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Are Open Source Applications Your Best Option?: Page 2

By Paul Rubens     Feedback
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If you're evaluating a proprietary software product, one of the considerations you should take into account is the financial stability of the company; how reliant is it on its two or three biggest customers, and ultimately how likely is it that the company will stay in business for the foreseeable future. When you evaluate open source software, you may need to evaluate a commercial organization that sponsors and maintains the project in a similar way; one difference is that even if the sponsoring organization goes out of business that doesn't mean the end of the project.

Because the source code is freely available, anyone else can take the code and run with it. That means that it may be more relevant to evaluate the strength of the community that surrounds a project. If it is large and vibrant, the risk of the project dying is relatively small - probably smaller than the risk that any given proprietary software company goes out of business.

Specialized Applications

For very specialist software applications such as encryption, some open source solutions might too be risky. Even though open source encryption software is preferable to proprietary encryption solutions - because it's only if the code is open that it can be scrutinized for defects or back doors -the fact is that it is such a specialist field that if the project's sponsor or leader disappears it may be well-nigh impossible to find anyone with sufficient skills and time to continue the project.

Four Questions to Ask When Considering Open Source

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Before evaluating an open source application, it may be useful to ask the following questions:

  • If I pick this open source application, am I choosing not to use the de-facto standard application? If you choose not to use the de facto standard - either for your specific industry or a widely used standard like Microsoft Office - you risk compatibility problems.
  • Is this open source alternative usable enough to enable high staff productivity? Some open source software just looks strange and amateurish compared to proprietary alternatives. Of course anyone can improve the user interface of open source offerings, but in practice this rarely happens. This is less of a problem with mainstream open source enterprise applications.
  • Are suitable support, warranties and indemnities available from any source? Again, this tends not to be a problem with enterprise applications such as ERP, CRM and HRM.
  • Is the project suitably secure? With proprietary software all the eggs are on one basket, but the good news with open source software is that the community or even your own organization could step in if the project's leader disappears.
This article was originally published on August 2, 2016
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