Open Source vs Closed Source Software

So you want to build a website! Great idea, a website is the front facing portal for your business or organisation, and it’s pretty much 100% compulsory in this day and age. With everything being online and internet as the main communication portal when researching potential purchases and information, a business really has no choice but to be online.

Well, where do you start? Sometimes it can be a bit daunting collating all of the information needed for a website, and who do you even contact to get started?! Well this is when you do your research and decide who you like the look of and who can cater to your organisations needs.

It pays to shop around and to see what is out there – what may seem like a nice cheap deal isn’t always the case. It’s worth paying a bit more for a website that can incorporate all of the features that you know you’re going to need or even see yourself using in the future. One argument is whether or not to go with Open Source or Closed Source software to build your website. But what does that even mean?

The main difference between closed source and open source software is that open source software is distributed under a licensing agreement that allows code to be shared, modified, and viewed by whomever wants to work on it. Closed source is a propriety software where the source code is not shared with the public to look at and change.

So what one should you go with? Well there are a lot of variables to consider.. but the top five would be cost, service, innovation, usability, and security. There are pros and cons of each, and the end decision will be largely impacted on the variables below.

Cost:

A lot of opensource web products are labelled initially as “free”. However, don’t be fooled. To get them free you often have to build and design them yourself, which isn't as simple as it seems. Once you start to factor in the costs of hosting, domain name, storage, removing advertisements, support, security, and the usability of the site the cost starts to build. It also pays to think about your company in the future. What will ideally be having your website do in the future, what will happen when technology changes, and what is going to be most effective for you and your company in the long run. Once you try to start implementing changes and add-ons to your original website, the costs can start ramping up and your data may start becoming jumbled and be incoherent with each addition you are making.

A closed source software website is likely to cost you upwards of a couple of thousand depending on what you need. This will include all of your functionality which will be seamlessly integrated together and designed in a modern and aesthetically pleasing way.

Another way to think about the cost of your website, is to think of it as an employee. An employee that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An employee that never takes toilet breaks, never complains, and never eats. Now that is one dedicated employee! Even if you’re paying $10,000 for a fully-fledged and good-looking website, you’re also paying $10,000 for an employee that will last around three years – cheap as chips!

Service:

Open source software is reliant on things like forums and blog posts to get an understanding of how to do something and how something works. As it is an ever-changing feature, it can be difficult to find something that is up to date and coherent with your needs as a user. This also means that the content isn’t tailored for the user, so whatever advice is getting given was what worked for that person, and what works for one user may not necessarily work for another user.

Service for a closed source product is most often tailored for the user/organisation and they are available to help you with your problem. One to one training is a benefit, which can help you update the website yourself with ease, saving you time and money – than any road-blocks you may hit can be given to the website designers to fix. Most often, closed source providers are also available 24/7 to ensure that your website stays live and any issues are dealt with immediately and accordingly.

Innovation:

Much of the innovation of the open source software is done solely for a user’s benefit of the here and now, and not necessarily added in to think of the bigger picture future. The customised source code additions can only be acknowledged by others if that initial creator passes them on, and testing and ensuring that all the functions of the software if done, would not be done for the software as a whole.

The source code can become so vast it would be unattainable to ensure that everything was tested to so that all functions worked together, and that there were no holes that hackers could potentially take information from.

Closed source software has little room for the user to make many changes or additions to the overall usage of the website. However, this ensures that testing and security are completed when an addition is made to the source code. This closed source software can be customised and created to tailor specifically for a user’s needs. The developers also have the ability to forward think about the long-term innovation for their product and how it is needed to work in the future, which creates the innovative reality about what it is that the user will need not in a month, but within the coming years.

Usability:

Open source often is edited by coding geniuses whom don’t necessarily take layman usability into account. This means that it can be a lot more difficult to update or edit your website than you may think, and there is no one to call up and ask for support. A route that a lot of open source companies go down is to have an outsourced company do all of the website editing for them. This is handy; however it refers back to our first point – cost. Even an expensive cost, as just for the simplest change can come at a charge of $100+, which can build up significantly over time.

Security:

As previously stated, security is often a concern for the open sourced software due to its size and the amount of people making additions, it is virtually impossible to test it properly and discover any security issues or holes in the software. This also means that because of the access that people have to the software, it is a trust based system that people will use it for good. However, anyone could go into the software and encode a Trojan that can shut down your website and/or take personal information of your members. However as there are good people in this world, there are those that have applied bug fixes and security updates. Yet if you've added onto and moulded the software to meet your needs, these updates won't apply to those parts of your website. Leaving gaping holes for hackers.

Closed source software is developed and added to in a controlled environment, so it is generally seen as more secure than open source as the team is dedicated to selling a product, so they need that product to be beneficial for their users and secure for their users. Often when searching for a software, the closed source provider will be able to provide you with a long list of the steps they take to ensure that their websites are as secure as possible.

The pros and cons of the open source vs closed source software can be a long list to write, however it is worth doing your research to ensure that you are getting the best software for your needs. 

For more information on these matters, or to talk to us about your website project, contact Lauren: lauren.stanley@expert.services

 

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