No longer a fringe movement, open source software development is here to stay. Open source has changed the way we code as well as the code we produce. Now, it’s easier than ever to create complex solutions by reusing existing components.
Many businesses and government organizations are now using open source software, like Linux, and it is becoming clear that price is not the only advantage of open source. Free and open source software (FOSS) holds a number of compelling advantages for enterprise use.
Crowd sourcing offers the opportunity for numerous minds to collaborate on one project. Open source can be viewed as a form of crowd sourcing, as thousands of developers work on creating a software package. Consider the benefit of having all of these minds working to develop a product, rather than just a handful of developers. In general, open source software is truer to what users want because those users have had a hand in creating it. With innovative and cutting-edge features, constant enhancements to the products, and direct user input, open source is often viewed as technically superior to other software.
Because open source software is constantly in the flux of improvement, business users can tweak it to suit their own company’s needs. The code is open, so users can modify it to add the functionality they need and do away with what they don’t.
When your company uses proprietary software, you are committed to upgrading both software and hardware for the life of your contract. On the other hand, open source software is generally less resource-intensive. You can run it well, even on older hardware, so it is up to you when it is time to upgrade.
Open source software can adhere to open standards better than proprietary software. If your company needs interoperability with other businesses, computers, and users, open source won’t limit you to particular data formats.
When you choose proprietary packages, you are locked into a vendor’s vision and capabilities. Open source gives your company freedom in choosing requirements, prices, priorities, and timetables, when it comes to software. You can make your own decisions and do what you want with FOSS, and you have a worldwide community of developers to help you out.
Speaking of this community, open source software is usually free, and support for the products is as well. Most every Linux distribution has an online community with clear documentation, forums, mailing lists, forges, wikis, newsgroups, and even live support chat. If your company wants extra assurance, there are even paid support options on most open source packages with prices that are far below what most proprietary vendors charge.
Of course, cost is still a major plus for the open source camp. From the purchase price, to mandatory virus protection, to ongoing upgrade expenses, proprietary software costs can really add up. As mentioned above, most open source software is completely free, and so is the support needed to use it.