IT Pros Prefer Open Source for Continuity, Control

Around two-thirds of IT pros said open-source software means fewer bugs, and they believe it will boost quality compared to proprietary software.

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More than 70 percent of IT professionals in the United States think that commercial open-source software provides more control and ensures better business continuity than proprietary software, according to a report sponsored by unified collaboration software specialist Zimbra and conducted by the Ponemon Institute.

The study surveyed 1,398 IT and IT security practitioners to learn about their companies’ involvement in the use of open-source messaging and collaboration solutions, and their views on security and privacy.

Business continuity and control eclipse cost savings and are the top reasons why U.S. IT professionals prefer open source to proprietary software, and the results indicated cost savings are no longer the hallmark of open source in the minds of IT professionals, with the ability to lower costs ranking below quality in importance.

"There is a prehistoric myth that open source is for hackers and is inherently risky," Olivier Thierry, chief marketing officer of Zimbra, told eWEEK. "The two dominant business models in the open-source world, free and commercial open source, sit along a risk spectrum."

Thierry said for free open source, the lack of technical support provided by a vendor could be difficult for some businesses.

"The open-source community itself can be a support mechanism, but this still requires you to have the expertise to implement updates, patches and the software itself," he said. "This need for internal expertise may increase your risk profile, which depending on your risk appetite, may be unacceptable."

Two-thirds percent of IT practitioners said that commercial open-source software means fewer bugs, and 63 percent believe it will boost quality compared to proprietary software.

"Open-source software suffers from bad PR due to the belief that it involves no vendor accountability. In pure open software, nobody is accountable for the security but you," Thierry said. "In pure proprietary software, you have vendor interest ensuring security. Commercial open source is the best of both models, with vendor accountability and community backing ensuring transparency and code quality."

He also noted the perception of open source is changing, as vendors are willing to back projects and accept accountability of open-source projects, and their increased interest is reducing the industry’s perception of associated risks.

The survey also found common among IT professionals is dissatisfaction with their current collaboration and messaging platforms, the majority of which are proprietary software solutions.

Consequently, 55 percent of U.S. respondents and 52 percent of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) respondents say their organizations will be replacing their messaging and collaboration solutions within two years.

Around two-thirds (67 percent) of IT professionals in EMEA agreed with their American counterparts that commercial open-source outperforms proprietary software when it comes to business continuity.

However, IT practitioners in the U.S. and EMEA disagree on the security and privacy risks associated with collaboration and messaging platforms, both open source and proprietary.

"From a user perspective, messaging and collaboration platforms need to fit what we like, where we like it, when we like it. For IT, it needs to be transitional more than revolutionary, deployable in multiple forms, map into those three user elements and be cost effect," Thierry said. "Bad user experience, inflexible deployment models and draconian enforcement of corporate policies will derail any software."