Open Source Software


Open Source Software Options

Some evangelists for open source software believe that one day it will replace proprietary software complete. While this isn’t very likely any time soon, if at all, it’s true that in almost any situation where businesses use software, there is now an open source option.

The most common uses of open source software are:

  • Operating system software – as mentioned above, software like Linux that “runs” your computer.
  • Application software – from simple word processing and internet browsing software through to complex databases and manufacturing software.
  • Internet and e-business – from internet servers through to electronically delivered services.
  • Manufactured products – businesses that produce goods that require computing power could run them on open source alternatives.

When you implement open source software, you have three basis options:

DIY

Many businesses are able to do some of the work in house. If, for example, your company has expertise in running Unix systems, you will find it easy to migrate to Linux systems.

In other situations, it’s just a question of choosing a ready-made open source alternative. Mainstream business applications such as Sage’s accounting software and SAP’s All-in-One for small business now run on Linux servers.

Use third party expertise

Business that don’t have in-house IT expertise, often buy it in from a third party company. In the example of the London Borough of Camden’s, the council’s IT staff worked with technical staff from a content management software company on the project. Likewise, Glasgow-based manufacturer William Sword has installed a Linux server to run its Sage business software with the help of a software provider.

Outsource your business applications

The final and most radical option that some businesses are adopting, is to simply outsource their network or business applications. With an application service provider (ASP) managing the software implementation and support, businesses need not maintain a specialised IT department in house.

For more information about ASPs visit the Achieving best practice in your business web presence.

CONSIDERATIONS

As with any investment in technology, there are a number of potential problems that businesses need to be aware of.

Suitability

Linux may be suitable for some parts of your business and not others. While Linux is establishing itself as a cost-effective solution for e-commerce and general business application servers, Linuxbased desktop products are not yet as advanced as established desktop packages from Microsoft, IBM and Apple. If you need fully-featured word processing and spreadsheets, then, for the moment, you may be better off staying with your current desktops.

Compatibility

There may also be compatibility issues for Linux-based desktop programme such as OpenOffice and Star Office when exchanging documents with users of proprietary products. Because open source programmers can’t get access to the source code for these proprietary products, it is hard for them to guarantee complete compatibility. Users of word processing programmes, for example, often report formatting problems when exchanging documents with suppliers and customers who use proprietary products.

Support

While software is often free, support isn’t. As open source software like Linux is not owned and sold by a single supplier, there aren’t the handy manuals, installation guides and support helplines that come with proprietary software.

The way round this is to use a third party provider, such as Red Hat, SuSe or Novell, who offer services, support, maintenance and training. They help you implement systems and support the product so your IT staff don’t need to be experts in it.

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