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Dasboard: SMBs Eschew Open-Source Software

You'd think small and midsize businesses (SMBs) on tight budgets would flock to open-source applications.
You'd think small and midsize businesses (SMBs) on tight budgets would flock to open-source applications. But a recent survey conducted by sister CMP Technology publications InformationWeek and Network Computing found that 50 percent of SMBs use little or no open-source software. In the survey of 441 companies with 100 to 5,000 employees, 21 percent of respondents said they use open source only for back-room applications, 16 percent use open-source back-room as well as user- or customer-facing applications; only 13 percent use open-source technology "everywhere possible."

What's holding back broader adoption? The main inhibitor is a perceived lack of support. "Folks are saying that at the eleventh hour, when your business has been taken to its knees, there's no one you can call," says Bob Anderson, Gartner vice president. "You have to depend on this community to solve your problems. But if the community is asleep at that hour, what happens?" While support contracts are available, their expense often outweighs the benefits of the open source model.

Although SMBs aren't deploying open source software in large numbers yet, they are evaluating it alongside commercial offerings. The early adopters are tech-savvy firms near technical universities or metropolitan areas where the IT labor pool has been exposed to open-source offerings, Anderson says.

Among survey respondents using open source, 46 percent said the most important reason for deployment was "low or no costs." Next came ease of maintenance (13 percent said open source was "easy to adapt and upgrade"), followed by vendor independence (8 percent) and superior functionality (6 percent). --Penny Crosman