The Merits of Open Source vs. Proprietary Systems

If you're considering a move to open source software and you're wondering why you should, here's a quick run through.



With a proprietary system, such as Microsoft Office – there's a limited amount of customization you can get away with. That's because you have no access to the source code, so you can work within Microsoft's framework, but there's a limit to how much even the most talented in-house developer can do to modify the package.

Open Source offers you access to all the source code, and that means if you'd like to make changes to a package, you can. Any developer is free to modify and add to the source code in any way they like. If you can't find the exact open source solution for your needs, it doesn't take much to make one.


Lower Total Cost of Ownership
Proprietary manufacturers of software make a big deal out of the potential training costs to move people from one platform to another. Yet, in the real world this transition is often seamless – open source dominates in some areas, for example content management systems like Drupal or Wordpress. In others it offers alternatives that are near identical to the on-the-shelf equivalent, check out OpenOffice or LibreOffice and see just how similar they are to the big name leader.

So when you eliminate the lie of training costs, you'll find that when it comes down to it – the only area you may need to spend money on is support. Trained professionals in both areas tend to be paid roughly the same, so your ownership costs are roughly same for support, and less for software (which tends to be free).


Community Involvement
Most open source projects are community driven and community led, meaning there's a wealth of assistance that's on hand – for little or no cost. In other words, if you have a problem, there's always someone willing to assist. In fact, if you have a specialist application for a common piece of software you may find that you're able to create and motivate your own community – to develop your application to the next level for nothing. That is, as long as you're willing to share the benefits of course.

Open source has become the standard on so many platforms today that the old arguments of proprietary software always being best - look particularly strained. Linux is the world choice for Web Servers, Wordpress, Drupal and Joomla for CMS, Android for Netbooks and Smartphones, and so on. It's highly unlikely that this would have happened if Open Source software were unable to compete with proprietary software.