Why using Open Source in your business should matter to you
People talk about the philosophy of open source, free beer and freedom. Whilst I'm far from against such notions, for me - choosing Open Source delivers some interesting benefits that you simply cannot achieve under other software models.
1. When I say it is fixed, I know it is fixed.
What's more, I know it will stay fixed. We don't ask people to reboot and hope for the best - we track down what causes problems when they occur and fix them so they will not re-occur. Often when researching the reasons behind a problem, we discover an unintended use or new business requirement a user was trying to work around. In these cases, we can simply deliver new functionality or work to find a better solution.
2. Break the upgrade cycle - get features you want
Think about the time you upgrade your system last. What new features did you get that you really needed to have. New trendy icons and some new slick graphics? New functions allowing you to more easily track the path of quasars through space? With open source systems the new functionality created is created because a user not very dissimilar to you has asked for it. There is no marketing team to sit down and work out how we can build new functions to lock you in as a customer. Just a person like you, asking the question - wouldn't it be great if I could do X. There is no compulsion to upgrade if you don't want to - if your systems work - and the new features aren't interesting - then just say no to upgrades. There will be less interruptions to your business re-training staff, performing the upgrade and fixing and re-integrating applications.
3. Adopt strategic systems
Big business have teams of people and deep pockets to adopt the leading enterprise applications and they do this because it delivers business benefits. However, software innovation occurs mostly in the open source space because it is pretty risky for your career to try and innovate within a large business. Software vendors are happy with this too because they just buy any new kid on the block that starts chipping at their market share. The reality is that if you can sort the wheat from the chaff, you can get access to the new big thing and give your business an advantage. You can access enterprise software often modelled on leading proprietary systems with added improvements for a zero license fee. You can feel confident that your system supplier will not be bought up by an incumbent proprietary software provider and your key business system scrapped (as happened with PeopleSoft & Baan) because you will always have access to the source code and the original software in ready to run form.
4. Access expertise and support to match your budget
Open Source project are, well, "open" - You have a choice about where and how you get support and the price you pay for it. This ranges from 'free' support you gain from asking questions in forums or irc channels or by searching (googling) for previous topics or reading the FAQ. You also have the option of engaging specialists (such as Akuna http://www.akunagroup.com) if your support is critical. You can choose which option you will adopt for each problem. A high priority issue that impacts your business can be dealt with by a specialist - whilst a low priority issue can be dealt with over a longer less critical time scale. In this way, you can reduce your support costs overall whilst learning more and engaging in the ownership of your own systems.
5. Get back control of your systems
Do you ever feel like your technology dictates what you do (and don't do) at work? Yes - technology is a complex area and we have come to accept that software should always be changing - a notion partially created by proprietary vendors who have a cycle of new products to punt. Are your systems a big black box where you feed things in and something else comes out? With open source software you can look inside - or you can ask someone to look inside for you and you can own the system, at every point. If you want to understand why - you can look in and find out. If you want it to work a different way - you can change it. It's time to make your technology be a productive asset for your business and not a spaghetti jungle that needs to be managed.
6. Gain an unfair advantage
Times are tough, budget cut-backs, recessions, everyone's looking for a better deal. With open source you can gain an unfair advantage on your competition by adopting enterprise software at a fraction of the cost. You will be more efficient and your systems will be stable and secure.
There are many articles on the advantages of open source, but I hope I have been able to cast a business owners perspective on why you should look at open source in your business. Obviously, specific examples make the above points more real so should you wish to talk about your situation please get in touch - I know we have a solution for you.
I'd like to leave you with a few thoughts. Open source above all means a system I can rely on, and one that will work for me that way I need it to. Utilising open source means I have a strategy for ICT that I formulate and that I manage. I can guarantee that strategy because I have control at every point. Each step I take, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction, a step closer to achieving the perfect system and a strategic stepping stone.
Access the right tools, control the system, deliver the strategy and lower the cost of ICT. What are you waiting for ?