Open Source vs Enterprise Software: Build or Buy?

August 15, 2018

Open Source vs Enterprise Software: Build or Buy?

When it comes to choosing a software solution, it’s often a question of whether or not your organization is willing to spend more money in order to save time and resources in the long term. While some businesses may do just fine with an open source solution, it’s worth noting that the disadvantages (in most cases) outweigh the advantages.

Read on for more information and to learn which solution is best for your organization’s goals and motives!

What is Open Source Software?

Open source software is defined by the Open Source Initiative as “software that can be freely accessed, used, changed, and shared (in modified or unmodified form) by anyone.  There are ten criteria that must be met for any software license (and software distributed under that license) to be labeled “Open Source software”:

Free Redistribution

Source Code

Derived Works

Integrity of the Author’s Source Cod

No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

No Discrimination against Fields of Endeavor

Distribution of License

License must not be Specific to a Product

License Must Not Restrict Other Software

License Must be Technology-Neutral

Advantages of Open Source Software

Price-Open source software is often considered free, which bears a lot of weight when it comes to making room in a business’ budget. One must remember, however, that there is a great deal of time and resources that need to be devoted to open source software – both internally and externally.  Non-Exclusive Rights

With open source software, you do not have license restrictions or terms of service binding you to a particular vendor or scope of usage. This often means a greater level of self-sufficiency and independence, as well as greater authority over how and why you use a software

Disadvantages of Open Source Software

Technical Support-When you remove a vendor from the equation, you’re also forgoing the technical support that comes with it. This means that you’re either on your own if you run into issues or bugs, or depending upon the open source community to promptly (and correctly) address your concerns.            

Documentation-Open source software may lack documentation, or the documentation that exists is poorly done. Similarly, documentation may be outdated, therefore rendering it useless.

High level of expertise required/Complexity-One major issue users often have with open source software is that they need a high level of training or dedicated developers to modify source code. This creates the necessity of having multiple departments involved in the management and implementation of software solutions – which means more resources used and dollars spent in the long run.  

Training-While every software, open source or not, has a certain degree of training involved, the open source learning curve can be far steeper. When it comes to getting your staff and the software’s intended users onboarded and trained, this means more time and resources spent before the software can be fully implemented effectively.

Security/Vulnerability-Since open source is highly customizable and accessible, any vulnerabilities in the code are easier to detect. This means a higher chance of someone exploiting the code for malicious outside capitalization. Without a proprietary vendor responsible for updates and fixes, there is a slower time to improve upon the software.

What is an Enterprise/Proprietary Software?

Enterprise solutions are commercially-developed and created by specialists who use specific training to modify the code. They have a closed architecture, meaning the user is not allowed to modify the source code, and there is often a number of restrictions on use.

Advantages of Enterprise/Proprietary Software

One-Stop Shop-With proprietary/enterprise software, there is often only one vendor involved to take the project from start to finish, with all the applications and tools you need in one, complete package.

Routine Updates-As industry standards evolve and software trends change, it’s necessary for solution providers to make necessary updates and fixes. This is where enterprise software has the upper hand, as dedicated R&D teams on the vendor side can provide these updates regularly. This, in turn, leads to patches for vulnerabilities and exploits.

Integration across Products-If you’re like any other software user, chances are you have several in your technology stack that need to work together to accomplish your organization’s goals. Proprietary software vendors understand this and are often more easily and seamlessly integrated with other applications and products.

Large Support Structure-With enterprise solutions, users often have access to 24/7 support or vendor-provided staff. This eliminates the need for internal departments being devoted entirely to the maintenance of the software.

No Programming Needed-If you don’t need additional, custom code, chances are open source will not be nearly as appealing. This also saves your organization time and resources, as proprietary/enterprise solutions are often more out-of-the-box and have a greater velocity to market.

Familiarity-Since the code in proprietary/enterprise software is standardized, users may already have experience using the software. This level of familiarity can lead to lower training costs and faster implementation.

More professional UI and UX-When it comes to proprietary software, the User Interface (UI) is often more standardized and presented in a more professional manner. The polished nature makes the user’s experience more streamlined, and can easily make a software standout against free counterparts.

Well-polished- Bigger budgets and well-versed teams allow enterprise software vendors to perfect the product, and often are more scalable. For businesses using the software, this means that there is a plethora of features that come as a result of being acutely aware of industry standards. Thus, your business is more likely to stay competitive and on the cutting edge of software trends.

Disadvantages of Enterprise/Proprietary Software

Higher Cost-Aside from the initial cost of purchasing licenses, there are often hidden costs when using an open source software, such as the time spent familiarizing users with the program, time and resources spent modifying code, and addressing any problems that may arise. That being said, these higher costs can lead to exponentially higher returns resulting from more robust solutions with fleshed out features and consistent growth.Terms of ServiceTerms of service can lead to a dependence on vendors and a bit of a restriction on software usage. This dependence, however, can be source of comfort in knowing that you do not need to dedicate internal resources to ensuring that your software is consistently growing to match your organizational needs.

Interested in learning more about proprietary/enterprise software, and how it can provide an uncontested ROI for your organization? We’re here to help - download the fact sheet and get started today!