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Disadvantages of open source software

Are you or your organization planning to jump onto the bandwagon of “the open source software revolution”? In case you’re not aware of what is open source software it is supposed to be free software.  Open source software can be modified by anybody and then redistributed because its code is supposed to be freely available, unlike the commercial software applications that you cannot alter and redistribute.  The only caveat is that you cannot alter the open source software and then sell it commercially.  Some prevalent examples of open source software are, a Microsoft office alternative, Ubuntu (a variant of Linux), a Windows operating system alternative, and Gimp, a Photoshop alternative.

So if all these alternatives are freely available why do people go for the commercial versions and spend so much money on non-free source software?  Contrary to the popular beliefs the open source software is not as free as it seems.  In fact sometimes it can prove to be more expensive than the commercial software.  Here are a few reasons that caution most of the serious organizations to steer clear of open source software applications:

Most open source software applications are not reliable

Although big multinational companies like IBM and Sun Microsystems are backing the open source software movement there are no great financial stakes involved and the motivation mostly originates from a prevalent anti-Microsoft feeling.  So there is no clear-cut discipline in this field and everything is emotion driven.  Most of the developers and promoters of free source software believe in an obscure, idealistic world where intellectual property rights do not exist and software companies do not sell commercial software.  Hence most of the applications are not reliable and you cannot run critical business operations on them.

No support exists for open source software

Once you decide to use open source software you are on your own.  Agreed, that lots of help is available on the Internet and there are many self-motivated forums that can help you install and run open source software, there is no qualified support available.  You have to figure out on your own how to install and use applications without sabotaging your data and hardware. For instance, every second kid in the neighborhood exhorts you to ditch Windows and switch to Linux; many have lost their years of data trying to make the shift.  No help documents and manuals are made available since the software is being changed every second week.

Higher installation costs

It is a total misconception that you save money by switching over to open source software. More than 99% of PCs and laptops come with Windows operating system preinstalled and very few open source software applications adjust well with Windows.  I don’t mean to say that once we are stuck with Windows we shouldn’t try another operating system; the incompatibilities are there just because nobody cares for the quality of the software.  After the installation — if at all you can install it without destroying your digital resources — you have to put lots of effort into integrating the applications and make them give some decent output. Further, many open source software applications depend on the whims and fancies of the developers and they are not specifically developed by keeping the end user in mind; so once you decide to use it you have to really figure out how to excess various things.  Sometimes even the menu conventions are not followed.

Another great problem is that most of the open source applications are incompatible with the present day gadgets.  For instance if you use some open source operating system you can forget about the cool plug and play hardware that you have been using for so many years.  Sometimes people can’t even get their modems working with open source operating systems.

Technical support too is costlier compared to commercial software because people who provide support for free source and open source software expect to earn lots of money providing support and in fact this is the only revenue model perceived in favor of the open source software movement.

No guarantee of updates

Since you are not paying for the open source software nobody is bound to give you regular updates.  You can get stuck with the same old version for years without ever getting an update.
I wouldn’t like to paint the entire open source movement with a black color.  Of course commercial software is sometimes too expensive and people who don’t have big budgets cannot afford them.  Some buggy software is better than no software.  For instance, with all its quirks is far better than Microsoft Office for those who cannot afford Microsoft Office and hence wouldn’t have such a product if it were not for the providers.  Similarly there are many poor countries where low cost open source software can be used without incurring huge costs.  But open source software shouldn’t be promoted as a commercial alternative.



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