The term “Open Source” means something you can modify and share because its core code and design is publicly accessible.
Though the term “Open Source” originated from within the software development world to designate a specific approach to creating computer programs or apps, today open source’s definition is much broader. It has evolved into a robust philosophical way of approaching life. We now have Open Source projects, products, hardware, initiatives, and community-oriented development all based on the principle of open exchange and transparency.
Open Source software is software with source code that could be inspected, modified and enhanced by you without the fear of legal violation.
Transforming Open Source technology into business advantage is now a way for any business to stay ahead of the wave of change and maximize profits on investment. With the many business and government organizations that now use open source software such as Linux, it’s becoming increasingly clear that price is not the only advantage such software holds. If it were so, companies that adopted it during the Great Recession would have by now switched back to the expensive proprietary technology as soon as conditions began to ease and that’s clearly not the case.
Free and open source software (FOSS) confers numerous other compelling advantages for businesses, some of them even more valuable than the software’s low price. Need a few examples? Here are 13 reasons.
Proprietary software carries significant upfront costs– between the purchase price or monthly subscription price of the software itself, the exorbitant cost of mandatory virus and malware protection, support charges, ongoing upgrade expenses, and the costs associated with being locked into usage contract, proprietary software takes more out of your business than you probably even realize. And for what? You can get better quality at a fraction of the price. A move to Open Source could help transform your IT from a cost center to a source of revenue generation.
Which is likely to be better: a software package created by a handful of developers or a software package created by thousands of developers? Just as there are countless developers and users working to improve the security of open source software, there are just as many innovating new features and enhancements to those products.
In general, open source software gets closest to what users want because those users can have a hand in making it. It’s not a matter of the vendor giving users what it thinks they want–users and developers make what they want and they make it well. Actually, there are studies that have shown that technical superiority is typically the primary reason enterprises choose open source software.
There exists a law known as “Linus’ Law,” named for Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux. According to that maxim, “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” What that means is that the more people who can see and test a set of code, the more likely any flaws will be caught and fixed quickly. It’s essentially the polar opposite of the “security through obscurity” argument used so often to justify the use of expensive proprietary software and hardware.
Proprietary products are closed from public view so no one outside the companies that own them has the faintest clue how many bugs they contain. And there’s no way the limited set of developers and testers within those companies can test their products as well as the worldwide community constantly scrutinizing FOSS can.
Bugs in open source software also tend to get fixed immediately, as in the case of the Linux kernel exploit uncovered some years ago.
In the proprietary world? Not so much. Microsoft, for example, typically takes weeks if not months to patch vulnerabilities such as the recently discovered Internet Explorer zero-day flaw. Good luck to all the businesses using it in the meantime!
Proprietary software means vendor lock-in. If that software is mission-critical to your business, your business will be tied to that vendor more tightly than you might find comfortable. Should the vendor go out of business or discontinue the product, you could face some serious problems. Since open source software is developed by members of the open source community, you’re not dependent on the fortunes or decisions of one vendor. That should put your mind at ease.
5. Support Options
Open source software is generally free, and so is a world of support through the vibrant communities surrounding each piece of software. Almost every Linux distribution, for instance, has an online community with excellent documentation, forums, mailing lists, forges, wikis, newsgroups and even live support chat.
For businesses that want extra assurance, there are now paid support options on most open source packages at prices that still fall far below what most proprietary vendors will charge. Providers of commercial support for open source software tend to be more responsive too, since support is where their revenue is focused.
Open source software is better at adhering to open standards than proprietary software. If you value interoperability with other businesses, computers and users and don’t want to be limited by proprietary data formats, open source software is definitely the way to go.
Are you concerned about protecting the privacy of your data? Since open source software is developed by the global community it is not corporate or country-centric and it does not send back information to the proverbial mother ship. Since you have access to the source code, you can customize it to serve your purpose without the fear of it compromising your business secrets by sending information back to the manufacturing company via back door. The term #Vault7 comes to mind.
8. Try Before You Buy
If you’re considering using open source software, it will typically cost you nothing to try it out first. This is partly due to the software’s free price, and partly due to the existence of LiveCDs and Live USBs for many Linux distributions, for example. No commitment is required until you’re sure.
When your business uses proprietary software such as Microsoft Windows and Office, you are on a treadmill that requires you to keep upgrading both software and hardware ad infinitum. Open source software, on the other hand, is typically much less resource-intensive, meaning that you can run it well even on older hardware. It’s up to you, not some vendor, to decide when it’s time to upgrade.
Business users can take a piece of open source software and tweak it to suit their needs. Since the code is open, it’s simply a matter of modifying it to add the additional functionality they want. Don’t try that with proprietary software! This could also be of great advantage to third world countries who truly wants to reduce the technological gap they have with first world countries.
When businesses turn to open source software, they free themselves from the severe vendor lock-in that can afflict users of proprietary packages. Customers of such vendors are at the mercy of the vendor’s vision, requirements, dictates, prices, priorities, and timetable, and that limits what they can do with the products they’re paying for.
With FOSS, on the other hand, users are in control to make their own decisions and to do what they want with the software without any legal entrapment. They also have a worldwide community of developers and users at their disposal for help.
Unhindered access to the source code means complete transparency without any hidden core code or functionality, which all proprietary software has. Most proprietary software performs functions in their core that are not made known to the user. This could be usage data collection, system information collection, or other specific information collection without your permission. This practice among most major proprietary software also tends to lead to bloated software applications, costing you more in resources.
With proprietary software, you have nothing but the vendor’s claims telling you that they’re keeping the software secure and adhering to standards, for example. It’s basically a leap of faith. The visibility of the code behind open source software, however, means you can see for yourself what is going on under the hood of the software, which promotes confidence.
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