Open source software is good. Yeah, I agree. It saves you from exorbitant licensing cost . It protects you from vendor's lock-in . It gives you the flexibility to modify the software as you see fit. And so on.
But open source software is not necessarily cheaper . Despite that you can obtain the source code at no charge, there are times when you find that you would rather pay a fee in exchange of the services that are normally provided by the commercial software. At the end of the day you might find that you are actually paying quite a hefty fee on training and support.
If you want to use Open Source Software instead of the commercial, proprietary counterparts.You might find the below information useful.
- A lot of open source software are abandonware . I know, I know, there are a lot of commercial software that are abandonware as well. But the likehood of a commercial software becoming an abandonware is smaller than open source applications. This is because open source software are usually sustained by contributer's enthusiasm. The usual situation is that one person starts to open source a project, and hope that other people can pick it up from there. There is a real chance that the project can die half way before it goes big. So if you bet your business on it, then I can only say good luck to you. Of course, commercial software has a real chance to die as well, the company that makes it can fold. But since the company is receiving income steadily, the risk of folding is significantly lower.
- Open source software support can be terrible. As mentioned above, a lot of contributors who contribute to open source applications are just enthusiasts. And writing documentation, answering support calls are not exactly fun. Which is why you find that the documentation on OSS is usually dearth to the point of non-existent . It's very frustrating when you can't get the software to work and there is no one there to help you.I have dealt with a number of software, some are open source, others are not. Usually, the commercial software vendors reply your questions ( no matter how noob or stupid it sounds) within 24 hours. But I can't get this kind of luxury when I am dealing with OSS. My questions are usually left unanswered for a long period of time, and even the bugs I report are left unacknowledged. In one way it trains me to be more self-reliant. But still, I prefer to get my job done instead of learning software.The only exception is the PostSharp . But it's slowly converting to a commercial software. Hmm. There is no free lunch after all.
- Commercial open source support can be expensive. Companies exist for a reason: to make money. Proprietary software companies make money by charging on the software licensing. And Open source company makes money by charging the support. And since they can't charge for the source code, they have to make it up by charging more. It's just Economics 101.
- Certain level of persistence, diligence are needed to get the best out of the open source software. You want to get the best out of the open source? Then you better explore the software inside out. Don't try to shortcut the learning curve by consulting the documentation, because the documentation can be incomplete or downright wrong or not up-todate. There is no dedicated support line you can call, there is no support email you can email to. You can always google, out of a vast sea of data, you still have to decide which answer you want.
- The hidden switching cost. Finally, if you are now using a close source application and you prepare to switch to open source one, make sure you take switching cost into the account. You should allocate time and money for training and external help. And don't forget to allocate budget for software modification. You might need external consultants to change the software to better suit your needs