- Privacy and security. Data is hosted on a platform that is not controlled by the business, which has no insight into the platform’s security or privacy.
- Consistency. SaaS businesses are often bought and sunsetted. They frequently pivot in a direction that is not beneficial to users.
- Portability. A business should be free to take its data where it pleases, but it is not in the interest of SaaS vendors to make that easy.
Businesses understand the pitfalls of depending on third-party services for content management and eCommerce. They embrace open source software that can be hosted on a server under the business’s control, such as WordPress and Magento.
There are also free open source alternatives to many core cloud business applications. Small businesses can use them to build a safe and secure private cloud. All they need is a Virtual Private Server or Dedicated Server, and the software we are about to discuss.
Nextcloud is an open source suite of file sharing, collaboration, and groupware tools. You can think of it as a replacement for DropBox and some of the tools included in Google’s GSuite.
Nextcloud’s file sharing and synchronization tools are designed for business, with HIPAA support, a GDPR compliance kit, auditing, and file access controls. It offers mobile applications for iOS, Android, and Windows, as well as a web interface and desktop clients.
Nextcloud also includes calendar and contact apps, an email client, and a chat system.
Nextcloud includes an email client, but not an email server. I would advise small businesses to think twice about managing their own email server: email is complex and businesses can’t afford to have something go wrong with such a vital communication tool.
That said, iRedMail makes it relatively easy to deploy a complete email solution on your own server. An email server has a lot of moving parts and iRedMail is intended to make setup and configuration as simple as possible with automatic configuration and excellent documentation.
Matomo, which was once called Piwik, is an open source alternative to tools like Google Analytics. It delivers much the same data as GA, although it lacks features that depend on integration with other parts of the Google ecosystem. Larger enterprises may miss those features, but for monitoring the performance of a small business site, Matomo is ideal.
Headline features include real time analytics, goal conversion tracking, geolocation, site speed reports, bounce rate and time-on-site metrics, and custom variables.
There is more work involved in getting self-hosted open source software up and running, but once it is, the business can be confident that it controls its data and the platform it is stored on, that it won’t be affected by startup pivots, and that the software it depends on will be available for the foreseeable future.