Why Open Source Is Good For Business
Reading Time: 13 minutes
Many of the world’s largest companies are adapting their business models to include the latest Open Sourced technologies; this is a colossal shift from the commercial closed source model of the past. Industry titans like Microsoft are quickly adopting Open Source technologies, providing Open Source styled utilities within Windows to entice Linux users to Microsoft.
Here are the reasons why open source is good for business:
69% of IT leaders claim that Open Source is an integral part of their organisation’s overall IT infrastructure. ‘IT infrastructure’ is a combination of hardware, software, network and human resources allowing organisations to deliver IT services.
According to Red Hat (the world’s largest commercial Open Source provider), Open Source software is rapidly becoming the most popular enterprise technology for countless businesses today.
Open Source software is commonly free, made possible by the vast resources of passionate communities supporting each project. Almost every Linux operating system (OS) has access to an online community that can have a variety of support options. These include; detailed documentation, wikis, live support chat, forums, and mailing lists to help new users adopting Open Source technologies.
Open Source communities have been running forums since bulletin boards were still a thing. People have been helping people online for free for a long time, now commonly referred to as crowdsourcing. Information shared between users of products and services has proven itself to be an advantageous and more desirable way to resolve common problems. With large communities online who are proficient in programming, they can repair bugs without the need for sizeable support costs. Commercial companies like Telstra and Microsoft have slowly begun to realise the benefits of open discussion. They have moved to offer this type of information sharing services for a few years now.
If the free options are not enough and you’re looking for additional resources, you also have the option of paid support on many Open Source software suites. By paying for assistance, it allows for quicker bug fixing and patching and to target specific problems relevant to your business.
Open Source providers are as serious about the quality of their software as they are confident in their abilities to maintain and support their offerings. The majority, if not all the revenue from Open Source, is achieved by providing support; so you can expect to receive a quick response and delivery times on your queries. In many instances, the cost will almost always work out less expensive than most commercial vendors’ fees.
The question you should be asking yourself is, why should I blindly trust big corporations with my IT infrastructure and data just because they have big dollars in branding and marketing? Because it’s the approach of old? The reality is we don’t know what lies underneath the glamorous veneer, the background processes, or how many bugs and weaknesses a piece of commercial software contains. If and when a problem does arise, how long will you be left waiting before it’s resolved?
How often are they searching for these issues, or are they just waiting until a breach or break occurs? If you missed our previous article, you can check it out >here< and read about past cyber breaches of Google and Dropbox.
To put the above into context, this doesn’t mean Open Source has a 100% security rating or is always more secure than commercial offerings. With that said, due to the open nature of allowing anyone interested with the ability to view and edit the code allows for many sets of eyes across potential security exploits and constant forward motion for improvement.
Closed Source There is a high level of secrecy used to rationalise the expense of closed-source, commercial products. Companies use this information blackout to provide a sense of pseudo security. It is the belief that if nobody outside of the development team knows the inner workings of the proprietary technology, the platform will remain secure. However, with so many zero-day exploits hitting the internet, exposing so many cracks, the sense of security sold by proprietary offerings is getting harder to sell.
Open Source In comparison, Open Source software design offers you complete transparency providing greater end-security not in spite of, but because of its open nature. By revealing the code to the general public, it eradicates the mystery behind what the software contains. Open Source allows examination of the code by anyone to test for bugs and hacks; allowing identification and remedy of security weaknesses quickly. Open Source leverages a large community of technologically savvy users who regularly peer review and detect issues promptly ensuring a vastly more secure offering.
Open Source software, for the most part, eliminates the excruciating uncertainty and reliance on major vendors to fix coding errors. Microsoft can take months to patch vulnerabilities; in 2019, this was the case with their Internet Explorer zero-day flaw, which enabled attackers to successfully gain user rights and take control of an affected system.
