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Why Open-Source Software Is Often the Best Choice

Open Source

If you’re looking for new software to support your business, you should consider open-source options. Many business owners are averse to utilizing open-source platforms, but their concerns are often exaggerated or completely unfounded.

What exactly is open-source software? What makes it so valuable? And is it always the right choice?

What Is Open-Source Software?

Open-source software is any software made transparently available for public use. Volunteer developers choose to create, maintain, distribute, and improve this software, and if the software is useful and visible enough, it will attract swarms of volunteer developers to help maintain it.

Most instances of open-source software can be used by individuals or businesses for free, for any purpose, though some varieties also have optional paid features or “premium” versions.

If you want to customize or modify the software, you can. If you want to use it as the foundation for a product you sell to other people, you can. If you want to contribute to the advancement of the open-source product, you can – and you don’t have to.

As an example, Umbraco is an open-source CMS platform. There’s no license fee to use it, it’s completely customizable, the user interface is friendly, and it’s always evolving thanks to a community of dedicated developers and users supporting it. You can find open-source versions of almost any kind of software you can imagine – and use them to your advantage.

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The Perks of Open-Source Software

What makes open-source software so worth using for business owners?

  • Low costs. One of the most obvious advantages of using open-source software is saving money. Depending on your software needs, a platform could cost you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars every month – and it might not even give you everything you need. With open-source, you won’t have any additional software costs.
  • Scalability. Open-source software is designed to be flexible, giving users practically unlimited options for how to use it. This makes the software incredibly scalable. You can rely on a simple, minimalistic model for low-level needs, then gradually expand as the scope of your business broadens.
  • Agility. Most of these types of software are also designed to be agile. Because open-source developers know their products will be used for a wide range of different applications, they’re built to be easy to understand and easy to utilize.
  • Customizability. Open-source software is also known for its customizability. If you find yourself wishing for extra features, or if you just want to change something about the core product, you’re free to do that. You’ll need to recruit some developers of your own to handle the changes, but the investment is likely worth it.
  • Community support. Are you stuck on a problem related to this software? Open-source communities are known for their volunteer support. You can ask a question on a forum, hire a volunteer developer, or collaborate with others to resolve your issue.
  • Overall value. People start open-source software platforms as passion projects, and the great ones attract considerable attention from developers all over the world. Accordingly, many of these products are significantly improved over time, ultimately making them some of the most valuable products on the market, despite costing nothing or next to nothing.
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Are There Drawbacks to Using Open-Source Software?

Open-source software isn’t perfect, though. You’ll need to keep these downsides in mind when making your decision:

  • Potential vulnerabilities. Openly publishing the source code does introduce some additional vulnerabilities. Communities are usually quick to fix security issues with new patches, but it’s your responsibility to keep your instance of the software updated.
  • Lack of dedicated support. If you buy software from a development company, or if you subscribe to their service, you’ll likely be entitled to dedicated support. But this level of support isn’t straightforwardly available from open-source communities; you can troubleshoot your own problems or rely on the network of people who volunteer their time for free.
  • Operational limitations. Because open-source tools are sometimes minimalistic and stripped down, they’re sometimes associated with operational limitations. They almost certainly have ample basic functionality, but they may lack some of the features that are available through higher-end platforms.
  • Rare copyright issues. Occasionally, open-source developers can find themselves involved in complex legal issues. For example, unethical developers may steal from established products to make their platforms, resulting in copyright disputes.
  • Lifespan unpredictability. When volunteers decide to shut down a project or stop supporting it, the life of the product is essentially over. This lifespan is hard to predict.

It’s also important to stress that these advantages and disadvantages apply differently to different pieces of open-source software. Some open-source products are incredibly well-developed and sustained by large, talented communities, making them robust enough to mitigate most issues. Others are short-lived student projects that probably aren’t suited for large applications.

Always do your due diligence when choosing to adopt open-source software in your business.

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