Open Source Software

Open source software is increasing choice in the software market and helping businesses to cut their IT costs.


Open source software is a way of writing, selling and supplying software that can help businesses get cheaper, more flexible software.

The idea is simple: the source code of the software (the instructions that computers follow) is publicly available for anyone to change, improve and distribute. This contrasts with most current software which is “proprietary” – that is to say, users have to pay for branded programs or products in which the source code is kept hidden from the user.

Users of open source software claim proprietary software is restrictive, expensive and inflexible, and that open source software can bring a whole range of benefits.

This business advice article explains the benefits of open source software, where you could use it in your business and how other businesses are already benefiting.

Why would you want to reprogram your software?

At first, open source software can seem puzzling – even if they had the skills in-house, why would small businesses want to start tinkering with software?

One popular analogy is that open source software is equivalent to publishing the recipe for a meal. If people know what goes into a dish and how it is cooked then, over time, they can change and improve the recipe or alter it to their taste. The equivalent with proprietary software is that you have to choose a dish from a menu without knowing what goes into it – and, if you want that dish again, you have to go back to the same restaurant and pay whatever price they demand.

The key point here is that with the recipe freely available, anyone can cook the dish. Businesses can alter software themselves or they can approach someone to do it for them. So, rather than being restricted to one restaurant, they can eat wherever they want, and they can have the chef cook the dish just as they like it.

In other words, open source software changes the whole software business model – you pay for the implementation, tailoring and support of software rather than buying it like a mass-produced commodity.

Myths about open source software

There are a number of misconceptions about open source software, primarily that it is unreliable and not yet a realistic alternative to propriety software.

In fact, open source software is already a reliable, proven technology that can deliver a whole range of benefits. For example, much of the infrastructure that powers the internet – an incredibly flexible, scaleable system – is open source software. An array of the biggest names in the software business also base their products on open source software and many large public and private sector organisations across the world are beginning to phase out their reliance on proprietary software.

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