Open Source Technology: Why and How to Use It

First things first: what is open source technology?

So there are two methods of software development distribution available closed source web development and open source web development. Closed source software is distributed under a licensing agreement authorized only to specific private users. So, in other words, the public cannot view or change the source code.

On the other hand, while open source software is also distributed under a licensing agreement, the source code is open to the public. The software can be modified and evolved by any developer in the world.

This kind of web development is popular due to the transparency of its platform and freedom of any developer to contribute. That being said, closed source software is not without its advantages, but because free and open source software (or FOSS) is so readily available to developers, it offers several benefits to businesses that closed source simply cannot.

According to Black Duck Management Webinar in 2014. Open Source projects are expected to surge in 2015 and beyond.

Let’s explore the reasons why open source software is so excellent for business, shall we?

1. Cost

One of the most immediate advantages of using open source software is that it’s far less expensive than closed source software. And what business doesn’t want to save money?

The community that supports open source is vastly larger than closed source technology. This type of community opens the door to millions not hundreds of active contributors propelling the advancements forward at an extremely fast rate benefiting the project as a whole to everyone involved.

While the “free” in FOSS does not mean that open source software itself is free of cost, you have to consider all of the associated costs of closed source software:

  • Plugins and Enhancements
  • Services and integrations fees
  • Annual licensing fees
  • Virus protection fees

So with the added costs (mostly due to add-ons, integrations, and extra services). There’s no fee for the software itself, so in most cases, open source software ends up being a fraction of the cost of closed source software.

On closed source software, everything you do can add up to between thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on how complex the software is built and who is going to maintain. When working with closed source software, it’s particularly cost-effective if your business has a team of developers in-house the ability to maintain and implement the software.

2. Security

You may suspect that because open source allows access to a myriad of developers that it’s less secure than a closed source code which keeps the code private and limited to only certain pairs of eyes. But it’s quite the opposite.

Because closed source software is hidden from public view, no one other than the private group of developers who have access is aware of how many bugs the code could contain. This means with fewer eyes on the code, there’s less software testing, and it can take months to fix vulnerabilities.

However, bugs in the open sourced software tend to be fixed immediately because of the massive collaboration between developers and the large-scale ability for software testing. As Linus’s Law states (named for Linus Torvalds, the founder of one of the most popular open source operating systems of all time– Linux), “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.”

It’s a similar concept to editing– if you have enough people editing written content, all grammatical and syntax errors will eventually be resolved yielding the best work. Regarding open source coding, with a greater number of developers scrutinizing the code, there’s a far lower possibility for bugs.

3. Quality

Just as the security of software is improved as more developers have a hand in changing the code, the quality of the software is improved as well. Open source software can evolve and add new features at a much quicker rate than closed source because of the freedom of access.

Open source software tends to be more user-friendly. In fact, it comes much closer to what users want because users can help develop that software themselves. It’s for the people, by the people!

As a businessperson, this concept should be incredibly compelling since it’s your job to make as many connections as possible between your brand and the buyer. If you can do this with a more user-friendly experience, then you’re well on your way to making strong connections with potential buyers.

When you contrast the concept of open source with the idea that the quality of closed source software is only as good as the vendor says it is, you can begin to understand why so many businesses prefer using open source.

78% of companies run all or part of their operations on open source (ZDNet, 2015).

Open source software simply takes the gamble out of investing in software– you don’t have to place blind trust in a vendor because you can see the quality of the code for yourself.

4. Customizability

Chances are you use software or have previously used software that requires you to continuously upgrade. Guess what kind of software that is? That’s right– closed source.

But with open source software, there is far more compatibility with other businesses, computers, and users without upgrading. You control when you upgrade rather than it being dictated.

Try it Out

Not sold on open source yet? The cool thing about much of the open source software out there is that you can give it a free trial run before you make any purchases.

There are a plethora of great open source software out there that serve all sorts of purposes like project management, accounting, graphics, backup, email, office productivity, and more. But here are just a few examples of good open source web development software:

  • Bootstrap A free tool created by a designer and developer at Twitter that’s become one of the most popular front-end tools in the world. It’s known for its fast development of responsive designs.
  • Atom One of the most popular open source text editors that support cross-platform editing. It’s a customizable tool with smart auto-completion and other features which assist in rapid web development.
  • KompoZer A complete web authoring system that marries web file management to easy-to-use WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) web page editing. It’s so user-friendly that even non-technical folks can operate it without knowing how to code.
  • Docker This is open source software that works as a container platform. Developers use Docker to make collaborating with each other easier and allow apps to be managed side-by-side. It’s a great tool for businesses in need of shipping new features of software quickly.
  • WordPress The most popular online publishing platform right now, powering more than a quarter of the web. It’s super easy to build a website or blog in seconds without any technical knowledge.
  • WooCommerce The most popular eCommerce platform on the web, powering 28% of all online stores. It is an extension of WordPress.

We have put together a good supplement article entitled “4 Important Ways to Build a Website that Works for You” which has some more tips on how to build a good website.

Conclusion
Open source software is overall a great option for businesses looking to grow using quality web tools that are affordable, secure, and customizable. With the freedom of access to developers worldwide, all open source software has the potential to evolve and improve as opposed to closed source software which is created in a controlled environment and limited in its ability to change.

However, it’s important to note that open source code is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used poorly. Though there are plenty of good developers out there trying to make improvements to open source software, there are also developers that can take advantage of the access to the code. While this is something you should take into consideration when deciding what kind of web development software to use, you would be remiss not to seriously consider using open source as a tool. We highly recommend using open source software for all or at least a portion of your business’s online needs.

If you need help in navigating this ever-changing landscape of technology. Please contact us, we can help.