10 reasons to use open source in business
Open source software might be cheaper than alternatives, but it has many other business benefits, too.
All the major hardware, mobile phone and chip manufacturers have not only contributed their ideas and software under the GPL and its variants, but have also actively participated in free software projects.
Open source software is adopted because it is reliable, resilient, and adaptable. Cost is not always the primary motive, but is significant. The telecommunication and finance sectors, for instance, have adopted Linux and other open source solutions on a large scale because of massive price/performance improvements over Unix and Windows.
The distributed nature of open source and free software development has encouraged good habits around the maintenance of the software, in that processes and discussions are recorded and archived, and some of the basic rules of software development - transparency, simplicity, modularity and portability - are a necessary adjunct for the project's viability. Good habits engender good software, and good software becomes incrementally cheaper over time.
A project can only function because these precepts are followed, and the mechanisms that enable a free software project to happen, despite the geographical separation of the developers - the mailing lists, version control systems and bug tracker databases - also enforce good habits on the developers.
Use of such integrated systems, which are the norm for open source projects, reduces the inevitable overkill and duplication of code that commonly happens in commercial development environments.
IBM commissioned a report from Freeform Dynamics entitled "Linux on the Desktop: Lessons from mainstream business adoption" which noted: "Within the cost related category, many (adopters of Linux on the desktop) allude to savings on licences, not just in relation to the operating system per se, but also the application portfolio which runs on it, which generally includes a high proportion of open source software in a Linux environment."
It added: "The ability to run on lower spec equipment is another common cost related driver. It is notable, however, that the majority of responses make reference to an overall lowering of total cost of ownership (TCO)," which accrue from the traditional virtues of reliability, security and flexibility.
The report suggests that while some adopters "argue that it is possible to achieve a higher degree of security with Linux, which is basically a risk related driver, others say the main point is that it costs less in terms of time and effort to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of security, which brings us back to TCO."
In a similar manner, the perceived benefits in relation to stability and reliability would have a user experience related impact, but would also translate to reduced maintenance and support overhead. What's interesting about all of these observations is that the focus among those with more serious business-oriented deployment experience is very much on tangible benefits.
The trojans, viruses and malicious interlopers which are common to Windows systems and are the bane of every office manager, are unknown to the majority of Linux users.
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