Are there Downsides of Open Source Software?

open source
What is Open Source Software?

Open source software is software in which the creator (and license holder) releases the software source code (usually free) in such a way that it can be modified, studied, and re-distributed to anyone for any reason. This type of software is usually produced as a collaborative effort by public groups. As with enterprise and other types of software, there are a number of advantages and disadvantages that are associated with the use of open source software that users should be aware of. The fact that the software itself carries no direct cost does not mean that there are no indirect costs associated with its use.

What are the Downsides?

Hidden costs There are hidden costs behind any sort of software implementation. These costs are often associated with the installation, administration, and implementation of the software rather than with the software itself. This can include the time and labor costs of a system administrator or a programmer who can modify the program to suit the needs of each individual system. Cost issues are often a problem for businesses who choose to implement open source software rather than individuals.

Unwieldy Open source software can be somewhat unwieldy to use for end-users. Because there is no client and there are no commercial establishments or customers to serve, the creators of open source software often focus on the program first and the end user experience last. This is because the programs will primarily be in line with what the creator wants or needs rather than what the end user wants or needs. Occasionally this will lead to software that works wonderfully but comes with the caveat of requiring an above average amount of technical knowledge.

Graphical Issues Going hand in hand with the above, there is usually either a lack of a graphical user interface (GUI) or the GUI is not as developed as it otherwise would be. This can manifest itself in a few ways: the entire program could be run from a terminal or from a command prompt (which end-users often have little experience with), the program could have functionality that is not readily apparent due to an underdeveloped interface, or the interface could function in ways that are not in line with the purpose of the programs creator.

Security The fact that anyone can download, modify and re-share open source software can potentially lead to security issues. Even non-malicious code can bring security issues to the table simply because of sloppy coding or because of bugs that have not yet been patched. This makes open source software something of a gamble for businesses who may use it to store sensitive information such as customer information, bank account information, or credit card information. Though the code is readily available to view it is still difficult to spot bad or malicious code particularly if a person does not know exactly what they are looking for.

Learning Curve Individuals are usually trained (and thus used to) for work with enterprise software. The implementation of open source software comes along with the potential for employee (or simply individual) training or re-training which can take time away from other tasks.

Legal Issues Legal issues surrounding the use of open source software usually arrive after some sort of modification of the software itself. It becomes an issue particularly when businesses or corporations modify open source software for use in house. Who, then, becomes the owner of the modified software? Is the software still going to be considered open source if it is extensively modified for use?

There are many advantages that are associated with the use of open source software. The lack of a cost, the presence of public bug testing and extensive reviews, and the availability of source code for modification all make open source software a viable option for many individuals. There are, however, a number of disadvantages to the use of open source software that may make it a bit too risky to use. With businesses especially, the use of open source software carries a number of risks which may include potential security concerns, the potential for backdoors to be included in the source code, and the possibility of the system being disrupted by unwary users modifying software or settings.


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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice