You’ve heard the old adage: “you always get what you pay for.” If you’re like me, the older you get, the more you realize how true this little proverb is. In some instances, I am willing to pay less for something that may be of lesser quality. For example: fabric softener. I really don’t care if I use the top of the line stuff or not. As long as the softener does an adequate job, I’ll go for the lesser cost. In other instances, I am willing to invest my money in something of high, reputable quality to insure that I am going to get the best value.
As a case in point, my husband and I recently traveled to Seattle, Washington. We loved the city; it was vibrant, creative, and engaging (we even learned that some bold men out there have started a revolution and are bringing modern kilts back into fashion: www.utilikilts.com). However, we were doing a LOT of walking (we logged it on this cool app: Nike+ GPS) and my 7-year old Reef Flip Flops were seeing their last days. My feet began to scream for relief and Justin and I went looking for a shoe store. We looked at flip-flops priced at $7, $30, and $70, and all three pairs reflected their prices in quality and comfort. We chose the $30 shoes because I don’t wear the flips flops every day ($70 didn’t seem necessary), but we would not have chosen the $7 shoes because we were certain we wouldn’t get comfort and longevity out of that pair. Now, compare this scenario to the open source vs. proprietary software debate. Open source software may be cheap (or free), but it also will be painful for some (perhaps even most) people to use. Let’s look at the pros and cons of open source and proprietary software.
What is open source software? Open source software (formerly referred to as free software) is software that is developed by a community of programmers and freely distributed for anyone’s use. A developer in Oklahoma could write coding for a program, while another developer in Florida could add additional coding to the software and so on and so forth. The source code for this software is freely available for whoever wants to use it, and it’s free from difficult copyright laws. Thus you have a very customizable, no big strings attached, piece of software that is…well… free! So truly, the biggest pro open source has to offer is that it has no up front cost. Let’s be honest – that looks pretty attractive! A free piece of software that can be customized, and used no matter where you host your website? Nice!
But, is free really free in this case? Let’s look at the situation this way. How many of us average, time-constrained, hard working folks are html experts? Yeah, well, not me (that’s why I’m using Backstage to post this article). So say you have the source code for something…you still do have to know what to DO with that source code! And say you want to customize that coding… well, start looking for a programmer! If you want to deploy or customize your site, you’ve got to be able to navigate your way through all those odd little