Is Open-Source Software the Best Option for Your Business?

02 Jul 2015
| Last update: 18 Feb 2016

Open-source software (OSS) is software that can be improved, rewritten, have new features added, have bugs fixed or be edited in any other way from outside sources other than the software vendor. Outside developers can rewrite source codes and submit to the vendor to be included in future distribution and updates of the software.

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This model showed up in the 1990s  and resulted in saving consumers about $60 billion per year. Fast forward to this year and you will discover that the use of this collaborative programming model isn’t going to phase out. IBM is currently investing in an open-source project for real-time data analysis called Apache Spark.

For this company, IBM, open-source is highly advantageous. For other companies, OSS may not be a wise option.

Genuine Intentions

The original intentions of creating open-source software were pure. There really are developers out there, even today, who create programs to sincerely help other people. Most of these people, like IBM, offer it for free as a way to build trust with consumers.

Most notably, in the Linux world, developers offer free software under Open-Source or GNU licenses for free. The Apache Server program is an example of this. Another example is Open Office which actually replaces MS Office and is free, including a spreadsheet and word processing program. You can even obtain a fully functioning CRM system for free with FreeCRM.com

These programs are all lifesavers for new startups. So, in this case, OSS is definitely an advantage.

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Not so Genuine Intentions

With good, also comes the not so good. Some of these free programs will give you access to free downloads and, shortly after, begin inserting annoying banner and text ads while you’re trying to use the program. Usually this is done through Trojan backdoors that sneak into your computer without you even knowing it.

The best case scenario for these is that you have to tolerate annoying ads. The worst, however, is that you could possibly end up downloading something with the free software that steals your passwords, your financial information or even worse.

So how do you know if using open-source software is beneficial for your business?

Obviously, one way is to look at the source and determine what their true intentions are. The bottom line is that, ultimately, you need to be aware of the risks and compare them with the advantages:

Advantages

  • Money:  OSS is cost-efficient because there’s rarely a license fee.
  • Improvements:  Updates are in real-time whereas commercial updates from individual vendors could take months or even a year to receive.
  • Variety:  There’s thousands of options you can choose from in every niche you can imagine.
  • Do It Yourself:  If you or an employee are familiar with writing code, you can go in and adjust the source code according to your company’s needs.

Risks

Time versus Cost:  IT professionals will still need to be employed to monitor the software.

Learning Curve:  Even though many OSS programs are similar to licensed commercial ones, there’s still enough differences that you’ll have to spend time getting to know the program.

Confusion:  When you’re used to saving, copying, pasting etc. one way in one program and you switch to a similar OSS program, it may require a different method. Open Office and MS Word are a prime example. If you click the “save” button in Open Office, it’ll default to an open-source file and save it instead. This can be very confusing and cause many critical mistakes at first.

Support:  There is very little immediate support for open-source software programs because there isn’t usually a central hub that can be contacted 24 hours a day. This means you figure it out internally or hope that someone will respond in a timely manner in one of the forums you happen to find.

Finding the Right Solution for Your Business

The best way to determine whether open-source software is a good choice for your business is by making an old fashioned list of pros and cons. Lay them out, side by side. Then, go to Google and research the program you’re considering. You’ll find out both the good and the bad points of each program you’re considering. From here, you can make an informed decision for you business.

Getting accurate information regarding the latest trends in OSS, Internet marketing and IT information is a great asset for your business. We provide all the information your business needs to succeed. Just click this link [insert link to your landing page] and you’ll be kept up-to-date with pertinent information, tips, tricks and solutions 24 hours a day.

Lynn Silva

Content Writer at Squirrly
Lynn is an expert at infusing mental skills into online business to improve sales, productivity and personal branding.

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