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Interoperability is the Key Advantage of Open Source Software

One of the main arguments businesses use to avoid Open Source software goes like this:

“Sure, the initial cost is zero, but switching to this new application means changing processes we already have in place, as well as training employees to use it. And, when it comes to software, don’t you get what you pay for? If this application is so good, why is it free?”

These points form the backbone of what Open Source advocates like to call FUD, an acronym for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Not too many years ago, proprietary software vendors were artists of FUD. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer famously called Open Source operating system Linux a cancer in 2001–despite the fact that, even then, the Open Source web server Apache was the most popular web server powering the Internet, and it was usually running on Linux.

The truth is, many businesses can and do benefit from Open Source software, and proprietary software vendors are beginning to understand the benefits of using and supporting Open Source Applications. Even the aforementioned Microsoft struck a deal with SuSE Linux to foster interoperability.

The need for interoperability is one compelling reason businesses should adopt Open Source Marketing applications. The web itself is a case in point; without the standardization and interoperability between the various components of your average web server platform, the LAMP stack in particular (the combination of Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP/Perl that runs a majority of sites), the Internet would not have been as widely adopted as it has been, and would probably still be very much in its infancy. Because these components are Open Source, and their source code is available for anyone to look at, developers all over the world are able to modify and build upon these structures. Bugs in the applications are handled at a speed unheard-of for proprietary software; an adage has grown up around this fact, Many eyes make all bugs shallow, also known as Linus’ law, after Linus Torvalds, the man who wrote the first Linux system.

The fact that Open Source software features zero licensing fees is another reason businesses might find Open Source attractive. Windows licensing is particularly expensive; end-users can pay anywhere from $200 to $500 USD for the Operating System (and a large percentage of the price you pay for a new PC is the Windows license), and while there are bulk licensing packages available, these are still considerably higher than free. Linux is free to install, free to use and free to modify. In addition to that, it comes with a robust community of developers and enthusiasts who are eager to help you with any problem you might run across.

While the free on the price tag may seem attractive to a business owner, there’s the worry about managing unfamiliar software. If your employees are used to Windows systems, will there be lost time in training if they switch to Linux? This would have been true ten years ago, but the rise of Linux distributions like Ubuntu, which not only features a friendly, graphical installation process but also provides an easy way to install Linux beside your existing Windows system. In addition to that, Ubuntu’s desktop environment is familiar and easy to adapt to for a Windows user.

When your business has its own website, Open Source is almost unavoidable. Open Source packages like Joomla, WordPress, and Drupal run a huge share of the world’s websites, all providing ways to get fairly complex sites up and running very quickly. Need more functionality on your site? Check out the cornucopia of free extensions Joomla’s Extension Directory provides. WordPress has searching for and installing free plugins built right into its administrative interface.

These content management systems and blogging platforms are all free, built with the Open Source scripting language PHP, and can work in a variety of server environments (remember interoperability?). Around each one a community of developers has grown up, and, when the need arises for some functionality that you can’t find in the extension repositories, you have the option of building an extension yourself, or hiring a developer who specializes in these platforms to do it for you. An ambitious business may also decide that an extension it has developed will help the community at large, and can release their own extensions to the world. This contributes to the business’ exposure, and earns that business a name in the circles that use these platforms (It can also serve as a valuable source of backlinks for your business, if you decide that the only fee for using your extension is keeping links to your site in place in the code).

At CorporatePA, we build our sites primarily using Open Source applications such as Joomla and WordPress. This enables us to build secure, robust sites very quickly. Because our team has deep expertise in these Open Source platforms, we are also able to build custom extensions in order to augment the core functionality. We’re able to build a web presence that not only LOOKS fabulous, but has a rich set of functionality tailored to your business’ needs.

If you need assistance converting your web site to one of these Open Source platforms, or have back office systems you would like to migrate to open source, request a quote here.

It’s impossible to generalize the cost of switching from one software platform to another; thus, every business must carefully consider their own processes if they’re interested in switching to Open Source. However, Open Source applications have grown with the understanding that many users are used to proprietary interfaces and file formats, and have in recent years mitigated the learning curve by offering interfaces that look and behave just like their proprietary counterparts and supporting the file formats of their closed source counterparts. Businesses can benefit not only from the free licensing that comes with such a migration, but also from adopting and contributing to the Open Source community. Proprietary software systems, due to their closed nature, are an evolutionary dead-end; why not join the revolution and evolve with the flowering of the web?

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