Should your small business use open-source software?

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When it comes to software, there are two main types: proprietary and open-source.

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Proprietary software

Sometimes also known as closed-source, this type of software is more traditional in that only the owners/creators are able to copy, distribute, and alter it. Classic examples of proprietary software include Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office.

Open-source software

Essentially, open-source software is software that is written by individuals and communities that is aimed at benefiting all users. Its source code is accessible, visible, and can be modified or enhanced. Examples of open-source software include Libre Office and GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP).

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Benefits of using open-source software

1. Flexibility

Open-source offers multiple ways to solve problems. You can create capabilities that do not exist, you can test various solutions, and then use the ones that benefit you the most. Proprietary software just doesn’t have this flexibility.

2. Speed

Community versions of software give you a great starting point – but you can tailor them to your own needs very quickly. This means you can begin to deliver value earlier.

3. Cost-effectiveness

It makes financial sense for small businesses to consider open-source as it is almost always more cost-effective than the equivalent proprietary solution. Additionally, it is cheaper to roll out and scale-up if needed.

4. Shared maintenance costs

The collaborative involvement model means that any costs of maintaining and updating the software are shared among multiple parties.

6. Open-source is the future

More and more solutions are being built on an open-source basis. Indeed, most websites are based on open-source technology – including WordPress that powers 35% of all websites. Most cloud solutions apart from Microsoft’s cloud are also open-source.

So are there any downsides to using open-source software?

There are downsides to everything in life and open-source software is no different. The two most often mentioned are that some software is not as user-friendly (with less emphasis on the GUI) and that it is not always easy to get technical support if things go wrong.

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