A 2015 ZDNET article states that 96.3% of the world’s top 1 million servers are running on Linux. In technology timelines, five years is a long time, so today’s numbers would be even higher. That’s a lot of Linux Open Source servers out there and for a good reason.
A great example of very active persons working outside large organisations to provide in-depth analyses and resolutions faster than commercial companies is Marcus Hutchins. Hutchins is the founder and author of the MalwareTechBlog. He is a British computer security researcher who successfully ceased the WannaCry ransomware attack temporarily. His blog delves into a wide range of threats, bugs and fixes, compiling and providing detailed insight into current security vulnerabilities. In a recent article, he covers the risk of the BlueKeep based worm and how in collaboration with other developers helped identify and resolve the issue before making the vulnerability public.
“BlueKeep, the security vulnerability that was discovered in Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol implementation, which allowed for the possibility of remote code execution.”
Let’s pose the question if every business is there to make money. What is the best way to lock in an income stream?
Let’s look at proprietary software, starting with Microsoft Office. In the past, Office only provided support for their exclusive document format. Meaning users required a Microsoft Office license to gain access to documents created in this proprietary format. For a long time, even older versions of Office were not compatible with newer versions meaning you needed to upgrade to get access to the data.
It’s a little different today, and Microsoft has allowed the ability to save your documents in older Office formats for compatibility with other users of their software, but this wasn’t always the case. Today you’re still not able to export your Microsoft documents into another format from a different company, for example, LibreOffice.
In comparison LibreOffice allows you to open Microsoft documents, use them, save them in their original Microsoft format or save as an Open Document Format (ODF) which provides compatibility on other Office platforms like Free Office which uses ODF.
A perfect example of vendor lock-in from Microsoft and one way they keep users on their Office Platform by keeping out other solutions or by not adopting Open Source formats. If LibreOffice and other Office platforms can read and save in Microsoft formats, why can’t Microsoft do the same?
This one example shows how closed source designs can make as much profit from your business as possible while providing a false sense of heightened superiority. Depending on your application requirements you may need to subscribe to a lock-in contract, ongoing maintenance and upgrade overheads just to name a few potential caveats and your own experience may differ based on the solution used.
Most companies don’t realise they can receive better quality software and services for free or at a very reasonable cost when considering Open Source alternatives. In most cases, you can also try the Open Source software you are interested in for free, no strings attached.
Keeping with our current example formula of Office products, LibreOffice is a strong competitor to the Microsoft Office Standard Suite of applications. For most users, LibreOffice will be more than enough to handle Word Processing, Spread Sheets, Presentations, Drawing mark-ups and much more for a zero upfront cost. A single user cost for Office Standard is $18 per month (AUD) as an individual, that’s not a significant expense. Now look at it from a company perspective; when you have 100 employees, that’s now a cost of $1,800 per month or $21,600 per year! It starts to add up.
Now add Windows licensing on top of that being another $9.60 per month for Windows 10 Pro + Malware protection and any other piece of software your business needs to function every day. As Windows becomes more bloated, you will soon need to reinvest in newer hardware to keep performing the same tasks you did on Windows 8.
Open Source software is generally available for free with an option to donate money to the development team or paid support subscriptions. The paid Open Source offerings that exist are usually well priced compared to the commercial software we have just covered in our above examples.
Cost reductions are made possible by many developers pooling their resources together to focus on a common goal rather than a company being budget-constrained with a limited amount of developers who have access to the code and tethered to business constraints. Open Source developers are not limited to one resource, and they outsource work to anyone interested in participating in the project and offering their assistance. A brain trust, who help develop, evaluate, and modify the code allowing the project to evolve.
Here’s another example of cost reduction; trying to run a new version of Windows on an old computer, or a new PC that’s under powered to cope with the demands of Windows 10 will require a new computer. In opposition, there are versions of Linux that will run perfectly well on the older hardware optimising performance and speed for a few more years, extending your hardware investment and putting those dollars back in your pocket.
