Open source software is made available under a licence that allows you to modify, make copies and pass the source code on to anyone. The software comes with its source code released - which you can change to meet your needs.
Pros and cons of open source software
The advantages of open source software include:
- lower software licensing costs
- no supplier lock-in
- freedom to do what you want with the software
- open standards that support collaborative development
- freedom to upgrade software as it suits your business
The main disadvantages of open source software are:
- It may be difficult to get commercial-grade support with agreed response timescales.
- Some proprietary formats, such as Microsoft Word's '.doc' format, are so widely used that other formats may be less acceptable for business.
- If the open source software is compatible with a particular proprietary format, they may be limited to core features and not fully 100 per cent compatible. In many cases, this may still be sufficient.
Open source licenses
Licences for open source software vary. Some require you to make any changes made to the source code publicly available, while others will allow you to keep those changes private.
You should read the terms of the licence carefully before using or changing the software. Find out more about open source licensing and legal issues.
Open source software is usually available for free download or off-the-shelf at a low cost. See more on open source business software.