Open Source

Open source software (OSS), unlike proprietary software, is software that keeps the code open so IT professionals can alter, improve, and distribute it.  Popular Open Source software examples include Mozilla’s Firefox Web Browser, the Thunderbird Email Client, and Python.

With Open Source coding, developers voluntarily contribute to projects with their own code, solving problems, adding features, and contributing to their positive karma in the universe. Open Source code typically has no licensing fees or restrictions on the software/code’s use, allowing users to distribute the original code as part of their larger project or software program. These are the good parts of Open Source. Now let’s look at why Open Source is sometimes frowned upon.

Four reasons Open Source Is not such a Good Idea

First, OSS is often written by computer programmers for computer programmers often leaving the average computer user behind from a supportability and usability perspective.

Second, some argue that there is a potential to infringe upon intellectual property rights within Open Source code. While this might be mitigated by purchasing something called Indemnification insurance, COTS software does not require such consideration.

Thirdly, problems and features might not be developed for the Open Source product. Just because your company needs something, does not mean the community of developers working on your project agree and will develop a solution to the unique problem you’re facing.

Finally, some people argue that Open Source code, because it is freely viewable by anyone, can be exploited if a hacker can find a hole or vulnerability in the software. Others argue that a good developer is just as likely to find and fix a vulnerability in open source so this is a controversial point.

Source: How-To Geek

Additional Reading: Open Source Libraries a Big Source of Application Security Flaws

Related Terms: Closed Source, COTS Software

What does this mean for an SMB?

Open Source software is something that SMBs should know about and consider as they decide how to solve computing problems for their business.  If easy of use and supportability are your top concerns, then COTS software solutions might be the way to go. 
If freedom to develop solutions in novel and unique ways for sophisticated employees is what appeals to you, perhaps contributing to Open Source projects may be more beneficial for your company.
In the final analysis, it is important for an SMB to recognize what Open Source is and how it could potentially help your company. By being informed and aware, you can be more secure in your choice.

To learn more about Open Source Software, watch this short 3 minute video:

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