Advantages of open source software compared to paid equivalents

Thanks to the internet revolution, the software industry has been one of the fastest-growing and highest-performing sectors over the last two decades. Innovation continues to push technology forward, creating new opportunities for startups to enter the market and break new ground.

Software companies would previously develop products designed to run on desktop computers. That changed with the shift to cloud computing, where companies rely on hosting providers to manage their infrastructure and data centre needs.

One major decision that enterprises face is whether to invest in open source technologies, or go through a commercial route instead. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the key benefits of open source software and look at how they can support company growth.

1. Minimised costs

Of course, money is a huge driver when companies are making product decisions. Executives want to see a clear return on investment from their technology budget. Open source software offers an easy win in this category, as downloads are available for free through community websites and other portals.

But before building your entire infrastructure around the open source model, make sure to research all applicable licensing agreements. In some cases, open source tools and codebases are free to use for personal or trial purposes but require payment for use in a commercial business setting.

Companies are rarely choosing to build new software solutions from scratch. That’s because the number of working hours will greatly outweigh the cost of procuring an open source product on a low-cost basis.

2. Large (friendly) support community

The strength of open source technology is the fact that these products are developed with an iterative approach by a large group of experts. Open source communities are made up of diverse sets of people from across the world. This kind of diversity is beneficial because ideas and issues get vetted in multiple ways.

Why software needs to eat your business

Sanjiv Gossain, Head of Cognizant Digital Business in Europe, discusses the impact software is having on businesses and why they need to give in to its influence

From an enterprise perspective, open source software is a safe investment because you know there is a dedicated community with product experience. Many developers aren’t working for money, and are easy to approach and ask for help. You can raise questions or concerns directly with developers, or opt to obtain a paid support plan through the community for highly technical inquiries.

3. Flexibility and scalability

One of the big advantages of cloud computing is that you only pay for the infrastructure resources you actually use. So instead of having to obtain a rack of servers and maintain them on a permanent basis, you simply rent computing power from a hosting company. Best of all, your cloud contract is variable, meaning it can adjust automatically month-to-month based on your needs and growth.

Open source software functions on a very similar model. Tools are designed to work for organisations of all sizes and be able to adapt to sudden spikes or changes. In order to maintain a consistent level of performance, you will need to have a strong analytics platform to understand your traffic trends and requirements.

Of course, since open source products are designed for a large audience, sometimes they won’t be able to perfectly fit a company’s needs. Fortunately, the open source approach encourages customisation and integration, meaning your own internally teams can start with an open source baseline and tweak it. Improvements can also be fed back into the open source development cycle.

Through application program interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs), developers can take open source standards and build their own tools on top of the platform. For example, you could add software-based integrations to security systems like the one offered by Kodi and Plex. Just keep in mind that whenever you are integrating with a vendor’s product, use a firewall or virtual private network (VPN) client built specifically for the OSS software to adequately secure your communications.

4. Easier hiring

Gone are the days when computer programming was a niche hobby specific to the West Coast of the United States. Now, coding has become a regular part of many school curriculums, and a very popular focus in higher education. As a result, you have a huge influx of new people in the workforce with modern skill sets. With almost every industry relying on software in one form of another, it means these programmers have a very wide job market open to them.

Beyond software development: the power of low code

A low-code solution can hone an enterprise organisation’s application development process to build business apps faster, more efficiently, and with an eye on your company’s bottom line

Attracting talent can be a big challenge for newer or smaller software companies. If you have tied yourself to proprietary software built internally, hiring becomes even more of a burden. Young software engineers don’t want to spend their time learning antiquated systems. But if you have shown a track record of adopting open source products and standards, then it will make your company a more intriguing place to work.

5. Stronger security

Sometimes people in upper-level management are sceptical of open source software development. They think that because the codebases are made available to the general public, it must mean that the products themselves are poorly protected. The opposite is the case, with open source software often being better-secured than commercial counterparts.

Why is this true? It’s because of the rigorous review and testing process that open source teams go through before releasing new code. Additionally, the open source community has a large number of what are known as ‘white hat‘ hackers. These are individuals who are very familiar with cyber criminal tactics, but are devoted to using those skills for good, not evil. They aim to find bugs and vulnerabilities and report them to developers before any hackers can exploit them in the real world.

Go forth, and go open source

Looking ahead to the future, corporate investment in open source software is only expected to grow. Enterprises will continue to move away from the idea that all software needs to be highly customised, and will instead look for robust solutions that offer them more flexibility at lower costs.

Time is a very precious commodity, especially for startups trying to break into competitive markets. Leveraging the power of open source technology will provide the building blocks that can feed into new products and services. This allows for faster innovation and higher growth, all while removing barriers to entry.

Related articles

Safeguarding the open source model amidst big tech involvement

A reliance on open source in enterprise: Necessary for digital transformation

Real enterprise adoption of open source heralds new era of hybrid innovation

Low-code technology: an emerging term that needs more definition

Low-code development is the new quick win for an overworked IT department

A software market prediction: it’s all about open source

Avatar photo

Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.