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When Open Source May Not Fit Your Needs

I've said a lot about how great open source software is. You'd think it was going to solve all the world's problems with the way I have gone on about it. However, there are instances when it is just not appropriate. There aren't many of them, but here they are.

Security Software Company

If you work for a company that is designing proprietary, closed source security software, then open source software is not appropriate as a base of code to start from. This is not to say you can't play around with open source software to get ideas and learn the art, but be very careful about including any code from an open source project. It could violate the open source licenses and invalidate your work for your company. If your company can work with the license that's included with the open source software, then you may be okay. Also, some companies are beginning to open source some part of their software. These "hybrid" licenses are becoming more common. If you do decide to do this, you will want to make sure you clearly understand the open source license and have your legal department research it thoroughly.

This doesn't mean that you can't use open source software within your company. If you are a network administrator, you can use an open source firewall, for example. Many closed source software companies do this, as hypocritical as it sounds. You just can't use the code to create a product that won't be open sourced.

100 Percent Outsourced IT

Another case where open source may not fit is if your IT department is not technically capable of handling program installations, compilations, and so on. While most open source software is fairly easy to use, it does require a certain level of expertise. If your IT department consists of the administrative assistant who does it in his or her spare time, or you outsource your entire IT department, then it probably doesn't make sense, unless your contractor has experience in that area.

Restrictive Corporate IT Standards

Finally, you may be faced with corporate standards that either require you to use specific vendors or outright forbid open source. This is becoming less and less common as companies are realizing that locking into a single vendor is silly. Ignored for a long time by the big boys, open source is coming on strong in corporate America. Companies like IBM, once the champion of closed source and proprietary products, are embracing and even promoting open source. The old adage of "no one ever got fired for buying (insert blue-chip vendor of choice)" is no longer valid in most companies. An updated version of the proverb might be "no one ever got fired for saving the company money with a solution that worked." Certainly, however, going out on limb with a new concept can be more risky than the status quo.

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