4 legs good – 2 legs bad….

Or the difference between free and open source software, proprietary software and cloud computing…

There is a lot of confusion and some misinformation circulating about the different types of software available to run your web site.

Free and open source is often touted as the “best” because of it's low cost – while proprietary software is seen as “bad” because of the (sometimes) high cost to purchase.

Lets take a look at each kind and see if can arrive a better answer...
Free and Open Source – or just “Open Source”

Examples are Ubantu – a Linux operating system or Silverstripe – a web site content management system.

This software is often provided as a free download and it is free to use – but you do still need to pay someone to install it and to host it.

You also need to plan for the software to be updates with security patches from time to time – and plan for an upgrade when a new version comes out.

Often these products have had many authors and there can be issues with security breaches and open “back doors” to access the software so you do need an expert in the particular software to configure it for you.

Having a great helpful user-base is one of the greatest strengths of Open Source software and there is often many “plug-ins” available to extend the functionality of the software.

Proprietary Software

Typified by large companies such as Microsoft you need to purchase the software to use for business or personal and installation & support is normally very quick and easy.

Security upgrades mostly happen without you knowing about them (except the occasional reboot) and training and support is also available from a dedicated core user-base.

Some proprietary software can be extended with third party components but typically the feature is pretty high to start with.

For software to run your web site – you still need a host computer and someone that know how to best install and configure the software.

Cloud Computing – A.K.A. Software as a Service (SaaS)

Examples would be all of the Google products – Google Docs for creating and editing word processing documents, spreadsheets or presentations and Google Analytics for traffic management reporting for web sites.

This is the type of software that my company recommends to use wherever possible.

Typically the software doesn't get installed on your computer or a host at all – it runs through a normal web browser and your information can be manipulated from any web connected computer.

Updates are seamless and happen “behind the scenes” by the provider – you don't have to anything.

This type of software can be offered free under a “freemium model” or can be a set price per month.

I firmly believe that the future of computing as we know it – is based on SaaS concepts – I don't think the other models will disappear quickly – but there's too many advantages to SaaS over the other models for smart business to take note.

Advantages to using SaaS over Open Source or Proprietary Software: -

• No software to install, upgrade or to apply security patches too
• No need to backup files created by the SaaS or the program itself
• Access from any web connected computer
• Ability to access the tools to enhance collaboration between geographically diverse teams
• No issues with “version control” of the software – updates happen invisibly
• Often more secure as less people can see the code that runs the software
• SaaS “just works” straight away there's no time commitment to learn how to install, configure or update the software.
• Saves money as there is no requirement to invest in hardware to host the software

Contact me if you'd like to know more about how SaaS can work for your business.

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