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A short introduction to benefits and issues about the use of Free/Libre and Open Source software in small and medium enterprises (published in the Tri-ICT project: www.tri-ict.eu).

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  1. 2. Summary <ul><li>The role of ICT in SME s
  2. 3. Information systems: hardware and software
  3. 4. Information systems: Total Cost of Ownership
  4. 5. Software costs: closed vs. open software
  5. 6. Risks in using closed (commercial) software
  6. 7. FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software)
  7. 8. Migration strategies
  8. 9. Conclusions </li></ul>
  9. 10. ICT in SMEs <ul><li>Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are currently spread and deeply involved even in “low-tech” companies: </li><ul><li>Customers databases,
  10. 11. Store management,
  11. 12. Orders and payments management,
  12. 13. etc. </li></ul><li>Thus, a remarkable part of costs is directed towards the installation and maintenance of </li><ul><li>Hardware (computers, printers, networks, etc.)
  13. 14. Software (office automation suites, DBMSs, etc.) </li></ul></ul>
  14. 15. Information systems <ul><li>An information system is composed by: </li><ul><li>Hardware : </li><ul><li>Hosts: server(s) and clients (PCs, workstations, laptops, netbooks, mobile devices in general etc.)
  15. 16. Network infrastructure (routers, hubs, cables etc.) </li></ul><li>Software : </li><ul><li>Operating systems
  16. 17. Database Management Systems
  17. 18. Applications </li></ul><li>Data, people and procedures . </li></ul><li>Usually the value and the costs involving the software component are not immediately perceived by entrepreneurs/managers.
  18. 19. Nevertheless the software component is a crucial one for a company (even for SMEs not related to the ICT marketplace). </li></ul>
  19. 20. TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) <ul><li>Computer hardware and programs: </li><ul><li>Hardware and software (network, server, workstation),
  20. 21. Installation and integration of hardware and software,
  21. 22. Warranties and licenses
  22. 23. ... </li></ul><li>Operation expenses: </li><ul><li>Infrastructure (floor space),
  23. 24. Electricity (for related equipment, cooling, backup power),
  24. 25. ... </li></ul><li>Long term expenses: </li><ul><li>Replacement,
  25. 26. Future upgrade or scalability expenses,
  26. 27. Decommissioning </li></ul></ul>From Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_cost_of_ownership ):
  27. 28. Software costs <ul><li>While hardware costs cannot be reduced at will, software programs allow entrepreneurs to save a consistent amount of budget if a good choice is made.
  28. 29. Indeed, commercial (i.e., closed) software requires the payment of licenses , whose amount usually depends on </li><ul><li># of PCs the software is installed in,
  29. 30. # of features enabled, version type etc. </li></ul><li>On the other hand open software can be freely installed/used, without paying fees . </li></ul>
  30. 31. Risks behind commercial software <ul><li>To become completely dependent on the commercial software: </li><ul><li>having to pay lots of money for every update or new release ;
  31. 32. being tied to proprietary data formats : </li><ul><li>difficulty of exchanging data with other information systems. </li></ul></ul><li>If the software is not updated or the developer/reseller stops its activities, the company must rely on an old, possibly “ bugged ” software: </li><ul><li>uncorrected bugs can open security breaches ;
  32. 33. new hardware and new operating systems may not be able to fully run very old software written for previous hardware. </li></ul></ul>Besides losing money, there are other serious issues behind the adoption of closed software:
  33. 34. A little bit of history (i.e., why we are used to pay for software) <ul><li>At the dawn of computer era, the manufacturers based their income on hardware selling .
  34. 35. As a consequence (and since programs development costs were very high): </li><ul><li>software was distributed together with hardware;
  35. 36. software was freely shared (in order to avoid “reinventing the wheel”). </li></ul><li>The software marketplace was born with the separation of hardware and software (advent of the personal computer: Apple II, IBM PC). </li></ul>
  36. 37. FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) <ul><li>In 1983 the advent of FSF ( Free Software Foundation ) begins a new era of open source software.
  37. 38. The main goal of FSF was to introduce a license model granting software users with four freedoms : </li><ul><li>the freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0);
  38. 39. the freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this;
  39. 40. the freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2);
  40. 41. the freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this. </li></ul><li>Thus, there is a transition from copyright to copyleft . </li></ul>
  41. 42. The license model of FLOSS <ul><li>In order to enforce users' freedom , FSF introduced and inspired several type of licenses : </li><ul><li>GPL (GNU Public License)
  42. 43. LGPL (Lesser GPL)
  43. 44. Apache License
  44. 45. ... (for a complete list see http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html ) </li></ul><li>In general each license try to “fit” a peculiar domain (e.g., there are licenses for fonts design).
  45. 46. FSF classifies licenses w.r.t. GPL, in order to give users an idea of the freedom's level granted by each one. </li></ul>
  46. 47. Some myths about FLOSS <ul><li>FLOSS is against intellectual property/rights.
