What are the Advantages of Open Source Software?
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Open-source software and technology is proven within the world of both mid-market and enterprise businesses. Most companies across the globe depend on open-source software at nearly every point in their delivery chain. From the underlying (backend) software that powers business functionality, to the front ends that users interact with, Linux and open-source applications make things happen.
That doesn’t mean every business understands the benefits of open source software. Open source solutions, whether a platform, operating system, or application, often offer advantages over their proprietary counterparts.
There are numerous open source software advantages. These are 10 benefits every company can enjoy when migrating to open-source technology.
Software is expensive, especially when you have to purchase it for numerous servers or desktops. With most open-source software, cost is no longer an issue, as the vast majority of this software is free. From the Linux operating system, web servers, database servers, programming languages, programming frameworks, and office suites, there’s open-source software for the task at hand. Open-source software doesn’t have the same tendency to “break” as does proprietary solutions. Also, open-source software tends to be less difficult to integrate, so you’ll spend less time and money working those solutions into your current platform.
Another area where open-source software helps your company save money is that it doesn’t make the same high demands on hardware as proprietary solutions do. The latest version of Windows requires powerful hardware to run, which means your aging laptops and desktops might not be eligible for upgrade. Linux, an open-source operating system, on the other hand, runs on lower-powered hardware, so you can extend the life of your hardware, saving even more money. Lower hardware costs, lower software costs, and less maintenance costs all add up to significant savings.
Most open-source software is developed by volunteers around the world, so any given piece of software could be worked on by numerous developers, also commonly referred to as crowdsourcing. In the crowdsourced model many people have a hand in creating a piece of software. The software project is part of a large community of developers who can view it, work with it, and vet it. With so many eyes on code, vulnerabilities are more quickly spotted and patched. With proprietary software, a much smaller group of developers work on any given application.
Another aspect of the open-source development model is that it isn’t bound by the typical hurdles that cause proprietary development to bog down. Open-source software doesn’t have to follow a corporate structure, so it’s not held up by middle and upper management. As a result, the development model works more efficiently. Instead of business minds being in control of the process, developers hold the reins, which equates to a smoother lifecycle.
Improved Security and Transparency
Linux is well-known for being a more secure operating system than its proprietary competitors. Most open-source software benefits from that same level of security. Because every open-source application makes the source code available, it can be vetted by anyone. This means there are many eyes and hands digging into the code to discover any security bugs. Thanks to the community-driven model, those vulnerabilities are discovered and patched very quickly. It’s not uncommon that a security flaw is found in a piece of open-source software and patched within 24 hours.
With closed-source software, those patches take considerable time to be released, making your software vulnerable for longer periods. Every day you use software with vulnerabilities is another day you risk attacks. Cutting that window of opportunity down lessens the opportunity for bad actors to compromise your business.
Open-source software offers a level of transparency that closed-source cannot possibly match, so developers are held accountable for their work. Such accountability leads to cleaner and more secure code.
Open-source software is well known for its reliability. Such high reliability isn’t just the product of the source-code being available to view, but because open-source developers understand how the world depends on their software. With businesses of all sizes integrating more open-source software into their systems, it’s critical these projects create the most reliable tools possible.
When you have a global community able to engage with a project, very highly skilled developers help improve the code to make it even more reliable. A number of large companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Hulu, Amazon, Google, and Netflix, not only depend on open source but also contribute to it, so the software must be absolutely reliable.
Open-source software is also well known for better adhering to standards than proprietary software. In fact, the Internet Society, a global organization dedicated to driving internet policy and standards, says, “The Internet is fundamentally based on the existence of open, non-proprietary standards. They are key to allowing devices, services, and applications to work together across a wide and dispersed network of networks.”
With open-source software, businesses enjoy greater flexibility. One of the biggest benefits of open-source software is that it can often be used in different ways than it might have been originally intended. Open-source software is a puzzle piece with universal, interlocking connectors. You can take a single piece of open-source software and make it fit perfectly into your systems, even though it may not have been designed to work in that exact way. Or, you might have a need for a piece of software that does a particular thing in a particular way, that cannot be met with closed-source software. Even if you can’t find a piece of open-source software originally designed for that particular need, you can either alter a piece of existing open-source software, or piece together multiple solutions to fill that need. Open-source software is that flexible.