The benefit of Open Source operating systems and software is that they are far less resource-intensive (less bloat), meaning they will run well even on lower-spec or older hardware. There is no need to upgrade to new laptops and desktops every few years, which increases business sustainability, saves money and reduces tech waste. Open Source shifts the power to you, not the vendor, giving you complete control over your infrastructure and spend.
If any of the applications you use on a day-to-day basis are proprietary and are a must-have for daily productivity, consider looking at Open Source alternatives to reduce costs. Alternatively, using a hybrid of closed and Open Source solutions to fit your needs will reduce your licensing costs. With a low to no price point to get started, Open Source allows you to make decisions for yourself without unnecessarily handing over your critical business capital.
With all the added benefits and low to zero cost, it sounds too good to be true. So how is it possible? As outlined above, Open Source software is typically a cooperative project created by passionate developers who genuinely care about creating the best possible outcome. Open Source software relies on word of mouth promotion which eliminates marketing and promotional overheads. To put things in perspective, Microsoft spent $17.47 billion in 2018 on sales and marketing. You are adding to your ever-increasing licensing costs which Microsoft increases year on year.
Flexibility and Customizability
Are you currently running Office 365 or an Exchange Server but thinking of switching to Linux? Open Source software will provide you with a high degree of flexibility so that you can customise and use it to your individual business needs. With the right IT company, you’ll be able to create a personalised business solution that gives your business the edge over the competition.
Here is a suite of Open Source business solutions that can liberate you from your existing IT chains:
elementary OS (Operating System) elementary OS is a new, fast and Open Source operating system and competitor to Windows and macOS. Designed with non-technical users in mind. (link to our article)
Libre Office (Office Suite) LibreOffice is the best alternative to Office 365 available right now. LibreOffice is an open-source suite that receives constant updates to ensure stability and the delivery of new features. Not only does LibreOffice give Microsoft Office a run for its money with an expanded feature set, but it’s also completely free for businesses to use. (link to our article)
Evolution (Groupware) Evolution is a fully-fledged Outlook replacement for Linux which is as feature-rich as Outlook for Mac while running more efficiently, and it’s free from The GNOME Project. You’re able to send and receive emails, create custom signatures, select between plain text or HTML emails, insert tables, hyperlinks, and a range of other elements. It isn’t only an email client, and it includes contacts, memos, tasks, and calendar. The interface can be customised, and you can enable or disable the preview panel and position to your preferred location. You can also add extra columns to filter your emails plus loads more.
NextCloud (Private Cloud Storage) NextCloud is an open-source and self-hosted alternative to the major cloud platforms like OneDrive and Dropbox. NextCloud feels like Google Drive and boasts the broadest range of add-on capabilities and integrations with other business applications. The open architecture enables users to have full control over their data and allows added functionality using apps. NextCloud respects your privacy. (link to our article)
FreeNAS (Storage) FreeNAS is a Free and Open Source Network Attached Storage (NAS) software or hardware stack. Based on FreeBSD, it supports storage and networking protocols (iSCSI, AFP, SMB and NFS) for virtual machines or serving files. It can be installed directly on the hardware or within a virtual machine, allowing for great flexibility. With many different protocols and storage use cases. FreeNAS includes replication, de-duplication, and other smart functionality, all available for free. It’s the No# 1 most downloaded NAS software on the internet with over 10+ million downloads to it’s credit.
WordPress (CMS – Content Management System) WordPress Content Management System is the worlds most used website building platform powering over 35% of the web. WordPress download counter currently shows approximately 36 Million downloads for the current version of WordPress 5.3. It’s not only a CMS and website platform WordPress can be extended out with plugins to cover almost every need from linking to Marketing Automation like MailChimp to eCommerce sales and more. Are you looking for WordPress web hosting? You can jump over to our SMB shared web hosting packages to find one that’s the right fit for your business.
