We live in an open, share-crazy world where we expect a lot of the things we do on our computers for free. Can you imagine life without your email program, your browser window, or even Google? We put them all to good use hundreds of times per day.
The concept of open source is relatively simple. It refers to a program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and modification from its original design free of charge. Open source is almost always created as a collaborative effort in which programmers come together to continually build and modify the code to make it better. Everyone has access to it; everyone can use it; everyone can modify it.
Don’t think it matters to the way you do business? Do you use the Firefox browser? Do you use Thunderbird for your email program? Do you use WordPress for your website or blog? Do you use the productivity suite OpenOffice?
Then you use open source software. And that doesn’t even account for all the snippets of code that find their way into fully developed, proprietary software.
If it’s already a part of your life, how safe is it? Is your business at risk by using open source, or is it a benefit to have these programs in place?
Open source doesn’t always equal free
To be considered open source means the source code needs to be freely available. It does not mean the application itself must be free. There are actually a lot of companies that make money from open source projects. When companies choose to build around open source, the price tends to be attached to things like support or added features. They may offer a free, community version, with stripped down, bare bones features, while charging for improved quality and performance features.
Open source may or may not come with support
Not all open source projects have a corporate friendly 24/7 support line to access or call, but that doesn’t mean availability to help might not exist. In some cases you can find forums, mailing lists, freelancers, or even developers who created the program accessible for questions and help as you need it.
Open source means you have full access to the code
An open source program is fully accessible to all that choose to use it. It doesn’t mean only a programmer will know how to edit, read and use it. In fact, many users access and use a program long term without the need or desire to get into the coding to modify or rebuild. Yes, it gives you access. But with many programs, when they function and provide the user friendly platform you need to accomplish your tasks, you simply won’t need to get to the coding to make modifications and make it more usable.
You don’t have to be an expert to use open source
Open source has evolved in the same manner as many programs we currently use every day. Remember using DOS to boot up your system? Things have gotten considerably easier since those days. Using most open source software is similar in nature. Open source has evolved to give the average computer user access and knowledge to use what tools they need to accomplish what they need to get done. And as computers continue to get easier to operate, the ease of use of the open source programs gets easier as well.
Most open source software is as reliable as its proprietary counterpart
Open source software is everywhere. Start with Download.com, search the Linux software utility, or do a simple Google search to find websites offering open source software from around the world. Because of the nature of the way it is created and the way it is distributed, it is considered a safe option to help you create and perform whatever function you choose to do.
Bottom line: security is not dependent on whether something is free or paid, public or private, closed or open source. It depends more on its architecture, its delivery process, and ultimately its quality review.
If you are considering migration from closed to open source software, there are easy ways to make the transition seamlessly and worry free. Give me a call if you have any questions.