Modern businesses use a wide variety of software for their operations. From accounting software to inventory tracking, even to industry-specific management or operations tools, software is critical for managing a business. But software comes in two distinct forms: open source and proprietary. Which one should your business use? Below are some points to consider when deciding what kind of software your business should utilize.
Free and Open Source vs. Paid Proprietary Software
Of course, the biggest and most obvious benefit to open source software is that it doesn’t require you to pay. There’s an ever-increasing library of free and open-source software (FOSS) that everyone has access to, and with its lax licensing format, you can truly make it work for you. In contrast to its FOSS’ liberal nature, paid proprietary software requires you to make a subscription-based payment method and limits how you utilize the software.
But the limitations aren’t without benefit: for one, you or your staff won’t be inundated with all the baggage FOSS’ freedom brings. Proprietary software also often comes with a strong community and developer support, giving you plentiful resources for both beginner and advanced use. While FOSS still has a community of users and open documentation, the more obscure or niche open software often lacks community support.
Using Software to the Scale of Your Business
Due to the nature of open-source software, it’s not particularly tailor-made for a particular group. It can cater towards a niche, but even within that niche, most open-source software aims to cover a wide subset of that group. The good thing with proprietary software is that it’s very specific. It’s tailored for industrial-grade, large-scale work with the features to make it convenient for the user.
Most programmers are very much aware of the industry standards and trends, and they implement them in their proprietary software. This makes proprietary software the better choice if your company is on a larger scale and has a specific need. Open-source software can still provide a lot of use, should your establishment fall under the umbrella of the niche they’re targeting.
Ease of Use or Ease of Modification
Is your business capable of making edits and modifications to software, or does it need a seamless and intuitive graphical user interface? This is a necessary question as to the nature of open-source and proprietary brings different answers to these. Open-source software, being open source, is a lot easier to modify and manipulate. You can customize an open-source software to do exactly what your company wants- provided you have a programmer (or you hire one) to do it for you.
There is a skill barrier that can prove quite challenging if your staff doesn’t have the necessary skills to make the edits. If so, it’s far more efficient to purchase proprietary software with the accompanying customer support. The software you’ll get might not be fully customized to your needs, but with the constant updates and third-party support, your business will be able to do a lot more.
If You’re Using a 3rd Party Service
Obviously, when you’re keeping things internal, you have control over what your business uses. You can opt for a FOSS model through and through, reducing expenses while still keeping your software updated and competitive. Or you can also use a service provider to remove the hassle of maintenance off of you. If you’re using a third-party service, it’s best to go with whatever type of software your service provider uses.
Especially when you’re managing critical and sensitive information, coordinating with your vendor is the key to maintaining efficiency. It’s best to look at what type of software or hardware service your business has. The software your IP PBX vendor is providing is the best one for your current system.
The same goes with cloud server services- the proprietary one that comes with the server will always be the best way to interface with the data. Using your own or an open-source one can impede efficiency and even confuse the parties involved.
It’s Really a Case-to-case Basis
There really isn’t a single answer that will cover all types of businesses. Ultimately, whether you should use proprietary or open software is up to how your business works. And that’s the critical signifier: You have to understand how your business works to make the right decision. Know whether your employees will benefit from software they can freely edit and modify or do better if they have official developer support.