Open source software…how free is it?

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It’s not hard to see why organisations would be attracted to open source software.  Why would you pay for a comparable commercial product when, with a simple internet search you can find, download, install and use enterprise-standard tools without raising a single purchase order?

 

It’s not hard to see why organizations would be attracted to open source software. Why would you pay for a comparable commercial product when, with a simple internet search you can find, download, install and use enterprise-standard tools without raising a single purchase order?

The burgeoning supply of free-to-use tools, coupled with the constant drive to control costs, means that there is much less reticence to allow such tools into an enterprises IT infrastructure than would have been the case in the past.

When considering open-source solutions, they are frequently found wanting in the areas of:

  • Reporting 
  • Integration 

As these are often key requirements, additional effort and costs are also incurred to fulfill these needs.  If you are an organization which uses open source solutions, then you are probably resourcing and funding in-house support and development of the solution (sometimes without even realizing it).  A large operation may be able to facilitate such demands, but for smaller outfits it will be unsustainable without day-to-day activities being compromised.

Does your organization use open source products in the hope that they’re more cost effective?  It might be time to take a look at the real costs and identify whether there’s a better way. 

Frequently “hidden” costs and risks inherent to the use, installation and administration of open source tools include:

  • Administrative effort required to keep such tools up-to-date and operational 
  • Time spent fixing issues due to limited support
  • Less resources to support real business activities due to the demands of these tools
  • Additional development effort to include required features lacking in the tools
  • In-house support can be compromised by staff churn; where critical expert knowledge rests in the hands of a few key personnel
  • Increased resources to deal with migration and patching to ensure continuity of service
  • Longevity of open source applications; their existence and development is dependent upon a community who have no contractual obligation to their end-users.

 

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