The Pros and Cons of Using Open Source Software

Open Source or “free” software is a huge debate in the IT community. Do you use Microsoft and other “proprietary” products and pay higher fees? Or do you build your IT infrastructure on freely available software?
Some say Linux and other open source products are more secure and cheaper. You can download open source software and just use it – no licensing fees.
On the other hand, others say with open source you’ll pay the same or more in training, support and other “hidden” costs. Some say open source is more stable as more people have had a chance to make it better and improve it, instead of just one company.
Inc Magazine Online writes The fear of the fear was far worse than the fear itself (and I apologize to FDR for stealing that). When you move to open source you begin to appreciate why people will tolerate a semi-autocratic environment, such as a corporation with military-like culture. People will give up freedom for security.
When we used “store-bought” systems we slept well at night knowing that if something went bump, there would be someone at the end of a phone line that we could get help from… or blame. That’s a real issue and most of the time it isn’t hype. Sure, there are horror stories out there when calling customer service, but most often those companies who survive have really good service… Apple comes to mind.
In the open-source world we had no one to call. While some small businesses will use a Linux product from a vendor that does have service (for a price) or they retain a consulting firm who specializes in doing support for many of the open source software they use, we didn’t because our funds were limited. We decided to go it alone. And what we thought would be a “con” turned out to be a “pro.”
We found that the problems we had were vastly different from those we had when we ran proprietary systems. Back then our problems resulted around crashes, and “it doesn’t work,… what happened… how do we fix it” issues. You’ve all booted up in morning and have received some error message… and your computer was a paperweight.
In our experience it just didn’t happen with our new open source software. It always ran. In fact we never turned our desktops off. The problems were mostly of the “how do I do this or that” type.