o s s africa

:: Open Source

Because Open Source software isn't normally installed with most users' PCs, there are often many questions about what Open Source is, how it works, and of course: Is it really free?

Here are a few FAQs about Open Source which help to clarify what Open Source is:

What are the benefits of using Open Source software?

Independence from software vendors

One of the primary benefits of open source software is the freedom from vendor lock-in. This means that you are not dependent on one company for your support or services. Understanding and administering the myriad of confusing licenses in the modern proprietary IT world has become enormously complex. There are two basic advantages to not being dependant on one software vendor.

Firstly, you are not forced to pay for upgrades you might not need or want. For instance, if your computer is working 100%, why upgrade to the next version of the software at great expense and hassle? Many proprietary software vendors will drop support for older products, forcing you to upgrade your software and possibly even your hardware. Open source software doesn't make these demands. It is good practise to keep your software up to date from a security stand point, but no-one forces you to do anything you don't want to. Older versions of open source software are well supported by OSS Africa and the communities built around the development of the software.

Secondly, you are free to choose from whom you get your support. There are an increasing number of companies like OSS Africa supporting open source products. This puts the onus on the support service companies like OSS Africa to provide top-level service at all times.

The business model inherent in most proprietary software relies on the vendor continuously selling you updates to stay in business. OSS Africa's business model is based on ensuring smooth operations with minimal disruption or cost to the client.

Cost savings

Much has been said about the 'free as in gratis' nature of open source software. Although this is true, it is impossible to install, configure and maintain a complex piece of software without being technically proficient and preferrably experienced. This applies to all types of software, not only open source. To set up a network, web or database server with any degree of competency in a secure way requires specialised knowledge and experience. It is acknowledged that the cost of software is an important consideration but "cheap and good enough" is just not an option. Open source software is cheaper, but it is much more than "just good enough"!

For starters, the initial purchase cost of the software is zero. This means that the money you would have spent on buying software, can be spent on implementing the software. (Which you would have to spend on consultants or technicians anyway.)

Open source software has a zero marginal cost of scale. There are no per-seat or client licenses. This means you can connect as many machines to your server as you like or until your server's hardware can't handle it anymore. the main proprietary vendors charge per-seat or per-client and if you suddenly need to connect another machine, it becomes impossible without signing up for yet another expensive license agreement.

Running costs. Over the long run, much open source software is more stable and more reliable. This means less downtime on your network and less time being unable to access vital company data. A little way down the line after the initial expense of installation, the true cost savings of open source software begin to make themselves felt.

Cost savings are mostly dependent on how deep a company chooses to implement open source software. Large database server based applications might for instance, generate more savings than say for instance, using only Firefox as a browser on all desktops. (Athough this will go a long way to alleviating a number of virus, spyware and security issues.)

Reliability

We define reliability as the absence of defects which result in data loss, application downtime or seemingly random failures. One of the keys to reliable software is the ability to find and fix bugs quickly. Open source software's peer-review system of development ensures some of the most robust source code available in any context. The fact that the infrastructure of the internet is virtually completely made up of open source software is testament to the nature of its reliability.

Stability

Stability is a measure of how often defects affect the performance of a system. Much open source software is considered to be very stable. Every package has a number of versions, ranging from the truly time tested, older versions to the newest cutting edge, feature laden versions which have not yet reached that level of maturity yet. OSS Africa always uses the most stable version which offers the features required.

Functionality

In additon to the fact that open source software developers always ensure that their products match commercial equivalents feature for feature, the ability to add features as required is unmatched in the proprietary world. The range of tools and interoperability available just on the Linux server platform is astounding.