10 eCommerce advantages that come with OSS

October 23, 2013 Written by NetSphere Category: Tech Trends
10 eCommerce advantages that come with OSS
Open-source software or OSS represents a community approach to developing software where anyone can copy, modify and redistribute the source code without paying royalties or fees. This is opposed to commercial software vendors whose source code is not distributed, is treated as intellectual property and whose customers pay licensing and maintenance fees for the use of that software.
To get a better understanding of how freedom and flexibility can be achieved through OSS, the team here at NetSphere Strategies put together the following list of its top 10 benefits. And for good measure, we also included a few cons that should also be taken into consideration:
1. Costs are less. OSS licensing fees and software acquisition costs are relatively inexpensive, if not free, thanks in part to the lack of associated branding and marketing expenses. Examples of free OSS are Apache web server, Linux operating system, JBoss application server and Eclipse development tools.
CON: You pay on the back end. Free is no bargain if the costs of support and staff outstrip the cost of commercial alternatives. If you go open source, you're taking on more responsibility from your own support team. If hiring is difficult for you, turning to open source might not be the best idea. Many vendors provide the free software, but are moving to a support-centered business model for open source, so check your contracts for these types of fees.
2. Avoid vendor lock-in. Companies don’t want to be strangled by their vendors. Why pay a vendor for a needless upgrade simply to maintain compatibility with others using the same software? When you get in too deep with a particular product suite, it becomes increasingly difficult to be the “captain of your ship.” OSS is about freedom and choice – shifting the balance of power back to the customer.
3. Flexibility of deployment. Since OSS is distributed with no licensing restrictions regarding implementation, companies can respond quickly to changing circumstances by installing additional copies to meet development and scalability needs at no cost. Install it as many times and in as many locations as you need. There’s no need to count, track or monitor for license compliance.
4. Licenses are clear. At six pages, the GNU General Public License is a model of simplicity compared with commercial alternatives. And the license's basic stipulation that software changes that are released to anyone must be released to everyone couldn't be easier to understand. Since the GPL is so widely adopted, fewer resources are wasted on legal costs and fighting over esoteric language and exceptions.
CON: It's not always as simple as it looks. Licensing concerns may be the best argument against open source. In fact, there are three versions of the GPL and dozens of other forms of free software licenses – each with their own spin to the standard license. With a single vendor's license, at least you know what you're up against.
5. Responsiveness to company needs. Unlike the one-size-fits-all approach of commercial software where the software must be used as-is or risk voiding the warranty, OSS source code availability enables companies to easily add the functionality they need versus buying bloated software vendor packages for features they might never use.
6. Protection against obsolescence. Open source lives in the community, which means there will always be developers to support it. Or, you can always fall back on using the source code to make your own modifications. No matter what solution you buy, you will always have to customize it. Start with a lower-cost solution and customize it from there.
CON: There's a lot of dead software out there. When the market doesn't embrace an open-source project, it might as well be considered dead in the water. So because some projects will eventually be abandoned, companies could find themselves in a difficult spot if they chose what they didn't realize would become an unpopular product.
7. Perspective. While some organizations are wary of using OSS because it lacks a clear "throat to choke," other companies recognize the problems that come from putting all of their eggs in one basket.
8. Has its place. LAMP (Linux/OS, Apache/web server, MySQL/database and PHP/Perl/Python/program languages) is becoming a fixture at the Web tier – as proven by Amazon, Google and Yahoo, while J2EE apps still rule at the Server tier or back-office operations.
9. Breadth of offerings. There is an amazing array of available open-source products with hundreds of thousands of open-source products just waiting to be downloaded. No matter what type of product you're looking for, chances are there are one or more OSS options for you.
10. Quality. Community development leads to more reliable and secure code. Fixes and enhancements are built and distributed faster because the developers are also the users. Excellence in design and efficiency in coding are also possible because of the peer review process that is inherent in its community standards. And if you don't like something about the software, you can just fix it yourself.
CON: There is no accountability. If a commercial program doesn't work for any reason, vendors are obligated to remedy the situation. And, because of license fees, users can feel confident that the vendor will deliver. The business costs of scouring the Web for a solution to your problem can quickly outweigh the benefits of free licenses.
For the majority, the eCommerce companies that leverage OSS attribute their decision to the in-house flexibility and cost efficiencies that come with it. To get more information or support in regard to a potential adoption of OSS, feel free to schedule a call with the team at NetSphere Strategies. We'd be happy to help
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Abbe Miller is the marketing manager at NetSphere Strategies, located just outside Chicago. NetSphere Strategies is a boutique eCommerce company positioned to help businesses transform their online presence by providing a full complement of services that starts with our strategic consulting and creative design teams, then continues with building innovative solutions and providing ongoing post-project support.