  47. 48. FLOSS runs only under Linux.
  48. 49. FLOSS is difficult to install/use if you are not an experienced programmer.
  49. 50. FLOSS is not reliable and there is no support for users.
  50. 51. FLOSS is not used in big companies or in mission critical tasks.
  51. 52. FLOSS is non-innovative w.r.t. commercial software. </li></ul>
  52. 53. Some truths about FLOSS <ul><li>FLOSS license models prevent appropriation of open software.
  53. 54. FLOSS runs on most popular operating systems (including Windows and Mac OS X).
  54. 55. FLOSS can be as easy/difficult as any other kind of software (being open or closed does not impact on the ease of use of software).
  55. 56. FLOSS is reliable (there are many excellent and dependable free programs used worldwide) and the support is freely provided by large communities through the Internet and the WWW.
  56. 57. FLOSS is used both in big companies and in mission critical tasks.
  57. 58. FLOSS, being not strictly tied to the marketplace and to “traditional business rules” is indeed more innovative w.r.t. commercial software. </li></ul>
  58. 59. FLOSS excellence <ul><li>As an example of the success stories related to FLOSS, we cite the following cases: </li><ul><li>The Apache Web Server ( http://www.apache.org/ ) holds the dominant market share of 59.36% with more than 112 million sites ( http://news.netcraft.com/archives/ 2010/12/01/december-2010-web-server-survey.html )
  59. 60. OpenOffice ( http://www.openoffice.org/ ) has a worldwide estimated market share of more than 10%, according to http://ooo.baseanswers.com/ooo-market-share-ltr-logo.pdf
  60. 61. MySQL ( http://www.mysql.com/ ) is “the world's most popular open source database. With over 65,000 downloads per day” </li></ul></ul>
  61. 62. Office automation (open source alternatives) <ul><li>Considering the field of office automation , let's see at some quality alternatives to legacy software: </li><ul><li>OpenOffice (it substitutes almost perfectly Microsoft Office)
  62. 63. Firefox (it substitutes Internet Explorer, providing many security enhancements)
  63. 64. Thunderbird (an excellent e-mailing program)
  64. 65. PDFCreator (an alternative to Adobe Acrobat)
  65. 66. ClamAV (antivirus with open source engine) </li></ul><li>A computer with Linux O.S. and the abovementioned software represents a totally free (more robust and secure) alternative to the same computer with Windows and the corresponding proprietary software.
  66. 67. This means a lot of hundreds of € saved per computer . </li></ul>
  67. 68. Migration strategies <ul><li>In order to not spread chaos in a working “legacy” information system, it would be wise to adopt a stepwise refinement strategy to migrate to FLOSS: </li><ul><li>do not use “brute force” approaches,
  68. 69. try to get your employees actively involved in the process,
  69. 70. At the beginning find a group of motivated and interested employees: </li><ul><li>start the migration process with them,
  70. 71. state in a clear way the software requirements,
  71. 72. test several alternatives,
  72. 73. at the end propose the final solution to a larger group of persons (e.g., another department) and repeat the process. </li></ul><li>When the solution has been accepted by a critical mass of the company, adopt it officially, replacing the old legacy software. </li></ul></ul>
  73. 74. Pros and cons <ul><li>No licence costs
  74. 75. Free updates
  75. 76. Bugs and security problems are solved quickly without extra fees
  76. 77. Possibility to modify and adapt the software to your needs
  77. 78. Adoption of open standards and formats for data storage and exchange </li></ul><ul><li>Resistance to changes
  78. 79. Old data stored in legacy formats have to be converted to open standards, in order to be used
  79. 80. In case of problems, you may have to spend some time searching for a solution in the forums, online communities etc. </li></ul>
  80. 81. Consequences <ul><li>The employees must be taught about FLOSS and some basic notions of computer science.
  81. 82. However, this is often a useful investment, since prepared employees... </li><ul><li>... use computers and software in a more productive way,
  82. 83. ... are less exposed to net threats (viruses, malicious software, phishing etc.),
  83. 84. ... are more autonomous (i.e., your technicians will be free to do more productive tasks rather than helping newbies). </li></ul><li>Since in SMEs the most important resource are the employees, it is better to invest into their formation rather than in software licences.
  84. 85. FLOSS allows entrepreneurs to do that. </li></ul>
  85. 86. Useful links <ul><li>Free Software Foundation ( http://www.fsf.org/ )
  86. 87. Open Source Initiative ( http://www.opensource.org/ )
  87. 88. FVG Regional Centre for Open Source Software
  88. 89. ( http://www.cross.regione.fvg.it/ )
  89. 90. Open Source as Alternative ( http://www.osalt.com/ )
  90. 91. Linux O.S. ( http://www.linux.org/ ) </li></ul>