by March 4, 2009 0 comments

Many organizations appear to be looking at Open Source software as the answer
during tough times. However, is it really the answer, or will it end up costing
more than its commercial counterpart? The answer to this question isn’t a simple
yes or not, and needs to be analyzed carefully.

First of all, if you’re planning to shift, don’t do it blindly for the entire
user base. For instance, if you’ve decided to use OpenOffice instead of MS
Office to save license cost, then shifting all users to it may not be a good
idea, even if they were using 10% of the features of MS Office. One of the
hurdles you’ll face would be sharing documents with your partners, who are using
MS Office. For instance, suppose your sales team sends a proposal to a client in
a simple Doc file created in OpenOffice. The client reverts with changes using
the “track changes” option of MS Office. Since OpenOffice doesn’t support Track
Changes, your sales team won’t be able to read those changes. Likewise, if your
organization has been using complex Excel sheets for accounting, then a
migration to OpenOffice may not be feasible, unless you can make all the
formulae work. In both cases, having some licensed copies of MS Office at least
would really help.

Next thing to remember is that Open Source software that’s been downloaded
freely from the Internet and deployed may save you the initial acquisition cost,
but that’s about all. Sooner or later, you’ll run into problems with it, for
which you’ll need support. The cost of this support will vary depending upon the
software and the number of users using it. So using such Open Source software is
feasible only for a short period of time. Over the long run, you would end up
paying either for its support or for a commercial package. A CIO I know shifted
all his Mac machines to Neo-Office, a free Office Suite for Macs. While this
saved him initial license costs, he’s now having problems supporting it.

Anil Chopra,

The third thing to analyze is whether you can use your existing support
structure in any way. For instance, another CIO I know of a large reputed
airline has shifted all his aircraft engineers to Lotus Symphony and saved a
considerable amount of license costs. Moreover, the company is already running
Lotus Notes, and since Symphony is a product of IBM, the company is getting
support for it as well at no extra cost.

Lastly, remember that using Open Source software alone is not the answer.
Today, you can make Open Source software interoperable with closed closed source
software. This can allow you to use your existing IT infrastructure resources

In this issue, we’ve focused at all these and other aspects of Open Source
software and how can it be beneficial for businesses.

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