Open Source Vs Closed Source Software – The Great Debate

1) Open Source Software 
Open source software can be defined as software distributed under a licensing agreement which allows the source code (computer code) to be shared, viewed and modified by other users and organisations.

Cost 
Open source software is free. This is a huge draw card, and if your in-house capabilities are such that you are able to implement, train and support at little cost to your organization it may be an attractive option. Having said that, open source software requires a certain level of technical expertise in order to manage content. It is therefore important to take into consideration the costs incurred once the software is obtained may be substantial unless the resources are already in place to manage it.

Service and Support 
Service is one of the key issues regarding open source software. Open source software relies on its online community network to deliver support via forums and blogs. While there are massive, loyal and engaged online communities that users can turn to, time-poor consumers of today are familiar with the immediate service and support that enables issues to be resolved in a timely manner, and these communities cannot guarantee the high level of responsive service and support proprietary software can offer.

Innovation 
Open source software enables innovation by providing users with the freedom and flexibility to adapt the software to suit, without restriction. However, innovation may or may not be passed on to all users of the software. It is a user’s prerogative whether they wish to share their innovation with any online communities, and users must be actively participating in these communities to become aware of such innovations.

Usability 
Open source software has been highly criticized for its lack of usability, as generally, the technology is not reviewed by usability experts and does not cater to the vast majority of computer users. Open source software is generally developer-centric, and without system administration experience or the knowledge required to manipulate programming language, use of the software and ability to fix errors as they arise is often limited to those with technical expertise. Furthermore, open source software does not legally require documentation such as user manuals or guides, hindering the creation of such tools.

Security 
Open source software is often viewed as having security issues. New data from Forrester Research has shown that 58% of IT Executives and technology decision makers in large companies are concerned about the security of open source software. Open source software is not necessarily developed in a controlled environment.

2) Closed Source Software 
Closed source software can be defined as proprietary software distributed under a licensing agreement to authorized users with private modification, copying and republishing restrictions.

Cost 
The cost of proprietary software will vary from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand dollars, depending on the complexity of the system required. This cost is made up of a base fee for software, integration and services and annual licensing/support fees. This cost may be prohibitive for some; however what the user is paying for is a more customized product from a trusted brand that includes higher levels of security and functionality, continuous innovation, a greater ability to scale, ongoing training and support and a lower requirement for technical skills.

Service and Support 
If the internet is an important channel for an organisation, software is often a secondary concern, with service level and support structure requirements taking precedent in favour of maximising uptime and minimising downtime. Service is probably the greatest advantage of using proprietary software. Proprietary software providers offer ongoing support to users, a key selling point for users without technical expertise. If the user manual or guide is not enough, or if a user experiences a problem with the software, there is an immediate point of call to turn to for assistance.

Innovation 
Proprietary software providers do not allow users to view or alter the source code. While this may be viewed as a disadvantage to some, it ensures the security and reliability of the software. Furthermore, many proprietary software providers customize software for specific users to provide more flexibility while investing in R&D in order to regularly offer new products and upgrades.

Usability 
Proprietary software generally employs expert usability testing, and as the software is normally aimed at a more targeted audience, and therefore more tailored, usability is generally ranked quite high. In addition, detailed user manuals and guides are provided.

Security

Proprietary software is viewed as more secure because it is developed in a controlled environment by a concentrated team with a common direction. Moreover, the source code may be viewed and edited by this team alone, and is heavily audited, eliminating the risk of back door Trojans and reducing the risk of any bugs or issues with the software.

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