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linuxIs open source software really free? The short answer to this question is no. I love open source software and recommend some open source solutions to customers. It is very tempting to believe that open source software is free because there is no payment or fees required to use such software.

Don’t be fooled!

It is true that you don’t need to pay money to download and use open source software, but it does not mean it is free to implement and maintain. The main reason to use paid software is for customer support. Unfortunately, most open source applications do not have robust customer support. There are support forums that will help users, but there is no dedicated customer support team.

Think about the following for yourself. If you are willing to put in the time to learning about an open source application and believe it is easy for you to learn, then use open source software. I truly believe that many businesses will benefit from using open source software. There are a lot less issues with licensing. However, there are a couple of reasons to stay with paid software. One reason to stick with paid software is your ability to learn about open source software solutions. If you are unable to learn how to use open source tools for your business, there is no shame in that. The best tools for you are the ones you are comfortable and efficient with. Another good reason to stick with paid software is if the software in question is an industry standard. For example, in the dental services industry, there are plenty of open source tools, but software applications from Henry Schein have become a standard because dentists are trained to use Henry Schein software.

Let’s look at a well known open source software, WordPress. WordPress is a content management system that people use to create websites, blogs, online portfolios, internal communication tools, etc. Although WordPress is free to download and use, it is not easy for new comers to use. I have heard the following many times. A small business owner decides to use WordPress to build their first website to save on startup costs. After a couple of days into learning how to setup and use WordPress, they get confused. Because of this confusion, they seek the services of a WordPress developer or use a drag and drop web design service. What started off as a tool to cut down on startup costs led to purchasing services to accomplish a similar task.

In summary, open source software may not require financial payment to download and use, but there is a cost. The cost that I’m talking about is time and expertise. If you are trying to learn to use an open source application because it is free, but don’t know how to use it, you sacrifice your time instead of focusing on your business. If you really want to use open source software to lower long run expenses, but still don’t know how the software works, it is likely that you will need to seek services from someone to show you the ropes.

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