What Should a Business Consider When Evaluating Open Source Solutions?

Open source solutions are becoming more widely accepted and implemented at the enterprise level. There are many factors that need to be considered when a business decides to explore open source solutions. It is essential to perform careful research and analysis of both the proprietary and open source software available to ensure that any solution selected will meet the current and future needs of the business and also be a financially sound decision.

Why should a company consider open source?

One primary reason is the ease of adoption. Initially, open source has fewer limiting economic factors. For example, consider a newspaper that wants to go online but does not have money to pay for development of a website. In the proprietary world, the newspaper is out of luck until they have money available to spend on development or to purchase a proprietary solution.

The open source world is an entirely different ball game. The newspaper has a number of free options from Joomla! to WordPress which can be deployed immediately and that will provide the basic functionality necessary to start posting information to the web. As resources become available the newspaper can build additional functionality on top of the open source application.

Even if a company is not prohibited from implementing a proprietary solution based on budgetary concerns, the company has the option with open source software to take it for a fully functional test run. This is not always the case with proprietary software.

What about security?

One of the most prevalent concerns about open source solutions are questions regarding security risks. Is open source secure enough for an enterprise solution? The answer is – as with most everything – it depends. It depends on the solution itself, the needs of the business, and the way the solution is implemented.

It should not be assumed that an open source solution is less secure than a proprietary solution. Each and every solution needs to be independently evaluated based on the criteria that are important to a business. It is only within the context of the needs of a given business that any type of realistic and accurate determination on security can be made.

What are the hidden costs of open source solutions?

Many companies do not have the luxury of making significant technology upgrades in a vacuum. In addition to adding enhanced functionality, new updates in technology must make sense financially and result either in an increase to the actual profit of the company or in a reduction of costs. It is important for most businesses to base technology decisions on the financial feasibility of any given solution.

Even though open source is initially an attractive solution because it is generally priced at free, a company needs to consider other factors that will contribute to the overall cost. When making these calculations it is important to be thorough and calculate all associated costs of a given solution.

Training Time

A very significant cost is the time needed for training personnel on the new solution. If a business that has been primarily based on Microsoft Windows is considering switching over to a Linux variant, the company needs to consider the cost necessary to bring their personnel up to speed. Both the cost of official company wide training and the cost associated with normal user learning curves needs to be taken into account.

Time frame

Timing and deadlines also need to be taken into account when implementing new technology. Experience shows that it is best to be conservative when deciding on time frames associated with implementing new technology. There are always unforeseen problems that add to the time frame and to the cost. It is best to plan for such obstacle

Support

With any software solution deployed at the enterprise level there will always be a need to add additional functionality, tweak the solution, and fix bugs. This necessary cost can be properly handled with proper preparation and planning.

Integration and Required Upgrades

A very significant cost is the time associated with integrating newer technology and older technology. Additionally, it may be necessary to make upgrades – both hardware and software – in order to implement the desired changes. Research upfront into the potential problems and costs prior to making a technology decision will enable a company to decide on and make realistic assessments of the cost and time necessary to implement the solution. Most businesses already have a substantial legacy of older technology upon which they heavily rely for day to day processes. Because of the integral nature of the processes it can be very costly to make the necessary upgrades or to build the needed integration.

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