Open-Source Solutions: Money Saver or Waste for your Business?
Who doesn’t like open-source software? The benefits seem apparent: it’s free, so the development costs are lower, more developers have experience with it and thanks to a large technical community, it’s easier and faster to fix bugs. There are hundreds of open-source solutions you can use instead of building your own ones from scratch. Still, this is not the way to go for all businesses. Why is that? And how can you tell if using open-source solutions is better for your business than building custom software from scratch? Keep reading to find out.
What do WordPress, Magento, Mozilla Firefox and the VLC media player have in common? They’re all open-source solutions.
The term “open source” usually refers to software with the open and freely available code. As far back as 1983, Richard Stallman created the free software license, the GNU General Public Licence (GPL), allowing developers to use, study and even alter open-source code. What started as a protest against the businesses with closed-source (proprietary) software development grew to become a valuable part of the tech ecosystem.
It might seem that since many developers can alter open-source code, it’s more prone to bugs and failure. In reality, however, open-source models are much more reliable because many developers and testers examine the code carefully. This decreases the number of bugs and gives the software quick fixes and well-knit maintenance.
What’s more, open source models are always under a variety of licensing terms and regulations. The examples are the above mentioned GNU General Public License (GPL), Apache License 2.0, BSD 3-Clause “New” or “Revised” license, MIT license and others. The licensing is absolutely free of charge, and anyone can adjust the software without its authors’ permissions or revision.
Simply put, open-source software is considered to be made by developers for developers, while proprietary software is usually created specifically for the end users. According to Computer Business Review, the popularity and demand for open-source software solutions grow. In fact, the research says it will even take over proprietary software by 2020.
When we look at both software types, the most distinguishing characteristic we see is that proprietary-code software is not free, and all the rights to the software belong to the person or company that owns and produces it. Using it without their permission or payment is illegal.
Another big difference is the licensing usage of the software code. If software products are commercial, meaning they are sold to the end users, they are proprietary. Their source code is always hidden, and users have to agree to the licensing conditions before running these solutions.
As with everything, open-source solutions have their perks as well as drawbacks. We’ve gathered them here to let you decide if using them for your projects is the way to go, or you should invest time and effort into building your own systems.
Advantages of Open-Source Software
- Better flexibility of the solution. Your development team is free to modify the open-source code according to your project’s needs and goals.
- Free support. Regardless of the questions you have, you can rely on the huge developer community to help you out. Support means a live chat, thorough documentation, various forums and groups – all for free.
- Fewer bugs and faster fixes. Open-source solutions are less prone to bugs since so many developers are constantly working on the code refactoring and maintenance.
Disadvantages of Open-Source Software
- Increased security risk. You cannot be sure that one of the developers working on this open-source solution is not a hacker using it to steal your data.
- Lack of professional support. Yes, you can seek help from various communities; however, there is no professional direct support you can address when needed.
- Not particularly user-friendly. Sometimes, using open-source solutions can be hard non-tech-savvy users. Sure, there are exceptions like Mozilla Firefox or Libre Office, but flawless user experience and user-driven functionality were never the critical focus of open-source software.
Before deciding if using an open-source solution is better in your case than building your own from scratch, think of your business from a tech perspective.
If you’re building a web solution, there’s a high chance that you’ll be using a lot of popular open-source libraries, plugins and frameworks. This will give you a certain level of reliability and security – after all, hundreds of developers have already tested that software and fixed most of its bugs. So, using open-source solutions is totally fine as long as your business doesn’t rely solely on software. For example, if you’re a delivery company or a restaurant chain.
However, if software is critical for your organization, you have to be really careful with open-source solutions. Businesses in verticals like healthcare, cloud computing or aeronautics will require higher levels of security and robustness. Their strict requirements for software flow smoothness, security and reliability will make architects shy away from open-source solutions, choosing thoroughly tested custom solutions instead. If such companies do use open-source software, they apply it to carry out borderline basic tasks in non-critical systems.
Only you can tell if your organization needs a custom solution or can go with an open-source one. Some companies use software to carry out critical tasks, so they have high demands when it comes to software stability and security. Others don’t rely on software too much, using it as an addition to their core services. In the first case, they’re better off building the required software themselves; in the second one, using open-source solutions will influence their business positively.
Still, if your developers can implement open-source solutions and avoid some of the drawbacks it might bring to your business, you can enjoy its cost efficiency and maintenance ease. If they don’t, you can always contact Skelia to help you alter open-source solutions to fit your project or build custom software from scratch.