Of late, however, commercial software, often called open source software (free), have made several technological advances, putting them almost at par with paid versions. With the gap between the two types of software steadily closing, choosing between open source vs proprietary software can become more complicated for a business. Ultimately, the right choice will largely depend upon your specific business requirements.
Here are the most critical pros and cons of open source vs proprietary software to evaluate when making a decision between the two.
While proprietary and commercial software are almost neck to neck when it comes to small-scale projects, the real differences arise when the scale of the project increases. Proprietary software almost always emerges as the clear winner when it comes to large projects. Therefore, if your business requires software for large projects, then the choice is clear.
Even if your business currently only requires software for smaller projects, but aims to scale up projects soon, choosing proprietary software would be the best bet. This is because paid software will allow your company to expand the scope of work with greater ease. If, on the other hand, your business’ operations are, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, small-scale, then an open source software is probably more than adequate for your requirements.
Price is often the biggest deciding factor for companies trying to decide between open source software vs proprietary software. Proprietary software comes with licensing fees, maintenance costs and sometimes even subscription fees. All of these costs add up, making proprietary software an expensive option. Open source software, on the other hand, is almost always free to use.
Some companies do have a partly-paid model, where the software is free up to a certain limit and then becomes paid. However, even in these cases, the total cost is still significantly lower than it would be for a proprietary software. If budgets are a constraint for your business, then a commercial software would be your best option. Spending less money on software can free up more finances that can be put towards innovation or employee wages.
If your business doesn’t have an in-house tech team that is knowledgeable about the software in use, you might run into some hurdles with open source software. These types of software rarely, if ever, have a support team who can help answer any queries you may have regarding its use.
Proprietary software, on the other hand, help is usually available 24×7. This software generally has a toll-free support number or chat facilities enabling you to troubleshoot issues instantaneously. Many even offer a dedicated account executive who can train your team on the use of the software and resolve any issues that may crop up. For complex software where a large amount of data is stored, for example a CMS platform, this type of support can be critical. For less-complex uses, an open source software’s lack of support features might be less of a liability when deciding between open source software vs proprietary software.
Open source software are often developed by networks of programmers without a large corporation backing them. While this very feature is what enables open source software to be the less expensive option, it is also why they are considered the less reliable one. Open source networks can collapse, and when they do, the software that they offer will also be pulled out of the market. Businesses depending upon this software might lose critical data or see their processes coming to an abrupt halt temporarily.
Proprietary software, on the other hand, are offered by large, well-established companies, making them more stable and predictable. If your business has a long-term vision, proprietary software might make the best sense.
Business functions rarely operate in silos. Your CMS platform will have to integrate with your email marketing software, social media tools, internal communications systems and so on. Proprietary software makes this type of integration easy. Most of them come with in-built integration with various tools, software and platforms, which can help your business processes stay interconnected easily.
Open source software, on the other hand, usually don’t have integration features. If your company isn’t dependant on a large variety of tools and platforms, this limitation might not be so much of an obstacle. However, for bigger companies with large-scale operations, it can hinder processes and prevent the smooth functioning of the organization.
Open source and proprietary software both come with their own set of pros and cons, making it difficult to identify the ‘best’ option between open source vs proprietary software. If your company is a small, bootstrapped startup an open source software could be the most suitable option for you. If, on the other hand, your company is looking for software that can scale up and integrate seamlessly with existing tools, a proprietary software is your best bet.
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