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Why Open Source software isn’t free!

by: Lee French

on: 17th December, 2014

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We now live in an age where there are lots of open source software options when it comes to building a new website, be it WordPress or Drupal for your website/blog or Magento for your online shop. But there is a common misconception that going the Open Source route is the cheapest and easiest option. We break down a few misconceptions about open source below to prepare you for the open source road ahead.

It’s quick and easy to launch a new website

While most Open Source solutions are easy to install and get a website up and running, none will provide an ‘all singing, all dancing’ website that aligns with your objectives out of the box. So if you want a ‘no frills’ website up and running in a hurry, it will be perfect for you. Sadly that’s not the case for most serious business websites, and for an open source website to showcase your business and carry your brand effectively, you’ll need an expert to work with the software to maximise results both from design  and functionally.

Is it really free?

The good news is, this is actually true for most open source software. Most open source website solutions are indeed free to download and install and will allow you to get a basic site up and running. However there are other costs associated with open source which you’ll need to consider:

  • Themes/Design: In order to effectively portray your brand and business offer, you’ll need something with a bit more ‘oomph’ than the standard free, open source theme offerings you often get by default. After all, would you trust someone that said they offer a high quality service, but didn’t look the part?! You can purchase a ready-made theme that resembles your brand, or get an expert to design a bespoke theme aligned to your exact needs.
  • Modules/Extensions: The standard range of functionality provided by a bare-bones open source CMS is rarely adequate for most websites. The good news is, for most open source CMS’s there’s a smorgasbord of modules and extensions that extend the functionality of the CMS. However again some of these come at a cost. It’s always worth reviewing any new modules to ensure they are the right ones to achieve your objectives.

 

It’s launched, now I can relax, right?!

So you’ve built your website and it’s been launched, but can you sit back and relax now? Well really this is just the beginning of your open source journey.

Firstly, you’ll need to keep your Open Source software up to date and in-line with the vendors security patches in order to stay safe and secure. Failing to do so can result in a hacked websites and compromised hosting, so keeping an expert on-hand to make these updates is crucial and recommended.

Any modules and themes you’ve purchased may also need to be upgraded from time to time, and you may need to extend your licence (or in some cases pay for it) to keep receiving updates.

Secondly, it’s also a good idea to have an expert on hand to help you with any questions you might have along the way, or to make further tweaks to the site, it pays dividends in the long run if you’re serious about your open source website.

They are easy to use

Again, this is somewhat true, but again the standard out-of-the-box versions of open source CMS’s rarely provide the intuitive User Interface (UI) enhancements to make workflow super efficient. An expert can work with you to set up the right options to enhance your common day-to-day admin tasks to ensure you’re streamlined and productive and website updates are a joy rather than a chore.

So is bespoke the better option?

We’re not saying that at all, in some cases quite the opposite in fact. It’s just that we’ve found people don’t have all the details when looking at the choice of open source software and we wanted to list down the common extra costs that people face when going down this route.

While it can still be considerably cheaper than going bespoke, it’s by no means the cost-free solution people think it is. Yes, it can work for very simple websites, but if you want to create an open source website that really shines, you’ll still need an expert on hand to make it happen.

If you’d like more information about how isev can help with your next open source website, please get in touch.

 

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