Back in 2010, PC World laid out 10 reasons why Open Source (Linux in particular) is good for Business and as we close out 2012 I thought that a “Krispyfication” of that list was in order.
The simple fact is Open Source is inherently more secure because of its openness. Development is not done behind closed doors and the information right down to the Kernel of an OS is open for exploration, testing and development by ANYONE. Now this may seem like a huge security risk but the reality is, opening the code to the masses means that vulnerabilities are found quicker and because of the crowdsourced development…solutions are built faster.
This does not mean that proprietary software is not safe and is poorly built…for the most part. It just means that when you pay for that software…you don’t know, can’t see and in reality can’t report vulnerabilities easily to the company that built it. You don’t see the code and don’t have access to Flaw Reports.
There is an old saying that many hands make light work, and with Open Source Projects it is truly the case. Generally speaking, Open Source Projects have a very rapid development cycle and part of this is because of the contributions from “many hands”. Most companies (Microsoft, Apple etc) assign a handful of key developers to a project on a permanent basis but with an Open Source Project…contributors come from quite literally ANYWHERE!
Because the Developers are also Users…there tends to be a very UX (user experience) focus on these projects because the Devs are not that far removed from the user themselves.
This has always been one of my favorite parts about Open Source. The option to change, modify and build onto a project so that it works better for me! Try doing that with Microsoft Office…what a frustration that is!
The Code is Open and depending upon the Open Source License…the only cost for modifications may be sharing the improvements back to the originator of the code to make the product better for all!
The Freedom both in cost and in usage is also a key factor. I can download a single copy of an open source product and use it…well anywhere. I don’t have to worry about compliance or having the Microsoft Police come knocking on my door asking for True Up Fines.
What you do with Open Source is up to you…use it, modify it, share it, rebuild it…it is completely up to you!
The Upgrade path of being on a Proprietary Software Stream has you stuck in a rut of having to upgrade not only the software but the hardware as well. Most Open Source products are capable of working on 10 year old hardware…try doing that with the latest version of Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite, let alone installing Windows 8 or Mac OSX on a 10 year old Laptop!
For the most part, when Open Source Software is built it is with the ability to communicate well with many different platforms. A case in point was the transition from Office 2003 with XLS files to the Office 2007/2010 with its XLSX formats. The new format was virtually unreadable for organizations without the patch and the capacity to jump on the Microsoft Upgrade Treadmill.
When it comes to proprietary software, you have nothing but the vendor’s claims to prove that they are doing everything they can to maintain the security of their product. With Open Source…well you know what is going on because of the transparency to the Code itself…you can with confidence tell an Auditor that it is compliant.
8. Support Options
Support is where most Open Source Products make their money and it is wonderful that most have a plethora of support options for their clients. They range from Free Forums and Message Boards all the way to 24/7 Support that is paid for at rates often far lower than the software you had to pay for in the first place.
Most Open Source Projects are given away free…I say most because there are Community Versions and Enterprise Versions of many Open Source Products. Generally the major difference between the two is access to Support Options. Free is good and when I say Free…it is really about the general Freedom that the first 8 items align with AND no initial cost…that is GOOD!
10. Try Before You Buy Every week I road test a new Linux Distribution. I do so at only the Bandwidth cost of downloading the Distro. Most will boot to a Live Distro so that I can try it out before I run the installer…you have no idea how many ISO’s I have sitting on my Storage Drive because there was something that did not appeal to me during the LiveCD run through.
If you want to see the original List…jump over to pcworld.com to see their reasoning behind these 10 Reasons Open Source is Good for Business.
Chris J Powell