Why Open Source Is Good For Business
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- 8 min
- Nov 27, 2015
According to the 2015 Future of Open Source Survey, around 78% of all companies run on open source. Moreover, only less than 3% of companies do not take advantage of open source in any possible way. Why?
The first obvious answer is, of course, the cost. Open source is free, thus the company can significantly cut the expenses and time on making necessary tools or parts of the product from the ground. And the less money you spend on your product, the lower is its end price. This gets even more critical for startups that are constantly aimed to cut expenses and often forced to pivot the product in case it wasn’t as successful as expected. However, many more advantages stimulate companies to switch to open source every year. Let’s list the top 6 of them.
Behind any great open source software there’s a huge and tight community aimed to make it even more popular, reliable and flexible. And when a lot of people unite to make a particular product, something really great happens — the synergy.
Community developers love what they do and are motivated by peer recognition, which in turn guarantees the high quality of their work and aspiration for the best possible effectiveness, simplicity and maintainability of the product. That is why the open source tools are often extremely functional, reliable and secure, and any bugs found are often fixed typically within hours.
The presence of a great community behind a product is a great factor on its own when considering switching from the proprietary software. However, you can also take additional advantage of it and hire specific specialists from that community if you need to adapt the open source solution to specific business needs or simply need a pro for consultations and advice.
#5. Legal freedom
When using open source software you can usually dive deep into the code of the product you’re using and change it however you want. That means that you can also tweak such software for your own specific needs, fork it in case you see it should be done in another way and modify it endlessly for free. But the most important advantage of all these possibilities is that it is allowed to do all of that by the open source licenses.
Thanks to the wide variety of tools, plug-ins, modules and simply pieces of code available over the Internet you can solve different tasks in no time. Just imagine a few cases:
- You have a small technical problem, which can be addressed by adding a specific module to your software system. You may either spend 10 hours to write it from scratch, or 10 minutes to download, test and set up the open source tool that perfectly fits your needs. That’s the situation that appears pretty often in the companies.
- You need to select a new software for your new project. Not only you must check if every option has the functionality required, but also be sure that the management will approve this decision and be ready to pay for it, which can take weeks, if not months. In case of open source you will quickly make the decision for yourself, because you do not depend on the company’s money.
- You want to make use of the given tool to solve a specific problem, but you’re not sure what’s the best way to do it. In case of open source software you can either read the documentation, which is often described very thoroughly, or ask the community of developers for advice and be sure for a quick reply. With proprietary software you might get into trouble with both of these approaches.
- You found a bug in the tool you decided to use for making your own product. In case of open source software you can fix it on your own or at least file a bug report. Thanks to the highly active community you can get your bug fixed within hours, while in case of proprietary software it may take days if not weeks, depending on the flexibility of the company.
#3. Paid Support
Although open source software often comes with piles of documentation, wiki sites, newsgroups and an active community, you may still want to be rest assured that using it will be as smooth as possible. This is where paid support will do the job for you. In comparison to the proprietary tools, the open source software support is surprisingly more responsive since this is usually the only way to monetize open source business, and often cheaper.
Again, the paid support will also fix the bugs more quickly, help you address your specific problems and in general indicates that the company is serious about the quality of the open source software they are ready to support and maintain.
When a limited number of developers create a proprietary software, they are forced to be limited by so many things: by budget, by features, by time. In case of open source the really great software aims for great quality at first, but even after the release it gets quickly updated and expanded with numerous plugins and modules that users do not simply wait for, but create for their own needs and then share with the community.
Another side of the open source software is that it is compatible with the proprietary standards. For instance, to be more appealing for a potential user, most open source document tools can open the Microsoft Office documents. On the contrary, the proprietary tools are not likely to support open source formats correctly unless they have become extremely popular due to some reasons.
We in RubyGarage also appreciate open source tools for the high quality of it code, which allows us to easily adapt it for our business needs. In addition, such products evolve very quickly, and if you think a particular tool lacks something, most probably someone has already made or at least currently working on a plugin to add the desired functionality.
So when it comes to selecting software for a big enterprise, of course you want to minimize the risks of switching to other software by taking the option offering more functionality and flexibility. And in case the open source solution of your choice doesn't have what you need, you can always make it (or pay for its creation) by yourself!
It may seem controversial that the open source software is more reliable due to its public availability. However, it is the open source approach that significantly increases the number of people checking the software for bugs and quickly fixing them.
Simply put, the more eyes are looking at code, the more bugs will be found and fixed in a stated period of time. Just think about it: the fact that the software has a strong community around it, which is interested to make it better and believes in its future potential, is a great security indicator on its own.
And what about proprietary software? The main problem is that we don’t know. We don’t know how many bugs there are, if they will be fixed and when, how many people are working on that and how much attention they pay to looking for bugs. We can only rely on the company’s reputation, which now gets a pretty unpredictable thing in a long-term period.
Don’t get us wrong: we’re not saying that the open source software is always more secure. But most of the successful open source tools are indeed protected well, just check the info on the product you want to use to be perfectly sure. Yet to be safe it is always recommended to follow news and update such software as often and quickly as possible to keep it up-to-date and thus protected.
So why open source is still not everywhere? Traditionally, due to the fact that open source software companies revenue exclusively from support and maintenance, they usually do not have money to compete with proprietary software creators in terms of marketing. And thus, the richer companies usually win the battle for the potential user. But that is never an indicator that their products are better.
We agitate to use open source software because this is how we work. We take advantage of open source tools and our experience shows that this approach is extremely reliable and brings a lot of advantages to the way we do our business.
However, that doesn’t mean we'd like everybody to use the open source software exclusively. Other ways exist, for instance, a common case for many companies is a mixed use of both the open source and proprietary software. This is the way Facebook and Google follow, for instance.
So when considering the software to use, be wise and make your own and thought-through decisions.