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Spending money is better than saving it when it comes to software is the typical misguided corporate position on open source software. High cost substandard software is better than free fully capable enterprise level software in their minds. I just saw a company software policy that forbids the use of any freeware and uses the mistaken notion that all open source or freeware is a security hazard.

This policy (and there are many like it) clearly demonstrates that they do not understand open source software. To them, if it is free or even shareware, it must be illegal and it is all full of security holes. What is really sick, but funny, is that most of these companies are using Microsoft products, including policies that require Internet Explorer and not allowing Firefox. Which one of these browsers has the most security issues? I think we all know.

Companies should have software policies and control what is on their employee’s computers, but if the software can pass the their tests, it should be allowed if there is a need for it. The underlying assumption is if you pay for it, it must be OK.

Because of these misperceptions and irrational fears, company’s are doing themselves a disservice and taking money away from their shareholders. Let’s look at this. Note that it was difficult to find pricing information on the proprietary software, partly because they are so expensive and have so many “hidden” extra costs for add-ons. The numbers here are rough and a few years old, but work fine for comparison purposes.

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Systems

ECMSOpen source?Cost for base softwareCost for add-on modules
DocumentumNoCore document management solutions start around $50,000 for 20-user license plus about $600/seat. Server licenses available for 250+ seatsMajor additional components start at less than $100,000.
InterwovenNo$100K plus for entry level deployment, 35 users, far more than this for a large organization (ref . Additional user seats are around $483 per GSA scheduleHard to tell, but GSA schedule indicates $5,000 to $65,000 for each module
DrupalYes$0$0 unless you want one custom programmed, Drupal has hundreds of add-on modules available
TYPO3Yes$0$0 unless you want one custom programmed, TYPO3 has hundreds of add-on modules available

Beyond this, unless you are a do-it-yourselfer installing TYPO3 or Drupal, you are going to have costs for installation, configuration, customization, training, and support. Upgrades are free for the open source examples and you pay for upgrades with the proprietary products. At Acqal, we specialize in TYPO3 training, support and site migrations to the TYPO3 platform.

To me, using proven open source software is simply a no-brainer. One irrational fear is that open source projects will disappear if the main developer stops taking care of it. Yet, the same thing could happen to a large company selling proprietary products and this has happened numerous times. With open source, others can take up the development and carry it on. Due to legal issues, this usually cannot happen with proprietary software, so you are really out of luck.

Depending on the product, you may or may not be tethered to a specific company for all your needs related to their product. If you don’t like them, you either buy a brand new system and start over or stay with them. With mature open source projects like TYPO3, there are hundreds of competent agencies (Acqal is an approved TYPO3 agency) all over the world. If you don’t like the company you are dealing with, move to someone else.

Acqal choose to focus on open source software because we believe in it, enjoy the community that has built up around it, and because it just plain makes sense. We selected TYPO3 because we believe it is the best ECM / CMS available.

Originally posted January 17, 2009

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  • Tony

    Enjoyed your post…I’ve been working exclusively with open source for over a decade.

    But there are a few negatives that I’ve noticed. First, many customers are the Fortune 50 – and they are very wealthy. I often see people donating their time and energy to projects that almost exclusively benefit the billionaires. So, at this point, I see open source as the wrong solution to a bigger problem. It seems that we think in too “binary” a manner – closed or open. Really, I think we need laws that capture the benefits of open source while also recognizing that the costs of open source should vary from situation to situation.

    I’ve been working with Hadoop (and now Spark) for several years now, so it seems like we, as a society, could collect enough data to make more intelligent decisions about when software should be free, and when customers should pay a hefty fee. Really, I’m at the point of thinking that open source is perhaps even more destructive to our society than closed source. And that makes me sad.