Open Source vs. Vendor-Provided Software: Comparing Them Side by Side

Open source software applications are becoming an increasingly viable alternative to vendor provided commercial software.

Jeff Walpole, CEO
Posted

Open source software applications are becoming an increasingly viable alternative to vendor provided commercial software. Jeff Walpole explores the differences between these types of software, and the pros and cons of each alternative in a full article written for Idealware , a 501c3 nonprofit that provides candid Consumer-Reports-style reviews and articles about software of interest to nonprofits.Open source software applications are becoming an increasingly viable alternative to vendor provided commercial software. Jeff Walpole explores the differences between these types of software, and the pros and cons of each alternative in a full article

written for Idealware , a 501c3 nonprofit that provides candid Consumer-Reports-style reviews and articles about software of interest to nonprofits.

It can be a challenge for institutions not accustomed to the concept to accept open source as a viable approach for developing quality software. But those perceptions are changing. Businesses and non-profits of all sizes from the Fortune 1000 to the federal government have adopted open source software packages for many different purposes.

For instance, the Linux operating system and Apache Web servers power much of the Internet. The Firefox Web browser is gaining substantial market share. Content management systems like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Plone are widely used by nonprofits, while Constituent Relationship Management systems like SugarCRM and CiviCRM are increasingly viable options. An open source model can result in powerful, secure, useful, industrial-strength software.

In truth, the idea of “vendor-provided” and “open source” solutions are not opposites. A vendor can develop a software package and then release it under an open source license—typically then making money from support or implementation work. Conversely, many firms provide services, support and even packaged implementations for open source software.

When it comes down to the wire, open source software and vendor-provided software aren’t so different. It’s critical to look at the features, attributes and costs for each—and then weigh the unique benefits each model can bring. By choosing to use an open source system, you are tapping into a community of peers and taking more control of your software destiny, but you are also choosing a course of action that will require a different mindset—and perhaps more work to support—down the road.

In the end, there’s no easy answer. Open source software isn’t likely to be a free-and-easy cure to all your woes, but it’s certainly a viable option worth considering. Vendor-supported solutions don’t have a monopoly on solid feature sets or good support, but they may be a faster and easier choice especially for simple needs.

But don’t let the choice overwhelm you. The possibilities don’t have to be dizzying if you break down your needs and considerations, and compare the options side by side.

Read and download the full article from the Idealware website.

Jeff Walpole

CEO