Open Source Software

The Benefits

Open source software can score over proprietary software in three main ways:

Reduced costs

  • You can get lots of open-source software entirely free by downloading it directly from the internet. In practice, though, most commercial users tend to purchase a tailored package, along with appropriate support, from a third-party vendor.

  • Open-source software is often much cheaper than proprietary software

  • There are no incremental costs. You are free to copy and redistribute open-source software as often as you like. Proprietary software generally requires you to buy another license for each additional user along with upgrades when they become available.

In practice…

One excellent example is the cost of operating software – the software that manages and runs the applications on a computer. Cap Gemini Ernst and Young suggest that it costs around £1,500 per user licence to install a conventional PC with a proprietary operating system and software, whilst Linux (the most famous piece of open source software) can be had for around half the cost.

Servers running OSS software can also be cost-effective for email, word-processing and spreadsheets, or for running business applications such as Oracle and SAP. And, in the public sector, where budgets are ever tight, OSS is also being used to reign in IT spend. The London Borough of Camden, for example, is using OSS as a platform for e-business.

Improved flexibility

  • Open source software means you are not tied to one vendor and their particular solution. Upgrade paths will not involve any additional cost.

  • Your data is not trapped within the confines of a proprietary program – it is easily accessible and can be transferred from application to application.

  • Open source software can easily be tailored to your requirements – and supports collaboration with trading and development partners.

In practice…

Open source software is increasingly well supported – heavyweight industry players such as IBM, Oracle, H-P, SAP and Peoplesoft have invested in the technology and now make sure their products support Linux.

Central Scotland Police also use their Linux server as their office network, providing email, word processing and spreadsheets and shared diary facilities. With their Linux server, they found they could run their office applications on their existing slower computers, and didn’t need to upgrade to high spec PCs.

Improved reliability and security

  • Open source software is often much leaner and fitter than its proprietary counterparts – it has fewer bugs, and suffers less frequent crashes – making your IT operations more reliable and more efficient

  • Surprisingly perhaps open source software is also often much more secure than its proprietary cousin. The code has been examined by many programmers, and any vulnerabilities identified and fixed.

In practice…

One good example of the reliability of open source software is Google. The company, which is the most popular internet search engine, handles as many as 100bn queries a year – using open source servers.

Central Scotland Police run their Command and Control system, which requires supreme reliability, on a Linux server, with an Oracle database. It handles all their 999 calls. They estimate they have saved over £200,000 on IT costs, every £25,000 saved gives them another bobby on the beat.

Financial services companies are also putting their trust in open source software. Britannia Building Society, for example, has set up a Linux-based data archiving system that holds customers’ mortgage and savings account details.

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