Open source software in the business workspace

Open source software, as its name suggests, means the ‘source code’ is open, or given away for no cost. Traditional software companies will sell you the right to run the machine code, but with no access to the source code, and even if you had access to the source code in some way you would have no rights under their license agreement to modify it.

Hidden costs

There are possible hidden costs with running open source software such as training the user on the software, which is likely to be new to them. Another area is the time taken to update things in office software like templates, macros and formulas that don’t work on the new software. Using another office software packages such as Open Office or LibreOffice rather than Microsoft Office will save money initially, but the users need for support will become a priority. They will initially be much less productive, as they learn where everything is. In time and with training they will eventually become as productive. One problem with the two examples above is although they open documents, spread sheets etc, that were created in Microsoft Office, they won’t necessarily look like or be formatted exactly as they are in Microsoft Office. Sending documents to users internally would not be a problem, but external companies might not get the document exactly as it was intended.

Another issue is certain functions like complex macro’s created in Microsoft Office would not transfer to these open source alternatives, and any templates would need to be changed. Changing your operating systems to open source alternatives is probably less of a big step and would be fine for users who just need access to email and browse the web. For users of Office software this would force them to use open source software as Microsoft Office is not available on open source operating systems. The installation, running and updating of the new operating system for the IT support staff might be problematic initially and so the company might have pay a certified support company to look after the support and maintenance of the software for some time.

Written on February 27, 2013