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Open source or proprietary?

Open source or proprietary: which is better?


There are pros and cons between proprietary and open source software that should be weighed depending on an organization's needs, resources and goals. Here are the key points we at Datasense Consulting have learned over the years:


Proprietary Software

Software that is built, developed, and maintained by a vendor. Typically, it is an opposite of copyright protection. You can't tamper with it, and often you can't even try to get into its guts, or you could face penalties.


The proprietary philosophy has clear advantages


  • Professional support: Proprietary software is often supported by vendors who provide regular updates, security patches, and assistance with problems.


  • User-friendliness: Commercial software is often designed to be user-friendly, with attractive user interfaces and documentation, making it easier to use for people with different technical skills.


  • Integrated solutions from the same vendor: Proprietary software suites are often designed to work together seamlessly, which can simplify integration and interoperability. This advantage is put into perspective when it comes to integration with third-party software.


  • Security: Companies that develop proprietary software typically invest in security measures to protect their products. This can be especially important for sensitive data and industries with strict compliance requirements.

Disadvantages


  • Costs: Proprietary software typically requires licensing fees, which can be significant depending on the number of users and features required.


  • Vendor lock-in: Using proprietary software can lead to vendor lock-in, making it difficult and costly to switch to alternatives in the future. This is because, in addition to the costs already invested, there is training of the internal team related to the specific software and, last but not least, the habits of the users, who are often not IT professionals.


  • Limited customization and innovation: Proprietary software may not offer the same level of customization as open source solutions, which can limit the ability to adapt the software to specific needs. It has happened many times, the vendor has made the decision not to develop the system further. If they do not offer a viable alternative, customers are often faced with more expensive decisions, namely choosing and implementing a new system. Staying with the old is often not a good choice, because stopping further development may open security holes that can put the customer's data at risk.


  • Missing transparency: The source code of proprietary software is not accessible to users, which makes it difficult to verify security and users may have to rely on the vendor's information.

Open Source Software


A software that is built and further improved over large number of developers. This generally has no owner and is free, so you can freely use and further customize it. The latter is often associated with a mandatory contribution, which is used to channel the developed codes back into the community, to then ensure the timeliness and functionality of the software.


Advantages

  • Cost-effectiveness: Open source software is usually free to use, which can significantly reduce initial licensing costs. Nota bene: free does not necessarily mean for nothing, as we will discuss later.


  • Customizability: Open source software can be adapted and modified to meet specific needs. This flexibility is especially beneficial for organizations with unique requirements. The customizability of open source software is generally not limited and is one of the greatest advantages of this alternative.


  • Transparency: The source code is open and accessible to everyone, which promotes transparency and makes it easier to identify and fix security vulnerabilities.


  • Community collaboration: Open source projects often have large and active communities that contribute to development, maintenance and improvement. This can lead to faster updates, bug fixes, and feature enhancements.


  • Vendor Independence: Organizations are not locked into a single vendor, which reduces vendor lock-in risk and makes it easier to switch tools if necessary.

Disadvantages


  • Support and Documentation: Although community support can be valuable, it may not always be as comprehensive or timely as dedicated commercial support for proprietary software. If you do find experts, they are often very expensive. That's why they say what you save buying Open Software, you spend on support.


  • Integration challenges: Integrating open source solutions with existing proprietary systems or other open source tools can sometimes be complex and require additional development. Here we come back to the issue of resources and their cost.


  • Missing uniformity: The open source landscape can be fragmented, with multiple projects offering similar functionality. This can make it difficult to choose the right solution and cause compatibility issues. If proprietary software is at risk of "sundowning", this bifurcation of development is a similar problem: one can get stuck with a version that is no longer "popular" and therefore not developed further, with all the disadvantages of a proprietary solution abandoned by the vendor.


  • Requirement of expertise: Customization and maintenance of open source software may require specialized technical skills that your team may not have. As written in point 1, these consultants are often very expensive because they have very specific knowledge.

Ultimately, the choice between proprietary and open source IT software depends on your organization's priorities, resources and long-term strategies. Many organizations take a hybrid approach, combining both types of software to find a compromise between cost, flexibility and support.

Here we would like to note, even the closed world of proprietary software is not uniform: there are vendors that use industry standard APIs and connectors, and thus integrating their products with strangers is possible or easy. The larger the market share and acceptance of a particular solution, the higher the probability that integration with third parties has been thought of.


How do we do it at Datasense Consulting?


In our data analytics projects we have an optimized technology stack, which is a combination of proprietary and open. For databases we work with Oracle and Exasol but also with PostgreSQL and MSSQL. For Big Data we rely mostly on open solutions like Hadoop, Kafka and container technology. In development we are strong in Oracle APEX, and .NET but also Python and R.


From our point of view, it gives us the right flexibility to choose the best tool to solve the customer's problem. Who we take in addition the possibility to offer everything from one source and thus take full responsibility for the solution. On the subject of project management all in, our customers have the best cards in their hands. We will report on the advantages of the All In approach shortly.

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