Open Source has been a part of the IT landscape since 1998. A long time in the IT world! Open Source solutions are now a crucial and well accepted as part of the global IT landscape. Respected and promoted by experts and hackers alike for a myriad of infrastructure and operational solutions for many years, it is only more recently that non-companies have begun to adopt Open Source solutions for everyday business applications.   

Why are businesses looking more closely at Open Source? Can an Open Source provide effective business solutions for your company? Finally, how and when does you select a viable Open Source solution. I will try to answer these questions and provide some food for thought in this blog.

Open source solutions are much cheaper!

Hang with me now, Open Source isn't free! The source code, the original programming code, is openly available and without cost. However, installation, configuration and implementation of any business system requires both knowledge and expertise. This is true of all systems, Open Source or 3rd party licensed. Then there are running costs associated with servers and hardware, networking and integration.  But there are no direct license costs!

The cost of installation and configuration is often much lower for Open Source solutions (more about that below).  Finally, Open Source customisation is almost always much, much cheaper - and almost every business system needs some kind of interface or customisation!

In my experience the TCO of Open Source solutions is between 30% and 60% cheaper than a comparative licensed product.

Open Source has less bugs and errors

Writing code (programming) is much like any creative endeavor. No one wants to be criticised for their work - especially people who pour their soul into their work. Open Source developers love what they do and are motivated by peer recognition. The Open Source community is populated by some of the best programmers in the world today, not just those few that are on any one company payroll. This combination drives quality. 

Contributors work together drawing on millons of hours of experience and expertise to solve any given problem. With such a large pool of expertise both from as developers and users the solutions are usually of the highest possible grade. Development and removal of bugs happens at an astonishing rate. Finally the solutions are used in a much wider variety of "use cases" and in differing fields. All together this means solutions are often more flexible and robust than proprietary software. 

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Open Source moves faster

Ask any CEO, CFO or self-employed business person, after quality of service, Speed of Delivery and flexibility in offering are the two most important success factors in any business.  Being adaptable, agile and quick to respond to customers and the market is the hallmark of success! 

Open Source develops faster and is more flexible, reusable and agile than any proprietary software.

Netflix and Spotify are two examples of successful companies that rely heavily on Open Source solutions to run their business. These companies developed new business models and used Open Source components to help them meet new and challenging business needs.   The number of open source developers and the variety of applications in which any solution is used drive flexibility.

Flexible, compatible and supported

There is a misconception among some business people that Open Source solutions and applications are not supported.  If anything the opposite is true.

Open Source solutions generally come with extensive documentation, wiki sites and an active community.  The more widely used and mature applications and solutions have paid support.  This is not so surprising when you think about it - support is the most effective way to monetize an Open Source application.  It is usually here where Open Source can significantly exceed 3rd party licensed products and at a fraction of the cost.

Finally - compatibility.  Open Source is about standards and integration.  Unlike 3rd party solutions that want to lock customers into a solution, Open Source want to connect!  Open Formats and large 3rd party standards are usually well supported and well integrated into any Open Source business solution.  Integration with Microsoft documents, G-mail and other common formats and apps are the best way for a solution to get great exposure and use.  And all developers want their work to be used!

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Secure and reliable

It will surely seem a bit controversial to say that because Open Source code is, well, open to all - well the fact remains that with a lot of people looking working on the same code - hole and bugs get identified faster and then fixed faster.

The biggest challenge to licensed products in this area is credibility.  Only they know how many bugs and problems they have.  And only they decide if and when they will fix them.  As a result it is easy to conclude that the Open Source community approach provides a much more robust and transparent solution to the challenges of software security!

So why isn't Open Source everywhere?

Follow the money

In a way it is.  Android, Google, Netflix, Linux, Spotify, Alfresco, ODOO, Apache .... the list of Open Source solutions that touch millions of people every day is long.

The truth is - well know and established licensed products have more money - your money!  

The more money a company has the more they can spend on marketing to get the product known and recognised.  But good marketing is rarely, if ever, a measure of good value or quality.

We believe that an open mind, good analysis, and informed choices are best for businesses. 

We love Open Source but we are not fanatics.  Sometimes the best solution is the one you already have.  Particularly in a situation where a company has invested a lot of time and money in developing a Corporate way of doing things and Corporate knowledge about systems and processes.  But if your company needs to change, to improve and to become more agile.  If your systems are holding you back or are too expensive compared to the value they create.  If you need to develop new solutions for new business problems ... then it is time to take a look at the fantastic opportunities in Open Source.  We would love you to contact us if you want help of advice on where to start.