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Open Source Vs Proprietary - Which Type of IT Solution Is Best For Your Business

Open Source Vs Proprietary - Which Type of IT Solutions Is Best For Your Business

It’s a no-brainer. Acquire the solution that is the only solution available. Especially if you have the budget for it and its benefits are crucial to your business. However, what if there are two or more equally attractive options? Oftentimes, the options belong to one of two camps - open source and proprietary. Which one is best for your business?

It’s important to identify the advantages of each camp before you start choosing, because a lot of the problems you can encounter later on are simply due to misconceptions about these two families of software.

There are now many grey areas in the market. For example, a proprietary solution also exposes a substantial, but not total, part of its source code to the public. In this article, we’ll only be focusing our discussions on traditional open source solutions and traditional proprietary solutions.

Let’s begin.

Known advantages of open source

First, let’s highlight the major benefits for which open source is known.

Lower Total Cost of Acquisition

Lower Total Cost of Acquisition

To most IT customers, open source is usually perceived to be free. That’s not entirely true. Generally speaking, what is free is the licence only — you know, that document that grants you the right to use whatever software is covered by that particular licence.

So, because an open source licence would typically allow you to use, modify and share the software without imposing any financial obligation on your part, the total cost of acquisition (TCA) of an open source software can be relatively minimal compared to its proprietary counterparts.

Savings in licencing costs can be very substantial, especially if you’re talking about enterprise-grade solutions. Enterprise-class proprietary solutions can run up to 5 or 6 figures, because many of them charge on a per-host or per-user basis. So, if you need to install a proprietary software on tens or hundreds of machines, the difference in cost (i.e. zero against £100,000 or even just £10,000) can certainly be a compelling reason to select an open source alternative.

More customisable, extensible

The ‘open’ in open source refers to the source code. That means, you could actually view (and modify) the software application’s source code if you wanted to. This alone has countless benefits, including the ability to customise the application to suit your specific needs/requirements for any business with skilled in-house developers.

Proprietary solutions normally don’t share their source code, so you’re restricted to their built-in functionalities and capabilities. Although some applications are able to provide some degree of extensibility through APIs, the flexibility you get from a fully open source solution is still substantially greater.

Open for scrutiny

Source code review

Because the source code is open, it is readily available for review. This can be very beneficial from a security standpoint. That means, security specialists can study and scrutinise the code and identify any vulnerabilities that may be present.

Better integration capabilities

Better integration capabilities

Lastly, if its source code is visible and customisable, an application will lend itself better to integrations. Meaning, you can easily connect it to other existing applications in your network and multiply the benefits each solution can provide individually.

The truth about the costs of proprietary solutions

proprietary solutions

Proprietary solutions are generally perceived to be more expensive than their open source counterparts, whose TCAs, as mentioned earlier, are almost zero. This has been one of the major reasons why some companies choose open source alternatives.

However, when you acquire a piece of software, your costs won’t end with the purchase. The solution will incur costs throughout its lifetime. So you need to factor these in if you really want a complete picture of a solution’s affordability.

Let me explain.

Integration costs

Integration costs

Some of the costs of software reveal themselves when you start integrating the newly acquired solution to other existing solutions on your network. While open source solutions are theoretically more ‘integratable’ from a technical standpoint, that advantage will only hold if you have someone with the required skill set in-house to carry out the integrations.

If you don’t, that advantage could slowly erode. Finding the required talent outside of your organisation is much harder if you’re using an open source solution than if you’re using a proprietary one. If you’re using a proprietary solution, it’s possible that the company developing the solution is already equipped to assist you with that integration.

The necessary talent is even harder to find if the solution is more specialised. If that happens, any capable professional you’ll find who can do the job for you will likely charge high professional fees.

Cost of unresolved issues

Cost of unresolved issues

Other costs emerge once you encounter difficulties or issues. A lot of the open source solutions out there provide support mainly through ‘communities’. While some software communities consist of very helpful members, these members aren’t bound by any service level agreement (SLA). That means, they might only reply during their free time. Thus, if the issue you need resolved is mission critical and affects your business operations, you could suffer a considerable amount of downtime that could in turn result in huge revenue loss.

Proprietary solutions usually have a dedicated tech support team to assist you in troubleshooting and resolving issues or requesting for patches when bugs are found. Some companies even offer 24x7 support, so you can get the help you need at any time. Although higher levels of support will naturally charge a fee, you’ll likely be happy to pay for it than go through a lengthy (and more costly) downtime.

An alternative would be to hire an IT support company that has proven experience and expertise with the solution you need help with. Just make sure you’re dealing with a trustworthy and reputable firm.

Lower Total Cost of Ownership (than what is generally perceived)

Lower Total Cost of Ownership

All the above arguments mean that while proprietary solutions generally provide a much higher TCA, their total cost of ownership (TCO) can still be on par with open source in the end.

This is an important point because it debunks the myth that open source solutions are more affordable. In the long run, you could end up spending just about the same on either option. To clarify, this isn’t an advantage of proprietary. But it’s worth pointing out because, let’s face it, cost considerations are a key factor in purchase/acquisition decisions.

So, which is better — Open Source or Proprietary?

