Using Open Source For Your Website


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Using Open Source For Your Website

  1. 1. Using Open Source for Your Website Evaluating the Benefits and Responsibilities of Choosing Open Source for Your Next Web Project commonplaces Strategy Creativity Technology Inside: What Is Open Source? ............................ 2 The “Community” .................................. 3 Benefits of Open Source Platforms ........ 4 Responsibilities ....................................... 5 Common Misconceptions ...................... 6 Who’s Using Open Source? ................... 8 Summary, and Next Steps ...................... 9
  2. 2. What is Open Source? All software is, at its most basic level, a collection of coded instructions. Open source software is unique because its code is made freely available to everyone. This simple fact makes it completely different from “traditional,” proprietary software. When we think about software, most of us still think in terms of proprietary software. Company X sells a program, and if we want it, we need to buy it from them. Everyone receives the exact same version of the program, and it does not change between major releases, which could be separated by months or even years. Open source software works completely differently. Anyone can suggest changes, and contribute their time towards implementing those changes. The software is updated frequently, and thoroughly tested by users with each new release. Dedicated individuals often form communities around open source applications, contributing time and effort towards that application’s continued development. Lastly, open source software is most often free from all licensing costs. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 2
  3. 3. The “Community” As you begin to explore the open source world, you will likely encounter frequent references to the communities that form around specific open source applications. However, it may not be clear at first how incredibly important these “communities” really are. In many ways, an open source application or framework is only as good as the community that stands behind it. After all, it’s this community that ensures the software is thoroughly tested, that bugs and security vulnerabilities are resolved, and that the software adapts to its users’ evolving needs. In the case of Drupal, a popular open source, Web content management system platform, hundreds have contributed to its core source code, and thousands have contributed add-on modules, or beta tested new releases. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 3
  4. 4. Benefits of Open Source We’ve chosen open source because we believe that it is the best choice for our clients. Here are some of the benefits of open source technologies: Open source platforms are free of licensing fees. This means a much smaller initial investment than would be required by proprietary solutions. Open source communities are collaborative. There is no need to “reinvent the wheel” to create the basic pieces of your website. In many cases this basic functionality has already been built, and has been shared with the community. This represents a big savings of time and money. Open source software is tested...a lot. Proprietary software is tested by a small internal team. Open source solutions are tested by potentially thousands of developers, resulting in stronger, more secure code. Open source solutions are flexible. More often than not, you can simply do more with open source. Proprietary solutions have a rigid feature set, and offer little opportunity to do something outside of that feature set. Because open source means free access to the source code, open source software can be infinitely customized to meet your needs. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 4
  5. 5. Responsibilities So what’s the catch? We’ve told you all of the great things about open source software. However, there are some responsibilties that you take on when you choose open source. Keeping your platform updated. Open source platforms frequently release new versions, and keeping your website in the latest version is strongly encouraged to keep your site secure and take advantage of new features. Finding a support partner. It is important to realize that open source software is not accompanied by traditional, “800-number” support; rather, it’s your responsibility to find a trusted support partner. For example, Acquia offers a range of support packages for the Drupal CMS. Contributing back to the community. When you use open source software, and benefit from the work others have done, we feel that you have a responsibility to contribute solutions back to that community. Contributing custom modules and themes confers an added benefit: the community will ensure that these custom pieces stay updated as the platform evolves. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 5
  6. 6. Common Misconceptions There are a lot of myths out there regarding the use of open source technologies. Here are some common misconceptions we’ve encountered: Open source isn’t reliable. One common misconception surrounding open source software is that is inherently unreliable because it is developed by “amateurs.” This could not be further from the truth. Open source technologies are often built by incredibly talented developers, and are used by some of the largest companies in the world (as you’ll see on the following pages). There is no money to be made from open source software. Some people assume that becuase a product is built using open source technology, that product can not be sold for a profit. This is incorrect. The GNU General Public License, which governs many open source solutions, explicitly states that open source products can be sold for a profit. You can read more about the GNU General Public License here. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 6
  7. 7. Common Misconceptions Open source isn’t secure. This is another common myth. Because the source code is freely available, some people jump to the conclusion that it cannot be secure, because any would-be hacker can examine it. This is also false. Often, open source software is more secure, because its community of developers finds the security holes before a hacker does. Who would you rather have testing the security of your platform? A team of fifteen, of a community of hundreds? People will take my work and benefit from it. This one isn’t so much a myth as it may be the wrong state of mind. In the open source world, contributing back to the community is encouraged; in fact, the success of the platform relies upon it. It can be strange to newcomers, but the world of open source is based on collaboration and mutual success. Members of this community recognize that it is great ideas that foster success, not lines of code. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 7
  8. 8. Who’s Using Open Source? We aren’t the only ones who enjoy the benefits of open source software. Here are just some of the companies that are using open source solutions today to accomplish their goals. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 8
  9. 9. Making a Decision CommonPlaces has chosen to develop websites and Web applications exclusively with open source platforms. As you make your decision, fully consider the benefits and responsibilities of open source: Benefits Responsibilities • No licensing fees • Requires regular maintenance • Collaborative community • Need to find a support partner • Thoroughly tested software • Giving back to the community • Flexible functionality If you’d like to speak with us further about the opportunites that open source technology presents for your business or organization, please contact us. Also, feel free to share this document with others who would like to learn more about the benefits of open source. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 9