Evaluating software and services to use within your organization can be difficult. Whether you are looking for a product to form the foundation of your business or a tool to help your team perform more efficiently, you will likely find both open source and proprietary options in the marketplace. But when should you choose an open source solution over a closed ecosystem? When the list provided here rings true for your situation it’s a good sign you should choose the open source option.

Own Your Code

A clear argument for open source is retaining ownership and control over your product or technology. When you rely on proprietary software, whether licensed or SAAS, you are often contractually committed for months or years to come. In that time the software can change direction or simply fall behind your needs. Open source projects are typically maintained by a community that needs it to perform at the same level you do, and if an open source project is abandoned it’s usually because it has been replaced by something better which you can take advantage of immediately!

Ever want to integrate with another service or extend your project? With open source, you have complete control. But freedom is often very restricted or non-existent in a closed environment. With open source, you also have the freedom to fire your developer or hosting vendor and take your platform to another team. Open source means community, and the ubiquity of the developer community means there is plenty of competition in the market to help you accomplish your goals.

Adapt & Customize

Unlike many generic content management systems, open source projects like Drupal are powerful enough to build and support focused web applications that deliver an exceptional end-user experience. With open source, you can take existing code and modify it to suit your unique needs. Since the code is open, it’s simply a matter of tuning the functionality to your product. You can scale quickly or pivot your project in a new direction without the commitment or investment that comes along with proprietary code.

Secure Your Code

The recent discovery of several defects in the Android operating system highlights the power of security in open source software. These discoveries were made possible because the Android code is completely open to public view giving a vast community of Android developers the chance to find and report issues. Furthermore, issues are often fixed before news of the issues spreads to those willing to exploit them. In contrast, Microsoft can take weeks if not months to patch vulnerabilities.

The Android example illustrates the basic open source concept that the more people who can see and test the code, the more likely the flaws and bugs will be caught and fixed quickly. But how is this different to proprietary software? Proprietary products tend to take the opposite approach to security – hiding their code behind walls to hide any possible mistakes as best as possible… until one is exploited.

Does this mean that operating systems from Apple or Microsoft contain more bugs than Android? Actually, no, we can not make that claim because we simply do not know how many bugs proprietary code contains.

Keep Costs Down

A key difference between open source and proprietary software is cost. With open source, your main financial costs are going toward coordinating with a developer or designer to get the code up and running with a hosting provider or private server. Once your product is configured it can require as much or little additional development as you ask for. In proprietary software development costs can vary, but between the purchase price of the software itself, the often un-quoted fees for virus protection or product support, ongoing maintenance and upgrade expenses, as well as costs associated with being locked in, proprietary software often requires a significant financial investment when compared long-term to open source equivalents.

Popular and Promising Open-Source Projects

There are thousands of open source projects out there but these are a few that have broken into the mainstream with the help of major companies like Google, Apple, and Adobe.