Ok, so we now know that open source and proprietary solutions cost about the same in the long run. But what about the other advantages of open source outlined earlier, like extensibility and customisability? You certainly can’t find those in proprietary.

That’s true. However, you should note that those advantages will only matter if the benefits are really substantial and worth the associated costs. For all you know, the APIs provided by the proprietary alternative will already suffice.

So if we really break it down, choosing between open source and proprietary all boils down to what your company is more comfortable with and more capable of handling. You can start by auditing your in-house talent. If they’re more attuned to a proprietary solution, then you choose proprietary. If they’re more familiar with the open source alternative, then go for that. If you really don’t have the talent for either one, hire a reputable IT support company.

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Should Your Business Use A Password Manager

Should Your Business Use A Password Manager

Password security is a major issue that no business or enterprise can ignore. Countless hacking attempts succeed due to inadequate password security. However, remembering all those strong and (hopefully) unique passwords can be tedious, to say the least. Are password managers an alternative? Let’s take a look.

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IT System Failure: Why Prevention Is Better Than Cure

IT System Failure: Why Prevention Is Better Than Cure

All businesses suffer when their IT systems fail. The catastrophic fallout can result in considerable income loss and comprehensive damage to reputation. Customer confidence is a precious commodity, and it will evaporate in light of an IT system failure.

Curing the symptoms of an IT failure is possible, but also time-consuming and expensive. A systems outage of even a few hours could result in months' worth of lost earnings. How much value do you place on your brand image? Your brand will suffer considerably in light of a system failure.

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Why UK Companies Should Start Using Big Data Analytics

Why UK Companies Should Start Using Big  Data Analytics

Organisations now have access to more data than ever, but most are only able to use a fraction of this data, leaving a virtual goldmine of information resource untapped.  What companies don’t realise is that being able to harness this data effectively can yield business information that will prove valuable to the organisation.

The challenge is to extract relevant insights from the various forms and sources of big data which inundate enterprises on a daily, even hourly, basis. The key to meeting this challenge is Big data analytics.

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5 Benefits Of Outsourcing Your Business IT Support

5 Benefits Of Outsourcing Your Business IT Support

Medium to large operations face a tough decision when choosing how to provision IT support, either  internally or by means of an outsourced provider . Both routes carry costs, benefits and disadvantages.

The stand-out benefits of IT outsourcing

After many years of providing outsourced IT support to countless businesses, HTL has come to see the specific areas of a business which benefit most from outsourced support, and why outsourcing is often the better choice. As a result, we think you should evaluate these five benefits when considering outsourced IT support.

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The Importance of Video Conferencing - and How To Get It

The importance if video conferencing

Video conferencing has been affordable for companies large and small for many years, yet many businesses have not wholeheartedly adopted collaboration by video. Though it is estimated that 64% of companies already use video conferencing for meetings, many operations skip video collaboration altogether, despite the rapid growth in the number of people working from home, including in the UK.

If your company relies solely on phone calls, IM and emails to communicate, it is worth taking a step back and considering the benefits of video conferencing. Keep reading as we outline the benefits of video conferencing, and the video collaboration options available for your business.

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97 Percent Of Companies Don't Have A GDPR Plan

Does your company have a plan to prepare for GDPR

Only two months left before GDPR is implemented any eligible organisation not following the regulations could suffer colossal penalties, as much as four percent of the company's annual turnover or 20,000,000 Euro’s whichever is the Greater!

Does GDPR applies to you?

Only half of UK businesses are even aware of GDPR, whilst a solitary three percent are prepared for the upcoming Cut-off date. Many of large organisations such as EBay, Yahoo and Adobe have had data breaches. Therefore many companies assume that the new regulations only apply to companies dealing with personal data -unfortunately this is not the case!

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Six Benefits of IT Infrastructure Standardisation in the Enterprise

Outsource Your IT Services and Keep Your In-House IT Guy

The reliability of the IT organisation plays a critical role in every enterprise, given how the use of technology has deeply entrenched itself into every business organisation. From being more of back office tools a few decades ago, IT systems are now front and center in many enterprises’ business activities.

With IT contributing significantly to customer-facing applications, analytics services, and even creating new revenue streams for the enterprise, it’s important for the IT group to maintains its operational and cost efficiency. One way to ensure that the IT network competently responds to business needs while keeping within budgets is to implement IT infrastructure standardisation.

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Outsource Your IT Services and Keep Your In-House IT Guy

Outsource Your IT Services and Keep Your In-House IT Guy

Do we keep our IT services in-house, or do we outsource IT responsibilities? That is the question many management teams ask themselves when they look at the benefits of managed IT services. Outsourcing IT services save costs, introduces new knowledge and helps businesses focus. However fully outsourcing IT functions is not the best route for every organisation, and there are pros and cons to each approach. But how about opting for a mixed model?

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5 Business Benefits of Managed Services

5 Business Benefits of Managed Services

Because your main objective is to grow your business, it can be burdensome when you also need to allocate time to manage your IT assets - even if that can also translate into business benefits. The good news is that there’s a way to grow your business and manage your IT assets without spending much time on the latter. It’s called managed services.

This isn’t an article for explaining what managed services is. We’re assuming you already know what managed services is but are still looking for a good reason to hire one. This post should take care of that. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the major benefits of working with a managed services provider.

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