It’s increasingly clear that price is not the only advantage to Free Open Source software. There are many other advantages that has led to its adoption by so many business and government agencies. Let’s take a look at some of them.
A software package created by a handful of developers is not going to be as well thought out and tested as a software package created by thousands of developers. Just as there are countless developers and users working to improve the quality and stability of open source software, there are just as many innovating new features and enhancements to those products. Technical superiority is typically the primary reason enterprises choose open source software.
Open source software gets closest to what users want because those users can have a hand in crafting what they need. There typically is an extensive library of routines that can be bolted seamlessly onto the framework to customize it to your needs.
Real Time Security
Bugs in open source software tend to get fixed immediately, as in the case of the Linux kernel exploit uncovered in recent memory. That is a perfect illustration of what’s known as “Linus’ Law,” named for Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, who said, “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” What that means is that the more people who can see and test the 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 products.
With Open Source, developers users can take a piece of open source software and tweak it to suit their customer’s needs. Since the code is open, it’s simply a matter of modifying it to add the functionality they need. Then, you validate that it works properly through test driven development. You can’t do that with 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. Open source software is much better at adhering to open standards than proprietary software is.
When businesses turn to open source software, they free themselves from the severe vendor lock-in that can afflict users of proprietary packages, such as having to conform to practices and procedures the software provides. You are no longer at the mercy of the vendor’s vision, requirements, dictates, prices, priorities and schedules.
With Open Source, users are in control to make their own decisions as to what they want to do with the software. They also have a worldwide community of developers and users at their disposal for help with that. Oh, and did we mention, there are no license fees!
With closed source 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 and be confident.
World Wide Support
Open source software is generally free, and so is a world wide support system through the vibrant communities surrounding each piece of software. Most every Ruby and Rails enhancement release, for example, has an online community with excellent documentation, forums, mailing lists, wikis and newsgroups.
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.
Cost and Value
Between the purchase price of the software itself, the exorbitant cost of mandatory virus protection, support charges, ongoing upgrade expenses and the costs associated with being locked in, proprietary software takes more out of your business than you probably even realize. With Open Source you can get better quality at a fraction of the price.
If you’re considering using open source software, it will typically cost you nothing to try it out first. This is partly due to there being no license fee, so there’s no financial commitment until you’re sure it’s a good fit.