|There are many benefits from utilising open source in your business. For years, commercial software companies have been building proprietary solutions based on open source components such as telephone systems, banking systems and much of the Internet. You can adopt open source components in your business ecosystem, accessing leading products, without incurring the costs of pre-sales, escrow agreements and license fees.
There are a number of commonly cited benefits of open source including:
- Quality before features - in the proprietary world, sales are made by creating new software versions. This creates a push and pull effect - enticing users to upgrade so they can access new features, and for those who do not - discontinue support after a period of time. The open source world does not generate sales from new versions, so new features are added when customers request them and without the associated compromise on quality. This leads to increased stability and longer product support cycles.
- Auditability - because open source includes the right to the source code - you are able to transparently look inside your software to audit and understand how it works. You can also extend your software to your specific needs if you wish.
- Lower TCO - you acheive a lower total cost of ownership based on a zero purchase price and ongoing license fees for the software, no need to track software licensing means reduced administration, reduced 'need' for regular updates imposed by vendors, more stability and reduced support overhead, near zero vulnerability to viruses reduces time spent dealing with system administration.
- Flexibility & Freedom - On a simplistic level, flexibility empowers your employees to perform their role. On a higher level, the need for flexibility at the business level dictates that the system must change and adapt in response to changing business needs. It must not prevent or govern the speed of reaction to change. To achieve flexibility, it is best to choose industry standards and you will find these in open source solutions. If you buy in to proprietary formats or interconnection / exchange mechanisms - then you will only ever be able to respond as quickly as your software vendor allows you.
- Support & Accountability - all types of software license disclaim warranty to the maximum possible amount under law. So who would you rather have supporting your system - a sales person from a proprietary software integrator who is reliant on the relationship they have with the software producer or an open source integrator who is able to look inside of your product and fix it according to your needs?
This culminates in to a fairly simple comparison between a traditional proprietary and open source system implementation. On any implementation there will be some common costs (indicated in green) including purchase of hardware, commitment of staff time and travel to name a few.
However, there will also be some imposed components (indicated in red) from which you receive no material benefit, but are obliged to pay for, as part of the overall transaction cost when purchasing a proprietary solution. This includes a license fee and an ongoing maintenance fee which often includes the cost of your pre-sales contact with the supplier, but also a recovery for the bids they have not won. In an open source implementation you might be asked to bear some of the pre-sales cost, but in return you will get a true and fair assessment, which is not skewed by the commission structure awarded to the sales person. You will also not be charged again year after year to fund the vendor's other pre sales efforts. You will also most likely be talking to a professional who is used to deploying and supporting the software - so that person will not make promises they cannot keep and they will, on the balance, be much better educated in the product than the proprietary equivalent.
The last category (indicated in blue) are the things you want to spend time on during your implementation - such as documentation and training. In a proprietary implementation, you will receive a generic statement that the software has been tested and a disclaimer, which will try to limit the liability of the software vendor. With an open source implementation, you will receive customised documentation which incorporates your business processes and testing of the process rather than the software, which ensures the system works in the hands of your employees. These efforts do take more time, but they are financed by the redirection of the imposed costs toward things you want to spend time on. The open source model will produce a much higher quality implementation for the same cost - most adopters decide to save some money on the cost of sale, but still ensure they receive a higher quality system.
We believe the open source implementation provides a better quality, customised, less risky and more reliable solution at a persuasive cost.