It might surprise you to know but you’re probably already using at least some open source software. The server that hosts your website is probably running Apache, which is open source. Perhaps you’re using Open Office to compose word documents, which is of course also open source. You may even have some of your workstations running Linux as their OS, and that’s open source too. The internet is an amazing place. It is the richest cache in the entire world of free open source software that can drive all manners of creative enterprises. If you’re not currently using much of it, perhaps you should consider doing so.
What’s The Big Deal With Open Source Anyway?
If you’ve not yet gotten your feet wet with open source, here is a bit of background. The single largest repository of OSS (Open Source Software) on the web is sourceforge.net. Once you get to the main page you can search the site for whatever it is that you’re looking for. There are thousands of projects to choose from. Everything from a staggering array of productivity apps that run the full gamut from note taking software to full blown office productivity suites, graphics engines, art and design software, CAD/CAM solutions, you name it. If you’re looking for some entertainment during your downtime, you’ll also find a variety of games and other distractions in every genre.
Open source projects are dreamed up, developed and maintained by enthusiasts who create their software for the sheer love of doing so. By its definition the source code is freely available, meaning that people interested in the software can download the source and “fork” it, which is to say, they can make modifications to the software so that it better suits their individual needs. You absolutely can’t do that with off the shelf software you buy from a vendor. If you want or need the software to do something different, you have to submit a request, jump through a number of hoops, then wait until they decide whether or not your request warrants their attention; but why bother with all that?
If you’re running your own business, and you find some software that you like and that gets the job done, just have your code guys modify it as needed and go! You don’t need anyone’s permission and even better, depending on the software, you’ll likely find a vibrant, thriving community of users that has grown up around it who are more than willing to help you work through any technical difficulties that might arise with either the software or the coding.
The other chief advantage is that if your business becomes reliant on some or other off the shelf software solution, and the company should one day decide to discontinue it, you’re stuck. No more support and no more upgrades, and of course since the source code is proprietary, you can’t access it, so you can modify it yourself.
If you haven’t considered open source as a viable option for your company, you might want to give it a look. You’d be amazed at the number of high quality software solutions out there, just waiting for you, and absolutely free.