How to choose an Open Source Software

What to consider when choosing an Open Source solution:

Performance and reliability are the principal criteria for selecting software. In most procurement exercises however, price is also a determining factor when comparing quotes from multiple vendors. Price comparisons do have a role, but usually not in terms of a simple comparison of purchase prices. Rather, price tends to arise when comparing “total cost of ownership” (TCO), which includes both the purchase price and ongoing costs for support (and licence renewal) over the real life span of the product.

Consider the following points when thinking about deploying an open source solution:

1. Reputation of the software
Does the software have a good reputation for performance and reliability? Here, word of mouth reports from people whose opinion you trust is often key.

2. On-going efforts in development
Is there clear evidence of ongoing effort to develop the open source software you are considering? Has there been recent work to fix bugs and meet user needs?

3. Support for standards
Choose software which implements open standards. Interoperability with other software is an important way of getting more from your investment.

4. User Community support
Does the project have an active support community ready to answer your questions concerning deployment? Look at the project’s mailing list archive, if available.

5. Commercial support
Commercial support is most commonly available for more widely used products or from specialist companies who will support any product within their particular specialism.

6. Documentation available
Open source software projects may lag behind in their documentation for end users, but they are typically very good with their development documentation

7. Last Release date
When was the last stable version of the software released? Virtually no software, proprietary or open source, is completely bug free. If there is an active development community, newly discovered bugs will be fixed and patches to the software or a new version will be released.

8. Your Willingness to customize
Consider the skill set of yourself and your colleagues. Do you have the appropriate skills to deploy and maintain this software?

9. Licensing
Read the license. Well-known licenses such as the General Public License (GPL) and the Lesser General Public License (LGPL) have well-defined conditions for your contribution of code.

10. Functionality Required
Many open source products are generalist and must be specialised before use. Generally speaking themore effort required to specialise a product, the greater is its generality.

If you are in the market looking for an Open Source alternative to save costs or to get more control, keeping the above discussed points should help you find the right option and make the correct decision. This is not to say that there wont be issues . OSS often requires some sort of customisation so be prepared to spend time and money(if needed) on the same. Nothing in this world is perfect for sure, but OSS is really close to it.