What is the meaning of open source software?
Thanks to the good guys & girls out there who continuously work on developing software solutions and sharing them with a sworldwide community, programming becomes more and more accessible, reliable, flexible and… tricky. Even though there are plenty of benefits of using this tech holy grail, open source software has its share of downsides. What to choose, then? Well, it’s all about perspective.
Here are the main pros and cons of open source software. Keep in mind that there are just some perspectives and that no one can say for sure what’s best for you. Except your own goals. So:
Everyone has access to it – open source means it’s, you know, open to everyone. You can access, inspect, improve te code depending on your needs. It’s the main ingredient that you may cook as a pretentious dish. Actually, just make it tasty and eat it up as you please – like everyone else.
It’s free of charge – well almost. It’s cheaper and it saves you time and costs since the testing and debugging are already covered. It may involve certain licensing fees, but just a few. In some cases the volunteering coders who create such ready to use software can sell it to different clients. But most of them find that selling their services and support instead of the software itself is wiser and more preferable for some of their clients – since they see the bigger picture.
It’s continuously improved, so it’s reliable and secure – precisely because it’s shared with an entire community and a lot of people use these solutions, programmers come up with bug fixing and improvements in a much shorter amount of time then having to wait for the next release of a new version. So you may say open source software is always evolving, pretty safe and secure thanks to the hard-working, ambitious coders.
It’s easy to manage – as you read above. Since the code is available for using and improving it, it means that you can explore, customize and tweak it in a way that best suits your needs. It’s ready to use, easy to use, easy to integrate.
Sometimes it CAN cost you a lot – indeed is cheaper, but you never know when unexpected events occur when using it. For example, there may be issues that involve implementation, administration and SUPPORT costs.
Not that user-friendly, though – if you have no idea what coding is about. While some software is so amazingly easy to use even by non-tech users, others can be a pain to deal with. So you may need to train a team of coders to work with them and remain up to date with the new releases. Not to mention the possible issues when wanting to add and develop new functionalities or make serious changes on the software. This may convince you that maybe you should have develop something custom from the beginning.
Incompatibility with proprietary platforms – you may not know if the open source software is compatible or up to date with your other software solutions, due to its continuous – or discontinuous – development.
It may not be updated anymore – some open source projects that you use are left behind and few and few volunteering programmers are willing to work on updating or enhancing them. This might appear due to their lost interest or conflicts between them. It’s a free community, so one is obligated to help you in particular or lend you tech support. And you’d find yourself waiting and waiting…
THE POINT IS…
All in all, you may never know 100% what’s best for you. But surely the wisest choice is to: do your research – carefully analyze your needs – think on the long term – available resources – and then, deciding if open source software is what you need – just see the bigger picture.