July 2, 2013

3 Open Source Software Risks for Small Businesses

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This is a guest blog post from Sara Tarantino

Open Source Software (OSS) offers developers the right to publish their software for all to see. Users are allowed to acquire, modify, enhance, share and in some cases market the software for their own benefit. Sounds like a win-win, right? Well, not necessarily. Don’t get us wrong, there are many advantages to OSS, such as affordability and transparency, especially for a small businesses, but there are also three major risks customers need to keep in mind.

1. “Nothing in Life is Free”

This old saying still reigns true in the case of Open Source Software.  A good amount of OSS requires training, service and support, which in many cases cost the user more than the original product it’s replacing. Also, support is a big consideration when using OSS, because there are no longer clear support channels for internal, external, accountability and service legal agreements, which can cost tremendously in the long run. So, in hindsight your “free software” may have no initial cost, yet ongoing maintenance and hidden dangers may “break the bank” down the road.

2. Legal Restrictions

“5-1-5-0 Somebody call the PoPo.” Okay, not really. The “Popo” probably won’t be called in many OSS cases, but legality is a major risk OSS users need to consider.  Unlike proprietary software vendor, Hewlett-Packard who has legal protections, OSS can violate third-party intellectual property rights and users receive no contract protection. Without contract protection, OSS users fall vulnerable to copyright infringements and intellectual property claims. These are risk factors users deeply need to consider before choosing to use open source technology.

3. Operability

There is nothing worse than having great news, but no one to share it with. The same holds true, for open source technology. OSS users that enable components of their software and services for availability to business partners must realize that certain codes have the potential to not work in other environments.  Users who plan to use OSS need to ensure their capabilities, before promising to share it with others, outside of their primary network.

As open source adoption continues to grow, it is essential that customers consider all views. The costs and risks of OSS are real, yet users can eliminate these worries with proper planning and frequent risk assessments.