You cannot alter proprietary software, because doing so would invalidate the license and warranty, which makes closed-source applications highly inflexible. If you’re a business looking to be competitive and agile, you need the inherent flexibility found in open-source.
Freedom From Vendor Lock-In
One of the biggest issues with proprietary software is vendor lock-in. You purchase one piece of software, to find out it only functions with software, or hardware, made by the same company. You make the investment. Eventually, you find yourself locked into one vendor, and when that vendor doesn’t offer a solution for a problem you run into, your company has a problem without a solution. After spending all that time and money on a single-vendor solution, you’re looking at starting over.
There is no vendor lock-in with open-source because most open source software isn’t even owned by a company to lock you in. Open-source software is open to its core, so you can use applications from any developer, from any company, on almost any hardware.
This lack of vendor lock-in plays into cost, reliability, and flexibility. Any company looking to do things their way, needs to opt for open-source solutions. Otherwise, you’re locked into a third-party idea of how your business should function.
More Web-Based Tools
The world depends on the cloud and other web-based systems. Although many traditional administrators still prefer to configure and manage from the command-line, the tide is shifting to a web-based frontier. Many open-source operating systems, such as Red Hat, Alma Linux, and Rocky Linux, now ship with Cockpit, a web-based admin GUI, installed by default. The Linux operating system is turning more toward web-based tools for those users who prefer them. Tools like Cockpit, Webmin, phpMyAdmin, cPanel, VestaCP, Ajenti, froxlor, aaPanel, ISPConfig, and Sentora, provide companies with centralized administration of their servers and services.
The need for more web-based tools is continuing to rise because more companies are migrating their servers from on-premises data centers to third-party hosting services, where Linux enjoys the largest deployment market share.
Easier License Management
License management can be complex, especially when those licenses number in the hundreds or thousands. Licenses must be kept current, agreements updated, and subscriptions monitored. Some managers have to turn to yet another piece of software just to manage the license of other software they’ve installed.
With open-source software, for example Linux distributions Debian and Ubuntu, or Apache web server and MariaDB database server, there are no licenses to purchase or expire. A few Linux operating systems like Red Hat Enterprise Linux or SUSE Enterprise Linux, require subscriptions.
Most open-source software ships with a license, but often doesn’t present an End User License Agreement to accept. Given the majority of open-source software doesn’t have an associated cost, you don’t have to worry about re-subscribing or paying for another year. Just install and go. Not having to worry about license management is a major benefit.
Proprietary software usually comes with a support contract, which allows you to reach out to the company when help is required. There are some instances of open-source software where you either receive such a deal, as with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE, or you can purchase added support, as with Canonical’s Ubuntu Advantage, or third-party support, such as with TuxCare.
The advantage of open-source software support is that it’s everywhere. Most Linux distributions, an open-source operating system, have mailing lists you can subscribe to. You can send an email to that mailing list and receive a reply within minutes. There are also numerous sites dedicated to specific open-source projects, such as Ask Ubuntu. Ask Ubuntu is a forum where you can find answers to your questions, or ask a question, if you can’t readily find the answer to your question.
Nearly every business now depends on containers. Containerized applications make it possible for businesses to be more agile, more highly scalable, save money, deploy more reliable applications and services, and better lean into cloud-native development.
Containers and open-source go hand-in-hand. They are built with open-source software and deployed on open-source platforms. In fact, without open-source, containers would either not exist or be as readily available. According to the “ Application Container Market - Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecast (2021-2026)” the container market is expected to register a compound annual growth rate of 29% between 2021-2026. That’s significant and means more businesses will come to depend on containerized technology. This wouldn’t be possible without open-source.
Businesses of all types and sizes benefit from open-source software. From desktop and server operating systems, web-based control panels, blogging platforms, databases, office suites, programming languages, programming frameworks, image editors, audio editors, and everything in-between, open-source has a solution, is more reliable, secure, flexible, and cost-effective than proprietary solutions.
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