Why Open Source
People often talk about Open Source being free, and it is widely believed that cost is the main reason to use Open Source software (in that it's less expensive than the proprietary alternatives).
benefits are certainly important, but if Open Source software wasn't
at least as good as the proprietary alternatives, hard-headed benefits-driven commercial enterprises wouldn't be using it in
The English language doesn't distinguish between free (as in rights) and free (as in price) and this often leads to a misconception on the part of people unfamiliar with the open source concept. Open Source software can sometimes be free of charge, but the real freedom is that with Open Source software the customer has greater rights, as examples:
The ability to modify the software at low cost to suit their business. Because the software is released under an Open Source license, they have the right to access and modify the source code.
Changing supplier does not mean you have to start all over from scratch on a project. Because the software is licensed under an Open Source license, the customer has access to the source code. Development and maintenance can continue in the long term - surpassing the life span of any single company or entity. This gives you the opportunity as well as the right to change supplier when you believe it is time.
We believe that - used correctly - Open Source software can help reduce costs and enhance your return on investment with immediate and long term savings. Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule and we acknowledge that there may not always be a suitable Open Source solution for every problem (yet); nor is there always a direct feature parity between Open Source and proprietary software (indeed, sometimes Open Source is better).
Nearly all software is protected by Copyright law, as by its nature software is a means of expression (algorithms, routines, mathematics, logic etc) in a similar way to literary or musical works. Some software authors choose to use Open Source style licenses (often called Copyleft licenses) which allow others to contribute to the software (e.g. allowing them to make changes, fix bugs or add enhancements). The end result is that a community of end users can benefit from each individual enhancement made to the software. In the traditional software development model, such a community is often not possible as one company controls the software source code, and will not release this source code to the public, believing that in doing so they would be loosing a stream of revenue.
Going the Open Source route does not mean that you are allowing a competitor to access the inner workings of your business. Open Source licenses require that you make the source code available with the compiled versions of the software - so when you provide your software to a customer, they must have a copy of the source code. However, you do not have to make the source code available to everyone, only those to whom you are supplying the software. As a matter of convenience, many Open Source software projects do choose to make their software available to anyone.
Open Source Benefits
Businesses purchasing a piece of software, generally have to find whatever gives the 'best fit' with the way they do, or want to, work. You may still have to do this with Open Source software, but the difference is that because you have access to the source code, you can have the software modified to suit your needs more precisely
We enjoy using Open Source software, as the licensing allows us to modify the software to suit our customers needs; as well as allowing us to provide feedback into the community and to make changes to the software. From our own experiences we believe Open Source software can provide significant cost savings compared to proprietary offerings, and internally we use Open Source software almost exclusively.
Open access to the source code results in greater transparency of the development and maintenance of software - often bugs are fixed in a short period of time, and security and stability often prevail over new features - due to the community involvement with the software product. After all, enhancements can be made by anyone as there is no restriction on who can use the software.
The Different Software Licenses
As with everything, there is always choice. Depending upon the
project leaders, there may be a variety of licenses covering the
software source code. With out going into them all in detail, we tend
to use the GNU Public License (GPL) for software we produce. This
requires us to release the source code of any software we produce to
the customer, which we do, as well as ensuring that future derived
works are also released under the same license. It does not,
however, force the customer to make the code available to others.
For further information on the GNU Public license, please click here
The Slackware Linux project have an easy to read page discussing Open Source and Free Software
And contrary to the propaganda put out by those with a vested interest in rubbishing Open Source, there are a number of organisations providing the formal controls needed to ensure stability. These include:
(often written as OOo) provides a genuinely and free alternative to MS
Office. OOo runs on MS Windows as well as Linux and lets you import and
work on MS documents, spreadsheets and presentations. With OOo -
and unlike MS Office - you have access to the full specification
of the output, so you can never be prevented from reading the documents
you have created.
Linux.org provides a central
source for information on the Linux operating system, ranging from
details of various projects to how to set up a user group.
Python.org - the Python programming language is one of the key components of our own freely available Thyme application development environment, and we play a significant role in supporting the international Python community.
Open Source Development Laboratories - OSDL was founded in 2000, with IBM, HP, CA, Intel and NEC as founding members. in a clear commitment by these companies to Open Souce. Since then its membership has grown to include many of the world's best known multi-nationals including Google and Nokia, as well as many smaller organisations. Membership and participation in working groups is not restricted to businesses, and individuals can join and participate free of charge.
Sourceforge is probably the best known example of an organisation providing a central code repository for cooperative development of a wide range of Open Source applications. This adds up to a development resource that not even the largest of the major proprietary software developers can match.
If you would like to discuss the many ways that Open Source software could benefit your business, please contact us.