Open Source Software
In the nineties, a Finnish data scientist by the name of Linus Torvalds released an alternative to the UNIX operating system which he called Linux. He did so under the free GNU Public License, which made the underlying source code available for other developers to extend and improve on a collaborative basis. Within a matter of years, Linux became the leading operating system used across the Internet.
Why Open Source?
1. The Right Software for the Job
In many cases, the open source product is the best choice available. How could this be? The answer lies in the power of worldwide collaboration. Talented and committed developers from around the world regularly get involved in open source projects and work to make the code better and more feature rich than small proprietary teams can match. Law firms and legal departments are starting to share software through open source licenses as a service to the profession and because they expect to benefit as others make improvements. Legal departments and academic organizations are looking to open source projects that don’t go to the core of their business but solve problems that other organizations face as well.
A second advantage is that open source software can be modified to fit specific needs. Once you download the source code, it can be a simple matter to extend or enhance the code. These new features are often contributed back to the original project which is what makes open source so vibrant and feature rich.
Licensing costs can add up quickly, especially for larger computing needs. Open source applications are licensed for free. To be clear, free does not mean without costs. All software has to be installed, configured, managed and supported. But at the least, there are no license fees to be paid.
Are these applications secure? Yes. Properly developed open source software can be just as secure as commercial software. In many cases it can be more secure because it has been reviewed and tested by a broad group of individuals who also have an interest in secure code. Open source software that has come from reputable developers or a well-established collaboration project has proven to be just as secure as proprietary software.
5. Enterprise Versions
Some companies offer paid “enterprise” versions of open source software, which may alleviate concerns about security and reliability. Red Hat, for example, charges for its distribution of Linux, offering support, bug fixes, customization and enhanced security. (IBM recently bought the company for $54 billion.) Likewise, many open source database and search providers offer enterprise versions that include support, security checking, customization and even hosting services. Companies pay a monthly or yearly fee for enterprise services, but get an added level of support and comfort in return.
Ultimately, many of the largest technology companies in the world have joined the open source movement. Google, for example, has placed over 2000 of its software projects into the open source community. Microsoft has also gotten active in the open source community, making thousands of its software projects open. Amazon is also a part of the community contributing hundreds of open source projects over the past decade.