Open Source Software – A Closer Look

Today most businesses do not have to worry about what vendor to purchase their hardware from since it’s all pretty much universal. Instead, they have to worry about which software they’ll use to implement the business on that hardware. There are numerous choices, from pre-packaged off-the-shelf solutions, in-house designed and developed solutions, custom contracted designs, etc. Then there’s open source – a relative newcomer to most businesses, but in particular, one that is developing in acceptance at companies around the world.

So what exactly is open source? Generally speaking, it is software that is provided under an open license – you get the source code and then you’re free to do with it what you wish. You can run it as-is, customize it or use it as an integral part of another package. Businesses have warmed up to open source computing in recent years since it allows them to become more agile in choosing solutions and software that fit their business needs. They are no longer locked into one particular vendor, or locked out of software altogether, because the price tag is too high. It allows them to put a large part of their in-house programming and IT talent to work designing the specific software that holds the business rules for the business instead of redesigning common applications – like accounting packages, web servers, etc.

There’s Always More About Open Source Software…

Of course, as the expression goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Free comes with drawbacks – the one of the major drawbacks for any business looking to go the open source route, is the subject of support for the system they’re running. Just imagine a business using an open source accounting package and it fails – without support the level of time and potential lost revenue the business would suffer could be enormous. It is because of this that many companies, when looking at the open source route, do so not with the free price tag in mind, but instead they think about value-added support services offered by third-party companies.

Really!

While the software may be free, many companies pay for these support contracts to ensure that when things go wrong there is someone on the other side of the phone to assist them. A number of vendors have turned to this model, taking open source software such as the Linux OS, and packaging it with support services and offering that to customers. In fact, this trend of bundling open source software with support and implementation services has become so popular, that many commercial vendors that may already provide us with products such as HP servers, software, and Sun servers, have started looking at offering similar programs or revamping their product lines to take advantage of open source developments.

Other Important Open Source Software Considerations

Open source software is generally free. So is the virtual world of support through the community forums regarding software. Live assist such as forums and chat often comes with nearly every Linux software package. There are options to obtain added support with open source software. However, it is always going to be much less expensive than investing on the essential commercial software alternative. With open source software, you’ll get superior software at a reduced price than commercial software, in addition to you are not being locked into restrictive software which will continually need improvements and customer back up.

It is a fairly easy decision to go with the possibility that will better go well with your personal as well as business wants by using all of the benefits of open source software over the big brand commercial software. If you ever think it isn’t up to your mark, try some other program. It is possible that you may never need to handle commercial software again. There are lots of options that can answer your needs with open source software.

So is open source right for your business? That all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Nothing is ever a perfect fit for every business. Each business must decide what it wishes to spend its limited resources on. However, for most companies, the road to open source computing is looking bright and widening by the day. Proprietary, closed software packages may one day be something we only talk about in the IT history books.

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