Open Source software, like its name suggests, provides users with an open code that can be freely used, modified, and shared by everyone. You can take advantage of it either for your business, for a personal project or for educational purposes without paying a dime. Open source licenses can grant you the right to copy and redistribute the software to everyone you want. There are no set boundaries or any limitations.
How do Open Source Softwares work?
The source code is visible for all users and it can be modified for your own needs. This can be done if you have proper knowledge and experience in programming languages. One of the ideas behind Open Source software is that users can be co-developers, suggesting how to improve it and helping to find out bugs. When someone detects a bug it reports it to the community and they release a patch as soon as possible. In most cases, this release is faster than the Proprietary Software’s patches.
What are the advantages of Open Source Software?
The main advantage of Open Source is that it is generally free and you do not have to pay for using it. This saves a lot of money for big corporations and even for ordinary users. Most licenses of the proprietary software systems are expensive and should be renewed every year. As we know it is really important for any big company to reduce the expenses as much as possible. When Corporations are happy with the used software they donate money to the communities in order to be able to continue their work and developing new versions.
Most open source applications have their own communities which are constantly evolving the software thus improving its quality and security. If a user finds a bug, he reports it to the community and they release a patch as soon as possible.
Open Source software can be adapt for your own business demands which can not be done with proprietary systems. In addition, it can also be modified for use with various systems. It does not obligate you to run it on a determined platform like some proprietary software. I personally love to choose my own direction and not to be forced by anyone. So far it all sounds like a clear choice, right? Well…not entirely…
One disadvantage of Open Source software is that most interfaces are not so user-friendly and easy to use. More attention tends to be paid to the functionality than the user interface, making some of the scripts a real pain for the novice. If you plan to incorporate such software in your company, keep in mind that your employees may need to be specially trained in order to operate it properly.
It is also very difficult to find drivers for some devices. This can turn into a problem because when you buy new hardware with many functionalities if drivers are not available for the current Operating System you cannot take advantage of these functionalities.
Another disadvantage of Open Source is the support service. In most cases, you should rely on the corresponding community or pay for external supporting service, which is quite ok if you are using a popular software with lots of followers but can be a heavy burden for less caught on applications. The visibility and easy access to the source code, which I mentioned earlier, can also be a double-edged sword as bad-intentioned people can find vulnerabilities and leave backdoors for future exploits. Some cross-site-scripting attacks are possible when the attacker finds a weak spot in your source code and they can even leave the malicious code dormant for a long time before executing it. A way to prevent that is regular updates and only download software, themes and plugins from reliable sources.
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As a conclusion, I would like to say that Open Source gives you boundless freedom, but one that should be taken seriously. You can test, explore, tweak, modify almost anything, but if you neglect security you are just inviting the bad guys in your home…er…website. What is your experience with Open Source software? Or do you find proprietary ones better for your purposes? You can share your stories in the comments below.