We’ve all been there: It’s time to start outlining that new project and begin weighing your technology options. Should you go with the popular commercial software or use the new open source hotness? Whether you’re an experienced IT professional or a novice building your first application, choosing between open or closed source software is a big decision and will likely have a lasting impact.
Open source software (OSS) solutions are more accessible than ever; chances are you use open source code of some kind every day. Companies large and small across various industries have adopted this valuable resource, including e-commerce, health care, logistics, banking, and airlines. Best of all, it’s readily available without contracts and time-consuming paperwork.
From greenfield projects to well-established systems, open source can benefit everyone. Open source software is beloved by developers worldwide, but how can you be sure it’s the best choice for your project? Here are three benefits to consider as you plan your application:
1. Low Cost
The most obvious benefit to free and open source software is that it’s, well, free. Unlike commercial or proprietary software, open source software has no fees (although some source code may require licensing fees or payment for add-ons). In addition to cost-effective software, this budget-friendly alternative doesn’t require implementation and operational expenses.
Open source also reduces internal development costs. Instead of paying an in-house developer or department for months (or even years) of work, you can simply download an open source package from a legitimate site and begin your project.
2. Collaboration and innovation
Two heads are better than one, but what about more than 40 million noggins all working together?
One of the main benefits of open source software is the large community of developers working daily to improve every available set of code. Tens of millions of developers use GitHub alone, and members have unfettered access to the source code. Users analyze packages at will and make direct modifications if they spot issues. Whether volunteers or paid developers, the mass quantity of experts evaluating the source code increases the likelihood that errors are small and resolved quickly. This phenomenon – also known as Linus’ Law – results in consistent updates, improved features and reliable, long-lasting code.
In the event you do discover an error, the open source ecosystem offers plenty of resources to help. Developers share their knowledge through easily accessible documentation like forums, blogs or wikis as a means of 24/7 tech support. With so many eyes perfecting the code you use, your team is free to focus on your specific business needs and crafting innovative solutions for your company.
3. Flexibility and adaptability
Numerous developers come with a seemingly infinite amount of code. Open source software allows you to choose from a vast information buffet and modify the software to fit your exact needs.
Transparency is a key player in the flexibility of OSS. It’s impossible to view the source code of commercial software, let alone customize it. Choosing open source for your application allows you to see potential bugs and gives you control of version updates. This flexibility also frees you from vendor requirements, contracts and user agreements.
Open source gives you control over every aspect of your application. If you want to take your application to the next level, it’s easy to experiment to find what works best for you at little to no cost. Likewise, you can swap code to enhance your project or add new features.
Flexibility can also help lower information technology department costs as the OSS community resolves glitches that strengthen products using the code. These continuous updates improve security, keep your application running smoothly and give you peace of mind.
Make open source work for you
Using open source software for your next project can save time and money and can allow your team to focus on innovating. Experimenting with different sets of code enables you to customize your application and gives you total control at an affordable price.
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Amos King is the founder and CEO of Binary Noggin. A leading expert in emerging software languages, Amos is also a frequent speaker at conferences like ElixirConf and Lonestar Elixir and co-host of the popular Elixir Outlaws and This Agile Life podcasts.
Founded in 2007, Binary Noggin is a team of software engineers and architects who serve as a trusted extension of your team, helping your company succeed through collaboration. We forge customizable solutions using Agile methodologies and our mastery of Elixir, Ruby and other open source technologies. Share your ideas with us on Facebook and Twitter.