10 Ways Open Source Can Save Your Company

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-07-24

Open source. It's the fruit of much labor by many people. It follows the tech world's latest trend of wanting everything and anything to be "open." It could also be a boon for the enterprise.

Open source, by its very nature, makes a program's code available to companies, consumers, or organizations to modify it as they wish. It's a great concept. It means that the community can put more eyes on issues, helping patch security holes sooner. It also means that the software could become more robust as people find unique ways to exploit the code. Microsoft, a company that has stayed notoriously closed since its inception, has said that having a handful of experts constantly searching for security holes in software is more reliable. It's a self-serving comment. And one that probably doesn't hold up too well when we consider the security of Linux, an open-source platform, compared to Windows.

More companies are realizing that. So, they're becoming more willing to release open-source software. Google's Chrome OS will be open source. IBM announced recently that a new "Office in a Box" concept will be open source. Even Adobe is getting in on the action. The company announced recently that it has open-sourced some Flash components.

So, it seems the market is pushing companies toward open-source applications. But are they really best for the enterprise? Every situation is different, but one thing is certain -- companies should consider adopting open-source applications in their operations. Here's why:

1. Trust the community

Some trust needs to be placed in the community. With open source, the users of a respective application are constantly finding ways to improve the software. Some of those people might have far more knowledge than a handful of people collecting a salary from a developer. The community has a vested interest in improving the software. Trust it.

2. Updates come sooner

There's nothing better than having software that's updated constantly. With open source applications, that's possible. As long as a company is actively engaged in the community, the software it's using is far more likely to be updated. Whether it's a security hole that needs to be patched or some added features that the community wants, open-source development cycles tend to bring the updates sooner.

3. Customization

Open-source software allows companies to tailor an application to meet its desire. So, if a company wants to add a feature to a software package or eliminate some extras, it can. That's not possible in closed applications.

4. Cost-effectiveness

Although many open-source applications aren't free, they are more cost-effective, in general, than their closed counterparts. Open-source software tends to be cheaper, since the developer doesn't need to focus on support or development as heavily as it would with closed platforms. It saves them some money, which is then transferred to the end user.

5. Security

Open-source software tends to be more secure. Whenever a security outbreak occurs, it can take as little as a few minutes for someone in the community to develop a patch and release it to the others. There's power in numbers and the open-source community relies upon that to keep everyone safe.

6. Design matters

In a closed application, design isn't always best. And since it's closed, companies will need to suffer with the poor development. In an open-source environment, the same isn't true. Sure, there are some bad designs, but for the most part, companies can tweak the application's look and feel to make it a little more user-friendly. That's refreshing.

7. Simple license management

One of the biggest issues many IT managers face with closed platforms is license management. How many legal downloads can a company use before it needs to buy yet another license? With open-source software, that worry is practically eliminated. Companies can download the software once and start adding it to computers network-wide. Of course, this isn't universal and there are some open-source applications that break that rule, but license management is not nearly as major of a concern as it is in closed environments.

8. Support is everything

Although closed-application developers contend that they provide better support, those claims aren't quite accurate. In an open-source environment, users can query the community, which, in most cases, provides outstanding feedback in little to no time. I've found that open-source support is superior to closed support.

9. High-quality software

For the most part, open-source software is robust, reliable, and of higher quality than many software applications available from developers who keep their programs closed. It's quickly becoming trusted in the enterprise.

10. It's the future!

More and more companies are moving to open-source software. Google is leading that charge, but as major enterprise players like IBM, Adobe, and even Microsoft keep moving that way, it could only be a matter of time before most (if not all) enterprise software turns to open source.

Make sure you're ahead of the curve.

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