When a piece of closed-source, proprietary software discontinues, many companies are left to find a replacement, if one even exists, so that business can continue to function. A great current example is MYOB Announces End of Support for MYOB AccountRight Classic v19 end of life (EOL), in this instance, MYOB has provided a switch over path to MYOB Essentials, but this isn’t always the case and what is the trade-off?
Abandonment happens with any software, but with Open Source, you can keep the project going because there is access to the underlying code. If the developers decide to pack up shop, there is a vibrant community of enthusiastic and talented people to take over a project if it has merit. Proving the value of community-driven software and not being left to the mercy of corporate vendors.
Vendors limit what the end-user can do with their products; even though you own the software, tech companies ultimately dictate the terms and conditions of use. With proprietary software, you’re not allowed to change how it works or edit the code to suit your needs without prior consent from the software vendors and good luck getting their permission to make a change or get access to the underlying code.
The customisation possibilities of Open Source software are vast, and the most important advantage is all of these modifications are legal under Open Source licenses. While changes to closed-source, proprietary software are possible, it is usually a challenging process which will instantly breach your contract and will be unsupported by the vendor. Being able to customise existing software legally saves your business money as you will not have to build a platform from the ground up. You can reuse Open Source libraries and receive support from established online communities who are continually developing solutions specific to individual business needs.
A 2019 Alexa website review shows out of the top 25 websites in the world. There are only two that aren’t using an Open Source solution. The vast majority of proprietary software is created by small teams of developers, in comparison to Open Source where this varies by project type and can range between a few contributors to potentially thousands working on a project. Countless individuals are working to enhance the features of specific solutions, and there is a strong focus on continually improving the security of Open Source software.https://hostingtribunal.com/blog/linux-statistics/
Open Source meets the needs of its users because it is the users that have developed and driven change. Commercial vendors are guilty of providing customers with what they think we want. This argument might seem like we are living in the ‘dark ages’, I’m personally still bothered that an increasing number of mobile phones aren’t shipped with headphone jacks anymore. Open Source allows us to create what we want. Because it’s so personal to the developers and users driving the change (not just the company making the decisions for you) they ensure a product of the highest quality. It is due to this technical superiority that a growing number of enterprise businesses use Open Source software. Google, Facebook and AWS just to name a few whose business wouldn’t exist without Open Source.
As of 2019, 100% of the world’s supercomputers run on Linux. As we uncovered in our test of Elementary OS, a user-friendly and Open Source Linux based operating system. Linux based machines run a lot quicker than Windows or macOS. To read a more in-depth review, you can check out the article >here<.
In addition to the incredible hardware optimisation benefits of running Open Source, you will also have access to a wide variety of plug-ins, tools and pre-written code available online that allow you to resolve issues quickly if you so desire. If you are not technically savvy, you can reach out to the extremely active community to engage with and get advice to help assist a speedier solution to your problems. Try this with a commercial vendor, and you might be left waiting weeks, months, or potentially never achieve a resolution, this isn’t to say that every whim is catered for, but it does leave the door open.
If Open Source is so great, why isn’t everyone using it? Vendors with more substantial financial resources naturally sell their prospective customers on a product more efficiently, even inferior ones. However, a more extensive user base does not directly correlate to their products being of a higher quality.
IBM recently purchased Red Hat the largest Open Source company in the world for $34 Billion in cash, and they are keeping it Open Source. One of the main drivers behind this move is due to IBM playing catch up with Microsoft in terms of moving into the Open Source space. It’s all happening right in front of us, and we have a sneaking suspicion that in a few years even Microsoft Windows could do the same as Apple OSX and move to a Linux based Open Source OS with their custom user interface on top.
Thankfully, many businesses and government bodies have faith in Open Source software with the capability of customisation to fit their specific needs, Open Source is on the rise! In the coming years over half the software to be purchased will be Open Source.
If you are interested in learning more about the freedom and benefits of Open Source software and how it will benefit your business, have a chat with one of our solutions experts today or keep your eyes peeled on our blog for more.
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