Thursday, 07 March 2019 12:00

Is open source software really free?

"Open software" does not mean "free of charge"

In the previous articles we discussed what open source is, and that it can be as safe as proprietary software. Often these applications are considered free of charge because of their definition. This is, however, more complicated than it seems. Open source means that the source code is publicly available, but it is not always completely free.
The majority of leading open source producers release their software for free. These companies most often profit from selling additional services - for example deployments of these applications and tech support. Sometimes companies offer additional modules, or develop custom solutions for a fee.

Long-term costs

If you chose software whose license allows you to use it completely for free, does it mean there really will be no costs?
It depends. Using some of these applications will involve additional fees that in most cases the company will have to pay. What kind of costs are these?

  • Open source solutions implementation
    Regardless if you deploy new software in the company or you switch from one software to another, it must be properly deployed. If your IT team cannot handle it on their own you can pay the vendor or an implementer for support.
  • Adapting open source software to the company’s needs
    Depending on the type of software and the company’s needs you can select either the default standard solution or a custom one. Even the standard solution might need some tweaking to fit the individual requirements of your business. It can be done by your employees, or you can hire developers to do it for you. There are usually charges for these services.
  • Open source programs development
    Well chosen software evolves together with the company and adapts to its growing needs. It means that the number of available functionalities will have to increase as well. If the company does not hire highly skilled programmers, it will be necessary to order these functionalities from the vendor.
  • Tech support for open source programs
    Situations where employees require help are unavoidable. Because of that the costs might be increased by tech support fees.

If the company hires people with proper knowledge, free support provided by the community (e.g. GitHub) might be enough. Open source enthusiasts or even the vendors themselves will help answering all the how-to questions related to the application.

Open source software gives you a choice

Open source costs depend on the product and additional services. Both, completely free and paid solutions are available on the market. However, the key advantage of open source programs is the fact that the company can choose whether it wants to use free programs or pay for them.

Financial support of open source projects

The producers of open source make their software available for free, so sometimes they need additional support from users. The open source community can not only contribute to the development of programs through active code writing but also through financial support.
The producers are often present on crowdfunding portals that help them collect money. You can read more about how crowdfunding works in this article "What is crowdfunding and how does it support business development?".
In the same way, you can also support YetiForce CRM. We've joined the Open Collective portal to collect money for dedicated programmers who will handle issues on GitHub and develop new functionalities.

In the further article, you will know if open source programs guarantee security.
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