The term “open source software” is becoming a popular phrase in the business world, but many people don’t know exactly what it means. Open source software (OSS) is unique because its source code is available, allowing it to be developed in a collaborative manner. It is commonly used with cloud-based software development, as well as for Customer Resource Management (CRM) software and Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) software, two key components for any growing business. More and more companies are starting to take advantage of this type of software due to its many benefits over commercial software, which include cost-efficiency, customization, and the ability to integrate into a company’s existing systems.
According to ZDNet, 78 percent of companies use OSS, including large companies like Microsoft. The popular mobile operating system, Android, is even a derivative of OSS. This type of software is sometimes free, and a company’s IT team or a hired third party can modify the core code so that the software fits your specific business model. All of your software systems can easily communicate. Most open source software allows for easy connections via a built-in interface or small custom code modifications.
Despite its recent trend, the open software movement has been in commercial use since the 1970s. I have been working with it for the past 25 years. While working for the Department of Defense, we took advantage of free software, and the DoD loved that we had the ability to modify the core files to add in advanced security methods. I also assisted MasterCard and A.G Edwards in modifying and maintaining their OSS objectives. All three of those organizations stored their sensitive data on open source operating servers to bypass the vulnerabilities with servers running on commercial software.
My most current project is assisting a global material handling company in converting to a new open source ERP software, known as Odoo. My team will modify Odoo to fit the company’s exact needs, as well as tie it into all existing systems. This same client also uses an an open source e-commerce platform, called Magento, allowing their dealers to order equipment online.
One of the most significant reasons companies are moving to OSS is the cost. The license cost to purchase and maintain commercial software is stifling for many companies. The price of support can be enormous for commercial software packages. Corporations don’t want to be forced into whatever direction a commercial software vendor decides to take the software or pay for expensive upgrades.
The best thing about making the switch to open source is that you can try it for free. Since there is no upfront cost, you can install and run the software in parallel with your current company’s software application to perform a side-by-side evaluation. It will allow your business to stay current and competitive as it grows.