Open source technology is growing increasingly popular amongst businesses and large organisations for a number of reasons — and not all of them relate to cost. While there are undoubtedly cost-savings involved in the use of open source technology, there are many different benefits that relate to both operations and customer satisfaction.
What is open source technology?
Open source technology (or open source software) is a term used to describe source code that is accessible by anyone for inspection, modification and enhancement. It is this computer code that allows people to change how a program operates. Programmers with the necessary skills can improve computer programs by adding different features, and by fixing issues with additions and changes to the code.
Open source software is made available to others, but this is usually done after the user accepts the terms of the licence. Most licences stipulate that anyone who modifies open source code must release the modified code for use under the same licensing terms.
Open source technologies have made collaboration and sharing easy and productive over the years. Indeed, the Internet became the global phenomenon it is today on the back of open source technologies such as the Linux operating system and the Apache Web server application. More recently, open source technologies have been the catalyst for an explosion in so-called ‘remote computing’, which is also referred to as cloud computing.
Why are open source technologies so beneficial to organisations? There are eight very clear reasons why this is the case.
1. Improved security
Anyone can access open source code before they utilise it. This means that there are potentially millions of people trawling through code looking for bugs, defects and security flaws. The more people who cast their eyes over code, the higher the chance of security problems being identified.
The issue of improved security was demonstrated recently when potentially serious security flaws were identified in the openly available Android kernel.
2. Improved quality
If several thousand programmers are continually improving the functionality of programs through open source code, the chances are the final product will be much better. Open source technology is incredibly popular because users mould it to their own needs. And because many of these needs are shared, the resulting software is highly effective.
IPzen, for instance, is built by lawyers, for lawyers. Only those who work in the legal profession can possibly understand exactly what is required from legal management software. This makes the IPzen suite of tools effective, relevant and extremely easy to implement.
3. Improved customisation
Generic software often falls short in terms of delivering the services that people need from it. But because open source technology is developed continually by programmers who need it, customisations serve a real purpose. Organisations can modify and adapt open source technology for their own specific needs — improving operations, profitability and customer satisfaction.
Open source software is capable of adhering to multiple standards at the same time. This interoperability allows organisations to collaborate freely with third parties without the need to worry about the compatibility of data formats.
5. More support options
Open source software is usually free to use, which means users are more likely to share their advice and guidance on it for free. There are forums, online communities, wikis, chatrooms and newsgroups available to all, bringing users together for advice and the sharing of best practices.
6. It’s cheap
Not only is access to most open source technologies free, all of the other services businesses usually have to pay for with proprietary software are free too. For instance, proprietary business management software will probably need to be updated regularly. It will also need virus protection, upgrades and various security measures. In many cases, these services will need to be paid for. But with open source software, programmers are continually updating and improving the code to ensure it always runs smoothly.
7. More freedom
Most proprietary software is limited to the services and functions created by its author. There is no freedom to manipulate and modify the software for the specific needs of an organisation. But open source technologies put decision makers in control. Organisations have the freedom to use these freely available technologies in ways that deliver tangible benefits. And if software needs tweaking, changes can be made at any time with modifications to the code.
8. Improved reliability
Established open source technologies have been tested countless times, so any major issues that might have once caused a problem have probably already been identified and rectified. Moreover, any improvements and tweaks will have been implemented by talented experts with specific knowledge of the relevant industry. And the constant surveillance performed by thousands of programmers ensure that bugs are attended to as and when they arise.
IPzen: a suite of management tools for law firms — created with the help of open source technologies