Open-source software may seem like a cheap way to equip your organization with the tools it needs to compete in today’s information economy, but beware: open-source software does have its risks.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING as a free lunch, so they say. And while one might be tempted to argue with that line when it comes to open-source freeware, remember this: if time is money, then programmers and designers have already donated millions of dollars toward writing codes and designing user interfaces for that open-source freeware.
Open-source freeware is not just expensive to produce, however. As many companies have found out, open-source solutions can also be quite pricey – and risky – to maintain over the long run. True, it does not cost you anything to download a program and install it. But what happens after that? Is the program as secure as it says it is? Can you trust the guy who operates the download website? Will the freeware receive upgrades into the foreseeable future? Is it even compatible with other software?
“My firm was spending so much time and effort trying to save a few thousand ringgit, but in the end, we decided it just wasn’t worth the risk,” says Subramaniam, a lawyer who recently experimented with an open-source office suite at his law firm but who quickly abandoned it in favour of a proprietary solution. “Being prudent is one thing; being cheap is quite another.”