Small businesses have to be smart with their money. Your resources are limited and you can’t afford to spend a lot of time testing and trialling different technologies. However, surviving in the modern world without technology is nearly impossible. Therefore, small businesses must be able to latch on to any opportunity they find and make the most of the software around them. For this, open source software is the best possible option.
But what is open source software and how can a small business benefit from it?
Open source software in a nutshell
According to the official definition by the Open Source Initiative, open source software is ‘computer software which is distributed along with the source code used to create it, under a special licence which allows users to study, change and improve the software’.
It’s essentially collaborative software that anyone is able to use and, in many cases, tweak. In open source software, you are not only able to use the product but also access the source code. In traditional software, this doesn’t happen because the source code is considered to be the intellectual property of the developer.
How can open source software benefit a small business?
But what are the benefits to small business of using this kind of software? There are essentially six major benefits to using open source software.
1. Lower cost
Perhaps the biggest and the most obvious benefit of open source software is the cost. Open source software is usually free to use – you don’t need to pay a fee, subscription or any type of royalty in order to use the software. This naturally means that the purchasing price is close to zero. The only cost associated with the set-up is the labour you need to put it to download and install the software.
Not only is the set-up cost low, maintaining the software tends to be rather cost-effective as well. The open source software doesn’t come with any upgrade fees. Again, the only cost associated with the upkeep is maintaining the software and training people to use it.
2. Reliable and secure
Open source software also has a reputation for being secure and reliable. Because the source code is under constant public scrutiny, the quality of development remains high and problems in the code tend to get fixed fast. Thousands of developers test the code continuously, meaning that any performance or security related problems get resolved quickly.
Related the above point is the transparency you can enjoy with open source software. Since the source code is available for anyone to see, you don’t have to worry about hidden features that might put your small business information at risk. If you use traditional software, you essentially need to trust the vendor’s word – you have no way of knowing what the code will actually do or the information it gathers. With the public source code, you are always able to check exactly what the software does and what this means for your data.
It might be easy to think that open source software won’t have as good support structure as traditional, proprietary software. However, due to the nature of the software, you actually get to enjoy much more support with fewer costs. Open source information is widely available and you can access support and information online. There are even options for paid support structures for open source software which can be a cost-effective alternative for small businesses.
Overall, the open source software experience is that of simplicity. Once you find the software you need and want to use, you can download it to as many devices as you want. You are able to use it in a way that best suits you and can get rid of it without having to worry about things like determination costs. Open source software offers plenty of simplicity and continuity – even if one developer leaves the project, there are others to step up to the plate.
Now, if small business wants to use technology but do it without costing a fortune, open source software is definitely the way to go. It will provide cost-effective solutions to your business, which will also enhance security and transparency for you and your clients.