Why is Open Source Good for Business?

Over 95% of IT enterprises use open source software for mission-critical IT workloads. It is an astonishing statistic, but what is open source software?

Open-source software allows the public open access to its source code, enabling anyone to examine, make changes or improve it.

Proprietary software’s popularity is declining

Many enterprises are turning their backs on proprietary software due to the slow pace of innovation. Not having access to the source code means that businesses rely on the vendor to update, change and enhance their products. In addition, the price of proprietary software can be staggering, which is not the case with most open-source alternatives.

What is the difference between proprietary and open-source software?

Open-source software comes in many forms and is not tied to one industry or suite of applications. Anything can be open source from cloud storage platforms like NextCloud to Microsoft 365 alternatives such as LibreOffice and even fully-fledged ERP systems like Odoo.

If you’re new to open source, I bet the question looming in the back of your mind is, “can these alternatives compete with big tech giants like Google and Microsoft?”. Yes, they can, and then some. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s compare an open-source cloud storage solution against the heavy hitters.

Services like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive have made it easier than ever to upload and store all of your data in the cloud. But did you know you are also handing over control and privacy of your data? Meaning unwelcome eyes could potentially view and access it.

Remember, you are placing your data in the trust of these tech giants. Google is infamous for collecting user data, but in 2019, over 52 million accounts were exposed in a data breach, which left each users data exposed for three years. This is just one example of many incidents that have occurred via proprietary cloud storage solutions.

NextCloud: the open-source alternative

NextCloud is an open-source solution that lets you take back control of your data and where you host it. Your data no longer needs to sit on Google or Microsoft’s servers, where your files can be scanned and deleted if they don’t meet the standards set in your agreement.

Having control over where you host your cloud storage removes the main risks of commercial cloud solutions.

Marketing campaigns can make a product sound much more impressive than how it operates in reality. NextCloud cannot lie as the source code is available to the public, which means security weaknesses are patched far quicker than Google or Microsoft.

When it comes to security, it is always better to be proactive rather than reactive.

Why are enterprises moving to open source?

Quality and security: Due to the strong community behind open source mean that the source code performs well, is stable and has a high level of security. Because the source code is visible to everyone, security vulnerabilities are discovered swiftly and patched much quicker than most proprietary solutions.

Cost of ownership: Open source solutions are often available with no license fees. However, some open-source projects require license fees, but they are generally much lower than their proprietary counterparts making open source the best choice for the total cost of ownership.

Continuous technology innovation: Open source products are typically a culmination of other open-source software. Because the source code for thousands of open source products is available online, it helps the developers customise and create new programs that help solve business problems and speed up innovation.

Benefits of open source

Security

It may seem counterintuitive that open source software is more secure and reliable than proprietary software even though its code is fully transparent and available to the public. However, this is precisely the reason why it is more secure.

But how?

More people inspecting the code results in more bugs and vulnerabilities being found and patched much quicker, thanks to the power and active open source community. With proprietary software, flaws will go unnoticed until a breach occurs.

Hold on! Before you go crazy and start downloading as much open-source software as you can, just because it’s open-source doesn’t guarantee its safety. Do your research, join forums and read articles about the software before you commit.

Control

Open source places the power in your hands. You can examine the code, and if there is something you don’t like, you can change it to fit your business needs and requirements. Even if you are not a programmer or developer, you can use the software any way you want, not the way the big tech vendors tell you to.

Flexibility

Vendor lock-ins are a technique used to ensure client longevity with recurring license fees. Businesses become so engrained in a specific product or service that it makes it near impossible (or outrageously expensive) to switch to another provider.

Open source truly separates you from commercial vendors, giving you the freedom and flexibility to adapt and customise solutions to your exact business use cases. It also helps avoid and protect against vendor lock-ins.

Paid support

Free software sounds too good to be true. If it’s free, it must be junk. Otherwise, how do the developers make money?

Proprietary software requires you to purchase software or pay recurring license fees and, more often than not, provide lacklustre to no support when things go wrong. Open-source developers have reversed this business model by providing the software for free, and offering paid support.

You are not required to pay for support to use open source software, but because paid support is the primary way developers make money, the level of quality and responsiveness is much high than closed source solutions.

Legal freedom

When you install proprietary software for the first time, more often than not, you will be asked to read through an encyclopedia’s worth of terms and conditions.

The complete opposite applies to open-source software. You can tweak away until your heart’s content, never having to worry that you are breaching the contract or using the software in a way that could land you in legal trouble unless you are doing something illegal, of course (open source won’t protect you from that).

Stability

I tell you what grinds my gears. When you’re fully invested in a TV show for many years, and then the network decides to cancel it with no explanation or closure.

The same applies to proprietary software.

What happens if your business is dependant on a suite of software and systems from a commercial vendor and either go out of business, decide to pack up shop or discontinue the solution you are using. Sure the vendor might continue to support their software for a few extra years, but how will your business continue to function when the inevitable situation arise in the long term?

With open-source, it doesn’t matter if the developer goes out of business or stops contributing to the project. Once it’s in the public domain, it’s there to stay.

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