Small Businesses can Save Money with Open Source Software

Small Businesses can Save Money with Open Source Software

A GIS degree from American Sentinel University can help you on your path to starting your own geospatial business. At least that’s what the owner of a successful GIS technology firm says.

Lee Mitchell, owner of G.A.I.A. Professionals, says American Sentinel University teaches what many universities neglect.

“At American Sentinel, you get exposure to several different types of GIS software: free ones and the robust ones, so you can understand the range that’s available and help you pick what’s really appropriate for the project that you come across,” Mitchell says.

If you are interested in pursuing your own GIS business, tune into Mitchell’s Webinar “Starting a Geospatial Business on Tues., Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. EST.”

Mitchell says American Sentinel University is perfect for the independent-minded entrepreneur hopeful, because the online school teaches the most widely used Esri software, as well as synergy GIS software.

“American Sentinel uses open-source software and free GIS tools that are absolutely necessary in running a small GIS business,” Mitchell says. “I’ve found that you can leverage much of the software taught here with clients.”

Furthermore, using the available free software can save millions in server and software costs, she says.

“Free software can make a world of difference in setting up your own company,” Mitchell says.


Popular free GIS tools include:

  • ArcGIS Explorer Online is a browser-based tool that relies on the Microsoft ® Silverlight plug-in. It allows you to make and save online maps, and build and share presentations.
  • ArcGIS Explorer Desktop, a software that can be downloaded and installed on computers running Windows ® (XP and later). It allows the display of a vast array of geographic data, from online sources such as ArcGIS Online or from local hard drives. ArcGIS Explorer Desktop can display content in either 2-D or 3-D and supports building rich geographic presentations. This is a great free tool for users seeking a balance between the ease of web-based mapping and the power of full desktop GIS.
  • AutoREALM is a free GNU mapping software that can design maps of castles, cities, dungeons and more. AutoREALM is generally used by role-playing gamers who enjoy doing their own maps, but it could be a used make fun maps and to get in map-making practice.
  • Quantum GIS – QGIS is an open source GIS that runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OS X, and Windows.
  • MapWindow GIS – Free, open source GIS desktop application and programming component.
  • ILWIS – ILWIS (Integrated Land and Water Information System) integrates image, vector and thematic data.
  • JUMP GIS / OpenJUMP – (Open) Java Unified Mapping Platform.

Mitchell adds that when you are running your own business, you often don’t have the resources of an accounting staff, secretary and other support staff. Every single task is often left up to you.

She recommends using free finance tools like, free database tools like DbVisulizer and free document sharing tools like She says American Sentinel addresses all of these free software opportunities in its curriculum, which is why it’s an ideal school for a future GIS entrepreneur.

For example, American Sentinel spends a lot of time discussing cloud technology, which Mitchell says has tremendously benefited her company. To learn more about the cloud, read the August 2011 blog post “GIS Finds its Way to the Cloud.”

I would not have been able to host Web Maps if I had to start out and buy Web servers and GIS servers. I wouldn’t have had the money. But with Cloud services, you only pay for what you use,” Mitchell says.

As with any business, a GIS technology firm can often come down to how you manage your money.