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Benefits of Open Source PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 13:59

There are numerous reasons why any business should consider Open Source technology in their infrastructure. Here are some of the most important benefits that will help your business gain advantage through using Open Source.

  • Security - Hacking attempts on servers are frequent, malware, trojans and viruses are commonplace and tools to help the hacker are readily available. No software is 100% immune from security vulnerabilities but the open source process itself delivers superior security performance.The Open Source development model and inherent security of Linux mean vastly improved protection from attack, and consequently less downtime and maintenance costs. Of the 1709 viruses reported in the latest "wildlist.org" report for March 2007, NONE of them would infect a Linux based computer. When a vulnerability is identified, it is often fixed in a matter of hours; proprietary software vendors sometimes take months to even announce the existence of a problem to its customers. This is one of the main benefitsClick to see the analysis that should be carefully considered when investigating Open Source alternatives.
  • Retain Control - The rights and freedoms of an open source licence gives businesses greater control over the tools they come to depend on. Unreasonable price increases, unacceptable licensing restrictions, forced upgrades are a thing of the past...
  • Quality - Apart from proprietary vendor funded research, any independent reports you care to read which look at Open Source finds the quality of open source projects to be significantly better than proprietary software. The development model itself relies on constant peer review of the code and produces a highly modular design which makes it easier to read and fix. Releases tend to occur when the software is considered ready for use; not on a date set by a marketing department.
  • Cost - Open source software is usually available at no cost and easily obtained as a download from the internet. Open source licences are written to allow you to use the software again and again with no mandatory per-seat or per-server costs. Future versions of the same software are also available at zero cost although you are not forced to upgrade just to receive support or to continue to be able to interoperateSee the benefit below about Open Standards with your partners, customers or stakeholders.
  • Standards - Open source software has largely defined the standards in use on the internet today so it's no surprise to find that the same open standards are considered extremely important. Open standards allow products from different vendors to work together and also prevent business from getting "tied" to a single product from a single vendor. This is becoming increasingly important with regards to document storage and archival. The ODF (Open Document Format) is an OSI approved standard and allows any vendor, whether they are Open Source or proprietary, to use a common document format; meaning your files will always be readable without having to pay for the latest Office application upgrade for example.
  • Flexibility - Open source software is transparent. If there's something you want it to do you can either modify the product yourself or pay someone to do it for you. If you wish to, you are free to contribute your modifications back to the community so that the software continues to improve. Most Open Source licenses only require you to do this if you re-distribute your modified product to others.
  • Support - As well as paying for professional support from companies like ours, access to good support is usually available for free via mailing lists, forums and IRC, if you have the technical knowledge and skills to assimilate it. The help is often provided by the same people that wrote the original code

In addition to the items above, Open Source benefits can also be looked at by business categories...

  • Strategic Benefits
    • Shorter time to market for new business capabilities
    • Better application integration based on open standards
    • Ability to influence or create new features in future releases
    • Safety from vendor lock-in or abandonment
    • Open source methods and tools aid partner co-development
    • Reduced security, liability, regulatory and downtime risk
    • Usually lower acquisition costs than for proprietary software
  • Financial Benefits
    • Free or "fair" software acquition cost
    • Buy or Source once and copy to every machine that needs it
    • Freedom from Vendor Lock-in upgrade fees
    • Free or low cost community support for non-mission critical services
    • FLOSS typically runs fine on older hardware reducing or delaying hardware upgrade costs
    • Rapid development of new features or bug fixes
    • Reduced Security Costs
  • Performance Benefits
    • More uptime, less downtime
    • Rapid testing and deployment due to instant availability
    • Scaling (The Internet is built mainly on FLOSS)
    • Platform Independance
    • Rapid turnaround for bugs and/or security flaws.

IT Security and FLOSS

The United Kingdom goverment's Department for Trade and Industry (Dti) produces regular reports on IT security in conjunction with, and sponsored by, major industry players, including PriceWaterHouseCoopers.

The findings are very interesting from an Open Source perspective.

  • The average UK company now spends 4-5% of its IT budget on information security,
  • 62% of UK companies had a security incident in the last year,
  • The average cost of a UK company’s worst security incident of the year was roughly £12,000 (up from £10,000 two years ago).
  • Overall, the cost of security breaches to UK plc is up by roughly 50% since two years ago, and is of the order of ten billion pounds per annum.
  • Worryingly, a quarter of UK businesses are not protected against the threat from spyware.

If, after reading the various reports from the Dti and PwC, we now look at the Wildlist which attempts to report all known viruses actually active and "in the wild" you will note that everyone of them is targeting proprietary software systems. Mainly Microsoft's Win32 implementation (Windows)... In fact it is very hard to find any real data on the number of Linux viruses that are in circulation. It appears to be a very small number... Here is an excellent article (although a few years old is still very relevant) which goes a good way to explain why Open Source software and Linux in particular are very hard to attack with viruses when compared to Microsoft's software for example.

When you consider the cost of implementing good IT security in capital expenditure, additional staffing and/or consulting fees and the cost of incidents themselves, the Open Source software stack has a great deal to offer.

Finally, if you are still sceptical, ask yourself why it is that most all commercial security products such as, IDS (Intrusion Detection Systems), Firewalls, Proxy Servers and network filters run on Open Source software?

 

 

 

 

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