What's keeping you from using open source software?

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Open source software (OSS), unlike proprietary software, is software that keeps the code open so IT professionals can alter, improve, and distribute it. Although it has been around since relatively early in the history of computers, in the past several years OSS has truly taken off, in what some might see as a surprising example of a successful communal collaboration.

Authored by Timothy Wightman, CEO/President of Effective Data

OSS can be used in any type of software, from word processing to cloud computing to EDI (electronic data interchange). Some of the most famous and ubiquitous pieces of software, such as Linux and Mozilla Firefox, are OSS, yet some people are still hesitant to use less well-known pieces of open-source software. If you're like most people, probably one of the following reasons is preventing you from using open source software. Below, we'll take a look at whether your reasons are right.

Reason 1: We need too much support

One of the biggest advantages of OSS is that as long as you have someone with the know-how, you can completely customize the software to your needs. Because of the monies saved on licensing fees, using OSS is beneficial even if you don't do any customization; however, if you do customize, you'll need someone on hand who knows how to use open source software.

In addition, most proprietary software includes free tech support from the company, while OSS companies charge for those services. But this fee is countered by the fact that the code is open source, making it easier for your IT team to learn how to use it. 

Another reason that people think they need too much support while using OSS is that this type of software has a reputation for being relatively inaccessible to the average user. Unlike proprietary software, which is tested extensively for user-friendliness, OSS software is often written by and for computer professionals. Choosing your software wisely helps eliminate this potential issue.

Reason 2: It infringes on intellectual property

You can negotiate with proprietary software companies about indemnification for intellectual property (IP) infringement, but that's not possible with OSS companies. Plus, the rules that govern IP for OSS are complex. However, you can counter this issue by purchasing indemnification insurance through a third-party vendor like OpenLogic. In either situation, reading the terms of the license helps mitigate the risk of committing IP infringement.

Reason 3: It isn’t reliable

Often without strong central management, the OSS community must identify and provide solutions for errors with the software. This leads some to worry that problems will not be fixed, as compared to traditional software, which has centralized management and a dedicated team of developers to fix any issues.

In reality, the opposite is true. Repeatedly, issues with OSS are quickly fixed thanks to the work of the community members, whereas with a proprietary software company, users need to wait for the release of the next software update to fix a bug.

Reason 4: It isn’t secure

This is perhaps the biggest misgiving that people express regarding OSS: Since the code is open, any opportunist can identify and exploit the program through hacking and viruses. Proprietary software companies, on the other hand, have team members dedicated to ensuring the security of their software.

Some risk is associated with using any software, and the overall risk associated with OSS is not higher than with any other type of software. While it's true that anyone can look at and potentially exploit the code, it's also true that anyone can look at the code to identify potential causes of security breaches and address them immediately. What's more, as long as someone is on your team who knows how to use open source software, you can examine the software before using it, and thus determine the level of risk associated with using it.

The concerns that people have about OSS are not completely unfounded, but each concern can be mitigated with an understanding of the software in question. In many cases, using this type of software helps companies save money while also getting a product that is better suited to their needs. Once your company learns how to use open source software - and how to mitigate some of the risks associated with it - you, like many others, may reap great benefits.

Originally posted on the OpenLogic Enterprise OSS blog. Reposted using Creative Commons.

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All excellent points. Hopefully more people wake up to the many benefits of using and supporting free and open source software.

"OSS software is often written by and for computer professionals."
I do not agree completely with this statement.
It think it has more to do with the way proprietary software is marketed compared to OSS.

To lump all OSS licenses together makes no sense. GPL is a nightmare and no for profit start up with any kind of decent legal can or should use it.

The IP issue isn't infringement, it is keeping the IP you do create yours. GPL is a big sponge sucking all your work in. Other OSS licenses draw reasonable boundaries.

GPL requires only that you feed back to the community changes you have made to the software if you choose to distribute the resulting software. If you choose to keep the software internal to your company, and not distribute it outside your company, you are free to make all the modifications you want and keep them all to yourself.

