Tech tip: the pitfalls of open source software



Some businesses struggle to get the right software solutions, especially if they’re on a budget. Some even choose to take advantage of free and open source software just because it improves their bottom line. There are some advantages to using open source software, but there are also dangers.

What is open source software?

To be “open source”, software code is made available to the public for use, modification and improvement. It is usually built by a community of volunteers with the aim of creating a dynamic, accessible and flexible solution. Some examples of open source software that you might recognize include Mozilla Firefox, WordPress, Linux, and PHP.

We don’t want to discourage your use of open source software, as it has provided opportunities for many organizations that might not have been possible otherwise. For example, a graphic design student might not be able to afford Adobe Creative Cloud, but they can afford an open source graphics program to get their feet wet before committing to the high-end software suite. However, we want to urge caution.

Here are three issues you might consider before committing to open source software for your business.

Vulnerabilities are made public

The code of open source software is publicly available, which also means that hackers can take a look and locate potential vulnerabilities. This means that exploits can be developed to target specific weak points in the code of an open source application.

No dedicated support structure

Most companies that provide software will have a dedicated help line, along with security updates and patches that are applied on a scheduled basis. Open source software is usually backed by a supportive community, but it’s easy enough for people to lose their passion for something that they are willingly giving their time to, so the support can wane when that happens.

Licensing and intellectual property issues

When it comes to open source software, the waters can get a little murky in terms of usage rights and contributions. Some contributors will remain anonymous, so there is no way of knowing who contributed the software or how to make sure the code was not stolen from another application.

Some of these difficult situations related to open source software may make you think that it is a bad idea to invest in this type of applications, and while we encourage you to make your own decisions in this regard, we also want you to say there are other ways for your business to access cost-effective software solutions.

We can equip your business with software-as-a-service offerings that let you take advantage of powerful solutions without having to worry about where they come from. We know that purchasing software licenses in bulk for your business can be difficult, which is why we try to make our services as affordable as possible at a reasonable monthly rate. This allows your business to take capital expenses and turn them into operational expenses that can fit within your budget.

To learn more, visit:, or contact us at (703) 821-8200.

Alan Edwards, CISM, is chief information officer at Computerware, Inc., in Vienna, Virginia.

Keywordsbusiness techgraphic designhackingLinuxMozilla FirefoxNetwork securityOpen-source softwarePHPWordPress



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