage the software.  They will also have to implement it, troubleshoot any problems, and possibly even hack it when you need customizations.

 What began as a free ERP solution may actually turn into an expensive and time consuming ordeal, one that requires hours of IT labor to keep it running.  Furthermore, if something is terribly wrong, such as a bug in the software, you must just pray that the developers will fix it.  They have no financial or legal obligation to do anything for you, since the software undoubtedly came with no warranty.

 Before you decide to settle on an ERP system that may or may not actually be what you really want, you should consider some of the small business options that are available, such as Microsoft Dynamics GP.  You can save more than you may think, especially when you consider the time and money you will save simply by having the support and maintenance Microsoft offers.

 If you already have some open source server solutions in place, you can still take advantage of Microsoft’s services through virtualization.  For example, Microsoft Hyper-V now supports CentOS Linux server virtualization.  You can have everything you need without having to purchase new hardware. You should also consider a Microsoft Partner hosted solution, where Microsoft Dynamics GP is run on a trusted Microsoft Partner’s server, leaving your IT department (or lack thereof) with hands-free maintenance.

 Another disadvantage of free ERP solutions is that they may or may not work well with the software you already have.  While nearly all businesses use Microsoft Office, for example, they may think it is beneficial to cut corners with ERP spending, but when it comes time to actually integrate the two (for reporting, for example), they may find it to be a difficult task requiring workarounds and hacks.

 Free ERP solutions may sound attractive, but ultimately you may end up paying more and spending far more time than you ever intended.  Rather than simply looking at the initial startup costs, consider the total cost of ownership from implementation to maintenance.  You can talk to a Microsoft Partner today to get started.

 By ERP Software Blog Editors, Find a Local Microsoft Dynamics ERP Partner


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