Open Source

Businesses today are driven to achieve more with fewer resources - but the commercial software industry has provided tools which are expensive, difficult to customise, and based on competing standards.

Open Source Software offers the solution. It is software which is released with its source code, allowing modifications to its functionality. It is created and developed by a community which releases it without licence fees, meaning that the initial and ongoing costs of ownership are usually much lower.

Whilst it is the potential for significant cost savings that make many IT and business leaders first look at Open Source software, the advantages of Open Source systems go beyond the initial value-for-money considerations.

 

Flexibility

The inherent flexibility in Open Source software, brought about by having access to the source code, means that the system can change as you need it to – you are not restricted to a fixed feature set. With Open Source software you can customise the system to fit your requirements, not the other way around. 

Trust

Proprietary software is based on the vendor ‘keeping a secret’. Open Source software enables you to leverage a culture of trust and openness, rather than secrecy. By having access to the source code, a customer can be safe in the knowledge that everything the software vendor intended to deliver can be independently verified.

Cost

Open Source software costs far less to acquire and maintain. Zero license fees mean a low cost of entry and iterative development allows you to grow the system with your requirements, rather than being tied to the vendors’ prescribed upgrade paths. New projects can be trialled at very low costs without the worry of wasting licence fees.

Security & Track Record

Keeping the source code of the software ‘open’ actually increases its security and quality through continual inspection and peer review. No software can be completely immune to security or reliability issues but Open Source software has a widely acknowledged history of rapid response to security threats, and a lower mean time to fix reported bugs. The nature of the Open Source community ensures that open discussion and corresponding development resources are always available.

Vendor Choice & Stability

With a software project based on Open Source components, you not only have full control over the code base but you actually own your customisations as well. If a vendor of a proprietary system gets bought out or shuts down, their users can be stranded. Similarly, a proprietary system usually has a forced upgrade path that does not always fit in with the plans of the business. Neither of these problems affect Open Source software; when you use Open Source components you will be able to find people all over the world with the right knowledge and skills to further develop your project.

Did you know?

Open Source Software powers some of the biggest websites on the Internet. Over half of the world's web servers run the Open Source web server Apache. (8 out of the 10 most popular sites on the Internet use Open Source Software as at least a part of their systems). Wikipedia, the 7th busiest website on the Internet, serving over 3 million articles, is built on Open Source Software. Over 4 million people blog with Wordpress, an Open Source blogging platform. Plone, the Open Source content management system is used by organisations as diverse as Akamai, NASA, Oxfam, Nokia, RBS, Novell and Warwickshire Police Force.

"Adoption of open-source software is becoming pervasive, with 85 percent of companies surveyed using open-source software, and most of the remaining 15 percent expecting to do so within the next year"

Gartner, Open-Source Impact on Application Software, Worldwide and Regional

"The UK government has also added its backing to Open Source stating that public services should wherever possible avoid being locked into proprietary software. According to some in the open source industry, the shift from proprietary standards could save the government £600m a year."

BBC News, 25th Feb 2009

"80% of companies use just one-third of the features available in proprietary systems."

Forrester Research