Not long ago, the idea of using open source software in a business setting was considered ridiculous. Even now, some consider the proposition unwise, it turns out open source has become crucial for businesses across industries.
In fact, according to a study by Forrester Consulting, half of Fortune 500 companies are now using open source software (OSS) for mission-critical workloads.1 In the same study, 68% of respondents said that OSS was “very important” or “mission critical” in their digital transformation initiatives. OSS makes good business sense, and companies with a solid implementation plan and a clear vision of the advantages and risks of open source can benefit greatly.
Top Benefits of Open Source Software for Businesses
There’s one obvious benefit to open source software for a business – it’s often free. That’s big, but it only scratches the surface of potential OSS benefits.
Security is number one in business applications, and it may seem that software with publicly available source code would be vulnerable to attack. To be fair, this is often true,2 and it behooves companies to do their homework here. However, OSS applications are usually more secure than their proprietary counterparts. This is precisely due to its open nature. Scores of developers can dig into code, which means vulnerabilities are revealed and patched quickly.
Many think that proprietary software comes with better support than OSS. After all, when you pay, you should get support, right? This isn’t always the case. Microsoft may be the most famous example of closed source software which does not come with built in support. By contrast, open source software is often supported by large communities of users and developers alike.
If that’s not enough, many open source development companies rely entirely on support contracts for revenue – these companies are motivated to provide the best support possible.
Control and Customization
Customizing software to the unique needs of a business can be crucial for productivity. Open source software gives in-house development teams the opportunity to customize software at will – and customizing an open source application is often preferable to building from scratch. This kind of control is also crucial for overcoming problems associated with deprecated proprietary software.
Top Open Source Risks
Although OSS makes sense, it’s wise to understand some associated risks, so as to better evaluate solutions.
The open source market is truly open, which means some solutions may not be up to par for mission-critical processes. Mitigating this risk is relatively straightforward: evaluate the package from multiple angles. Take into account the development team, user base, and the product itself. Since open source software is usually free, there’s no risk in evaluating it for a while. Just be sure not to implement unknown solutions company-wide before thoroughly vetting.
As mentioned, open source security is often superior to proprietary competitors. But the open nature of OSS means vulnerabilities are readily found and published by bad actors. The same considerations should be applied here as when evaluating quality. Know the user base, developers, and community around a product, and have in-house dev teams evaluate software for vulnerabilities.
With OSS, it’s important to make sure support and ongoing development are actually available. If internal developers support and update software, a wider community may not be as crucial, but in this case solid documentation is key. Part of the risk with open source software is that it may be developed by teams that don’t stay in business – or individuals who were never in business to begin with. Make sure there’s a solid plan for long-term viability of any solution – especially if it's mission critical.
Open Source: A Critical Part of Smart Business
Open source software has proven to be integral for the operations of the majority of businesses, even at the highest level. Not to mention, the internet as we know it is largely dependent on Linux,3 an open source platform.
Smart businesses take advantage of the best solutions possible to improve efficiency, improve speed-to-market, and save time and money across the board. If you’re ready to evolve your BroadWorks-based voice service, contact Park Bench Solutions today to schedule a demo of odin, our automation platform for Cisco BroadWorks.