When your company needs a software program that’s capable of handling a particular set of tasks, the natural question that arises is “Build it or buy it?” In some cases, robust software or software-as-a-service platforms are already available to provide the features your company needs, especially for functions that are largely shared among companies across a variety of drastically different industries. There are plenty of CRM platforms and accounting software suites on the market.
For more specialized applications, or for things that are industry-specific, it sometimes makes more sense to commission custom software development instead. Many software development companies have a team of developers who can create new software programs specifically for a business’s unique set of industry-specific needs.
It’s common to consider either buying or building software, but what about getting it for free? This may not sound realistic, but there’s more open source software out there than ever before. Despite being 100% free, many of these programs are maintained and updated by a dedicated volunteer community of passionate developers.
Open source software isn’t just for individuals or small businesses that can’t afford pricey software licenses. In many cases, the capabilities of open source programs could actually surpass those of paid options. Needless to say, this can bring considerable value to your business. The old saying that “you get what you pay for” doesn’t always hold, and the open source software of today is often of world-class power and quality.
What Advantages Can Open Source Software Bring?
No matter how value-conscious your company is, there can still be a hesitance to use a tool that’s totally free. There must be a catch, right? Not always. In fact, open source platforms can bring some truly important benefits to your company, and are sometimes a better choice than most of the paid alternatives available on the market.
The following are some of the biggest advantages of open source software.
Open source software is free, and it saves businesses an estimated $60 billion each year. Proprietary enterprise software can become quite costly, while open source alternatives cost almost nothing to implement.
Open source solutions are also scalable. You can start small with basic community versions, and if you need to, you can eventually upgrade to a commercially-supported solution. This makes open source software a great choice for young companies that need room to grow.
For enterprise-level companies, security is of the utmost importance. Whether it’s trade secrets or your customers’ financial information, your servers are full of sensitive data that needs to be shielded from prying eyes. Somewhat counterintuitively, free open source platforms can sometimes be more secure than paid programs.
When software is open source, its code is available for the world to see. It’s free not only in price, but in access. Anyone can view the code, which is how new features and add-ons are consistently created by developers. This may not sound secure, but in fact, the opposite can sometimes be true.
In the words of Linus Torvald, “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” Because open source code is accessible to anyone, it’s possible to essentially crowdsource the process of finding and remediating bugs and security issues.
Here’s a good example of this phenomenon: Android, a leading smartphone operating system, is partly open source. Because smart people were able to view the code behind it, security issues with the kernel code were uncovered in 2010 by the Coverity Scan Open Source Integrity Report. This kind of thing isn’t possible with proprietary systems like iOS or Windows Phone.
With open source software, there’s no marketing department or sales reps whose job is to convince you to use it. It’s free. Interestingly, this has resulted in open source software platforms being quite high quality. The users themselves can become directly involved in creating and modifying the software, and this often has the effect of giving users what they actually want.
Ultimately, it’s the sheer quality of open source software that convinces enterprises to implement it. According to a 2010 study published in PC World, Linux adoption was on the rise among for-profit companies. This wasn’t just because Linux is completely free. It was because Linux works well, often better than operating systems with a considerable price tag. After all, Linux is the OS of choice for both tech enthusiasts and IT professionals nationwide.
You can take open source software and have your own development team alter and enhance it, adding features that you need. This makes it much more flexible than paid software, which is far less modifiable and customizable. Plus, there’s a whole community of developers creating new additions and modifications that may be beneficial and useful for your business.
Open source software is generally quite reliable, largely because it’s essentially peer-reviewed. Developed and enhanced through a collaborative community effort, you’re benefitting from the expertise of hundreds or even thousands of very smart people who have worked on the project simply because they wanted to.
You can implement new open source software much more quickly than proprietary software. For example, if you’re implementing a new software platform from Oracle or Microsoft, you could spend days or weeks negotiating fees and conditions before you can actually get started. Open source solutions can be put into action immediately.
With open source software, you’re never at the mercy of the software vendor’s vision, prices, and priorities, which can limit what your software can do and what you can do with that software. With open source, you’re in control and can make your own decisions about how to use, alter, and modify it.
With proprietary software, you must simply trust the vendor’s word that their software is secure and that it adheres to appropriate standards. With open source software, the code is in full view, and you can audit it for yourself.
Surprisingly, you don’t need a tech support call center full of paid employees to provide good software support. Open source software platforms have an ample amount of online help and support, made possible by devoted communities who are passionate about what they do. And if you need extra assurance, many open source platforms do offer paid support services.
Try It Before You Buy It
Why settle for limited trial versions with fewer features and a looming expiration date, when you could simply try out the full program immediately? It costs almost nothing to give open source software platforms a trial run before you make a final decision regarding its implementation.
WordPress: An Open Source Success Story
One of the best-known examples of successful, widely used open source software programs is WordPress. We’re talking about WordPress.org, the content management system. It’s easily confused with the blogging platform WordPress.com, but they’re very different things.
WordPress is the world’s leading content management system (CMS). In April 2016, WordPress was used by 26.4% of the world’s top 10 million websites. The system supports over 60 million websites in total. This includes the official websites of the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Times, and Disney.
This free, open source CMS was originally part of an older software program called b2/cafelog, designed as a CMS for blogs during the earliest days of blogging. WordPress made its debut in 2003, and by 2009, it was already the strongest CMS brand.
When it comes to content management systems, WordPress is the gold standard. This is made possible in part by its open source nature. There are a vast wealth of themes and plugins available to add features, plus extensive online support from the WordPress community.
That’s just one of the many examples of how enterprises can use open source software.
Open Source Software Integration Solutions
At PulaTech, we specialize in software integration services for midsize to large businesses. One of the great upsides of open source software is that its openness and accessibility makes it easy to seamlessly integrate it with your other software platforms. To find out more about our services, call us anytime, or fill out our online contact form to get in touch today.