Business owners in need of software have two distinct choices-commercial software and open source software. Each approach has its own list of advantages and disadvantages, and it is important for businesses to weigh the benefits and drawbacks carefully.
With commercial software businesses pay an initial charge for the software, then an additional annual charge for maintenance and upgrades. Patches and bug fixes are provided by the company selling the software, and some sort of technical support is generally available as well. Quality control and testing are done by the software vendor, and fixes are provided to customers as they become available.
With open source software companies pay no initial fee for the software itself, although there is sometimes a charge for documentation and media. Support is available, but there is often a charge, and the support is generally provided by third party vendors familiar with the open source software package. Any bug fixes and upgrades are developed through the open source community, a group of computer enthusiasts who constantly examine and fine tune the software for better performance.
Advantages of Commercial Software
Some of the advantages of using commercial software for business purposes include:
- A single point of contact for any problems – businesses simply contact the maker of the software to resolve any issues that may arise
- A well defined and well thought out upgrade and development plan for the software
- Clear usage and licensing requirements
Disadvantages of Commercial Software
Of course there are some potential drawbacks of commercial software as well. Those potential pitfalls include:
- No guarantees that the software will perform as needed
- Limited trial periods
- Proprietary source code – users will be unable to tailor the source code for their needs
- The company may decide to discontinue the software, and business owners will need to find a new software package
- Strict licensing guidelines
Open source software has its own list of advantages and disadvantages, and it is important to look at those as well. Not every solution will be right for every company, and it is important for business owners to carefully evaluate their needs before moving forward.
Advantages of Open Source Software
Some of advantages of using open source software include:
- The software is freely available, with less stringent licensing requirements
- Bug fixes can be implemented quickly, without going through the corporate approval process
- The software may work across many different platforms
- The source code is freely available
- The software can easily be audited for security purposes
Disadvantages of Open Source Software
Some of the potential drawbacks of open source software include:
- There is no guarantee that the software will work in the user’s environment
- The support is provided by volunteer computer enthusiasts and not by paid staff members
- The development plans for the software may not be clearly defined
- There may be compatibility issues with existing software or hardware
- Open source software may be more challenging to install and maintain than commercial software