Should Businesses Really Use Open-Source Software?

We’ve been working in the software consulting business for some time. And, of course, many of your have been to our conferences and met us in person. One of the fun parts about that process is that we get to meet with all kinds of people from all kinds of businesses. And lots of them will seek out our expertise (whether it’s in the form of a formal meeting or just over wings and a beer – which, by the way, is our favorite!).

As we gradually started getting deeper and deeper into the open-source software code, we started to get one question over and over: “Should businesses really be using open-source software?”

That’s kind of a loaded question, I think, but I hope you can see the fear behind it. The fear, of course, is that many business owners are scared of using a software whose code is 100% public. In my experience, most business owners – but especially older, more traditional business owners – have a problem with anything that is 100% public. Many of these folks have built very old businesses on proprietary technologies or systems, so the idea that we’re all one big happy family sharing the best practices for doing one thing or another is a bit… weird. So, I wanted to very, very briefly outline the reasons a business might adopt open-source software.

  • You get tons and tons of quality for low cost. That’s just the nature of open-source software. It’s built to be public, and it does not make its money through private sales and NDA agreements. It’s built to be shared. And so, most of the time, it’s cheaper.
  • It’s collaborative. This is where the quality comes from. Two heads are better than one, and a thousand heads are better than two. When you have a global community working to improve a product, it gets good fast.
  • It’s safer. Yes, it’s safer! I wrote about this in my previous blog post, but for now, suffice it to say that just as you can collaborate to increase the quality, you can also collaborate to increase security.

What do you guys think?

Is Open-Source Software Safer?

Security is super important. This is especially true in online environments, and it’s even truer for companies. And, it’s absolutely critical if you’re a company who handles sensitive client information. Way back when I worked in the corporate world, I used to do projects for major global corporations – Like Coke and McDonalds – and believe me: the systems we had in place to protect their sensitive data was absolutely insane.

The point is: it’s important, and very few companies are willing to risk data leaks. And it’s for that exact reason that open-source software is generally seen as safer. When I tell people this, a lot of times (especially with people who don’t work in IT, the reaction is, “Really? A software package in which the entire code is available to literally everyone is supposed to be safer than a proprietary software package?”

And the answer, almost all of the time is yes! Here’s why. When you have a private software package, you generally only have a small team of developers working on it. Before it’s deployed, part of the QA process is checking for gaps in security. Usually, to do this, you have to pay a security expert to come in and basically break – or hack – our software to see where any exploits could occur. Sometimes that person will find a hole. Sometimes they won’t.

Do you see the problem yet? Basically, the security of your software depends almost entirely on the skill of the person you’re paying to hack it. That’s kind of scary!

But it’s basically the opposite with open-source software. With this kind of software, instead of one (or a few) people trying to find security exploits, thousands of people are trying to find exploits. So, any holes in the program will be found much, much sooner than they otherwise might. You’ll also find more.

So what’s the verdict? Yes! Open-source software packages are almost always more secure than private software.

Check Out These Awesome Open-Source Project Management Tools

Obviously, open-source software is one of our favorite things here. We just love the idea of creating an amazing product and sharing it with people who can use it, build on it and improve it. With that spirit in mind, we’ve been searching out some of the best open-source project management tools around.

Project management is a really fantastic market for open-source software. Why? Well, because in general, project management requires a few basic things that anyone can create: workflow management, user management, and task assignment.

However, most project managers also need very specific things – things specific to their industry and their product. So, with an open-source software, project managers can create exactly the product they need to manage their teams as effectively as possible.

So, if you are a project manager, and you just can’t seem to find the right tool, check out some of these!

  • ProjectLibre. ProjectLibre is an open-source project management tool by Marc O’Brien. In addition to having some pretty standard features – like task management – the base program also features stuff like resource allocation, tracking and data charts. This makes it extremely easy to see where your resources are being spent, so you can allocate them more efficiently. They have been iterating since release, and this year, they’ll be coming out with version 2.0. We can’t wait!
  • OpenProject. OpenProject is another great open-source project management tool, and it really stands out for its excellent collaboration management. It’s built on Ruby, and it’s packed full of other really great PM tools. This tool is currently on its third version, and we’re set to see some updates later this year.
  • Redmine. The final tool on our list here is Redmine. We really like Redmine because it’s a web-based product, and it works on the web really well. It’s an ideal product for any teams that work with each other remotely (which is happening more and more these days.