10 reasons to use open source in business

Open source software might be cheaper than alternatives, but it has many other business benefits, too.

It is often said that open source software wins because it is cheaper.

However, the bigger factor in the success of open source software in industry has been performance.

Collaborative development projects have opened the door to much wider input than is the case in a closed development environment with subsequent improvements in price and performance. Open source reduces R&D costs, increases productivity, improves efficiency, facilitates interoperability and encourages innovation.

Here's our top ten reasons to consider using open source and Linux in your business.

Initial outlay

The most obvious benefit of free and open source software is cost. A Linux distribution such as Ubuntu is free to download, easy to install, easy to use, and easy to update, and comes without the complication of licensing issues.

A user can install as many instances of Ubuntu as he or she wishes, and can be confident that a Linux desktop will slot into existing networks without a fuss. Anti-virus software is not required, and there are no licenses required for OpenOffice, which can also be installed on Windows systems at zero cost.

The same applies to most open source software that is available to the enterprise. Databases, web servers and enterprise level applications can all be downloaded for free.

Support

That most free and open source software has no purchase cost provides an obvious incentive for the adoption of open source software, but most companies are happy to pay for upkeep, maintenance, training and support if these services bring apparent reward.

This has been the model for most open source companies. A company that distributes free and open source software depends on the relative excellence of the support it provides for revenue, and has an incentive for ensuring the quality of its services.

A company such as JBoss, now a subsidiary of Red Hat, has been able to generate revenue without compromising its principles, and has proved that subscription, installation, training, support, upgrades and maintenance can provide realistic opportunities for creating income streams for a product that is at least the equal of, and arguably superior to, many of its rivals.

Open source gives ISVs a host of advantages. Open source companies foster and benefit from their user and developer communities. A user with a particular concern or requirement can often gain access to the individual developer resulting in more rapid and responsive support, and if the support isn't good enough, or you feel you have the internal resources to maintain the product yourself, you can always download the software free.

A logical corollary of this effect is that commercial "open source" software projects are more responsive to the demands of users and developers, because they have to be - and organisations such as JBoss and Red Hat have a deserved reputation for the quality of the support they provide.

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