There is no requirement to make public any software you develop so long as you do not choose to distribute it. If you want to use OSS developers as free, as in beer, labor then GPL is not for you.

The main issue for my point of view is the lack of continuity on some projects and besides even we offer work force to accelerate development, still project guide lines are missing.

At the end we just end up developing a software solution from scratch there is a lot of methods to create software and without standards is very hard.

Another thing is the rule change i.e. Sugarcrm which started as opensource then move forward to "Community" an commercial versions.

From my point of view as opensource users, evangelist and so on will be best to join companies and enthusiast under a common name, maybe using Ubuntu schema, who knows!!!

From my end am using only opensource operating systems such as Fedora, Centos and some cases Ubuntu, we were unable to make the SaS model with opensource applications.

Thank you.

I want but actual computers are protected against open source OSs and many hardware manufacturers, especially those that uses microsoft windows.

As an individual, I use OSS whenever possible, from my linux servers and laptop to my word processor software, and more. I use proprietary software when I have to because sometimes it just fits my needs better. For me it's not a philosophical, political, or even an economic issue. I go where I need to get the best solution for my needs.

Watching all the MCSE troll-posts here is really amusing, because I used to be an MCSE and a big Microsoft fan. FOSS (Free/Open Source Software) provides a huge benefit. Not only do you get the source code, but your maintenance is lower, your hardware requirements are generally lower, and in many cases it's actually easier to use than proprietary "solutions". I've put several Microsoft users on Kubuntu and LibreOffice, and they've never looked back. The Firefox + NoScript combination is about the best combination for surfing the 'Net. I use my Ubuntu box as a multimedia production station. VLC is the best all-around media player, hands-down, with MPlayer a pretty darn close second. Audacity is an excellent audio mixer, and Kdenlive is likewise a fine video editor.

And don't even get me started on the server side; if you're actually on the Internet, FOSS solutions reign supreme. Apache and Nginx are the two most popular Internet Web servers for very good reason; they work well. GNU/Linux and *BSD are the main platforms for Internet servers because they're actually good at it, unlike Microsoft's offerings. Apple's offering, OS X, is decent at it...because it's based on FreeBSD, a FOSS platform.

Remember, everyone, no matter what type of system you have, you need qualified people on your staff. That includes the Microsoft, Apple, GNU/Linux, BSD, or any other solutions. Getting qualified people for FOSS solutions is easy today. Actually, it wasn't that hard 20 years ago, either; remember, the Internet was originally built on FOSS from its inception (the original BSD UNIX, Sendmail, etc.), so this is nothing "new". It's just gotten more press time in the last 15 years, that's all.


<cite>...OSS software is often written by and for computer professionals.</cite>

As an avid OpenSource user, I still find this to be a problem.

Looking for assistance with the search functions in LibreOffice Writer, I got multiple responses like, "if you can't parse REGEX, you should just give up and install Word."

A less enthusiastic user would likely do just that. Proponents and advocates of OpenSource need go above and beyond to help... or keep their mouths (and fists) shut.

As an aside, I found the answer to this (and many) problems with Tomas Bilek's fantastic "AltSearch" extension (http://extensions.openoffice.org/en/project/alternative-dialog-find-replace-writer-altsearch).

Guys, don't feed the trolls.

While I largely agree with the article, you severely understate the support side of the article.

For smaller projects that require little support, or bigger ones where there are support companies that can provide good support, then the support issue can be handled fairly easily.

The problem is projects that may require a fair amount of support, but there isn't a large enough customer base to justify other companies to provide that kind of support (that could happen if the software needed to be purchased with maintenance).

If you are in a organization that can afford/justify the staff needed to handle project yourselves, then that wouldn't inherently be an issue. If you are a smaller organization that can't justify the staff, but can more easily justify the cost of a support contract, then support can be a HUGE difference between open source and commercial.

I've been using OSS since soon after first Win95 blue screen. Biggest hurdle for me was the move from help desk to forums. There's a learning curve to finding support.

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