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5 Benefits of Open Source Software
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Business owners daunted by the cost of acquiring new commercial software often find themselves looking for free alternatives.
Open source software will often show up in the top results, but rather than being a free alternative, this offers advantages commercial software cannot. Here are five benefits of open source which you won't find elsewhere.
1. More Security
Users inexperienced with open source products may be concerned about their security. Because the source code is available to anyone with an Internet connection, aren't security flaws easy to see, giving malicious programmers vital information about the software's vulnerabilities?
While that concern is understandable, it's unfounded, for precisely the reason that gave concern in the first place. Because the source code is open, programmers can locate security flaws and repair them. And because open source development teams are generally larger than their commercial counterparts, there are more eyes looking at the code. That means open source projects have more minds making the software secure.
2. Fewer Bugs and Faster Fixes
While probably no software is completely bug free, the nature of open source software development helps catch and fix bugs early. That speed is especially visible when contrasted with commercial software's bug fix cycle.
A member of an open source development team can release a new version immediately after finding and fixing a bug, which is then available to the public. Users have the option of upgrading immediately or waiting until the official upgrade. There is no such speed in the commercial software world.
3. No Upgrade Push
One of the few ways software vendors have of ensuring ongoing revenue from any particular business customer is to pressure them to upgrade. Often an upgrade offers no real benefit to the user. But if a user becomes comfortable with a particular version and chooses not to upgrade, the upgrade cycle will eventually leave the user behind without support or with obsolete file formats.
Open source software, on the other hand, often has no such push toward upgrades. Open source projects are more likely to adhere to slowly changing standards. The software changes only gradually, so the interface remains familiar. And file formats generally remain consistent. While software upgrades will advance as technology changes, there is usually a much smaller penalty for refusing to upgrade. And if a business user does choose to upgrade, the changes will be less drastic.
4. Excellent Support Options
There are a range of support options available for open source software, many of them free. The open source community tends to be passionate about its technology, and there is an ethos of helping and sharing. So you'll find numerous forums and communities dedicated to the support of open source projects.
And the answers are easy to find. Search any help question for an open source product, and you'll most likely find a forum post with the answer. Forums members are quick to respond to requests, too. Want paid support? You'll likely find it for a lower fee than for the official support of commercial software.
5. Low Cost and Added Value
Open source projects often have no fee attached, and this non-commerciality tends to be an important part of the open source community's ethos. Furthermore, consider the lack of an expensive upgrade push and the availability of free or affordable support, and the proposition seems even more attractive. Often, you receive functionality equal to or better than that of commercial software, and significant value-adding extras, too, for no fee whatsoever.
While not every open source project is better than the commercial competition, it will frequently give it a run for the money. You get better security, with quicker bug fixes. And the slowly changing nature of open source means your business won't be forced to adapt to new upgrades every year. Support is responsive and accessible, and the products are eminently affordable. All this means you should consider your open source options whenever acquiring new software.