Do Small Businesses Fear Open Source?

Open-source software is a viable option for emerging enterprises, but a majority just don't trust it. Are these fears unfounded?
Adapt And Upgrade

There's no sense in choosing an open source package just because it's open source. The software should deliver some kind of advantage not available in a commercial program. Though specific advantages will differ based on the kind of software, generally speaking a key business advantage of open source software is its flexibility.

The ease of adapting and upgrading open source was the second most-frequently cited reason that emerging enterprises deploy open source software in the InformationWeek/Network Computing survey, though at 13% it's a distant second to low price. Because you have access to source code, you can adapt the software to suit your needs.

This capability was the main driver for Backcountry. "The owners and engineers had thousands of ideas to try with the site," Jenkins says. "None of the closed source and consulting packages would let you get under the hood."

Open source software provides an advantage over commercial software because it allows for a broader choice of hardware, Third Screen Media's D'Amico says. "Because we build with components, we can put various grades of hardware where we need them," he says. "We can deploy 32-bit [CPUs] for simple stuff and 64-bit [CPUs] in database."

You also can take advantage of add-ons and modifications created by the user community, which often acts as an ad hoc development group. On the downside, if you aren't capable of building a particular feature for yourself, you have little recourse but to hope someone else in the community will develop it.

Emerging enterprises shouldn't shy away from open source software as they build up the company IT infrastructure or consider a technology refresh. Like all software, open source carries both risks and rewards. Technical support, lifetime ownership costs, and the ability to find qualified open source administrators are the key factors in evaluating whether you're the open source type. Through careful evaluation, you can minimize the risks and maximize the rewards of open source.

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Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
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