Alex Periel , CBDO
A startup in its earliest stages doesn’t always have the flexibility in terms of time and budget. So making the right choice when it comes to the software development technologies and the companies to cooperate with is absolutely crucial. There are plenty of ways to plan your budget efficiently and a lot of tools you can use, but not all of them will deliver enough of a benefit to be worth it. The true efficiency lies in knowing which approach and tools will be cost-effective.
I’m talking, of course, about using open-source software. With the right approach, it will help you deliver MVPs quick, guarantee quality, and, perhaps, establish a connection between you and a tech vendor. But there’s more to the benefits of open-source products and a decision this vital deserves a deeper look. Let’s go through 6 reasons why you should be choosing open-source software for your startup. Different people prioritize different things so we’ve listed these 6 reasons in our preferred order.
Also, remember that we’re talking about all forms of open-source, not just the tools and technologies you can use to create a product, but teamwork solutions, certain infrastructure solutions, and other open source software that can be used to facilitate product development. They all have their strengths and downsides so it’s important to take them into account.
1. Trustworthy and Established
A big point with open-source solutions is that their source code is always available to look at. It’s not always pretty looking and it might not play into the way you use the solution. But, if it does, it could be key. This isn’t just a way of helping users do their own iterations on the original product. The full access to source code means developers and QA experts can take apart the solution and make sure it’s free of glaring bugs and security weak spots. Sure, the same is done with proprietary software but with a major caveat.
Proprietary solutions are usually tested and checked by in-house experts, which are limited in number and operate in the interest of the vendor. Meanwhile, an open-source solution can be checked by hundreds of experts, completely unrelated to the original creators. They will pull apart the code and scour it, guaranteeing that what you’re getting is a high-quality and secure product. All of this attention to the code means the product will be up to the highest standards and earns the users’ trust.
This kind of trust isn’t given easily and the constant quality checks are something you usually won’t get unless you’re okay with extra charges. So, yet again, the question becomes one of not just quality and trust but of cost as well. Whichever way you look at it, these factors are a big plus. Even big companies are catching on to this trend of using developers on their open-source projects for quality assurance and security. Look no further than Facebook (React Framework) or Google (Flutter) to see examples of companies putting their trust in users to gain their trust in return.
2. Propped Up By the People
Pretty much any open-source software is worth of its price will have a healthy community of developers around it. And, since this is usually people that use the tool daily in their job, they know that particular software inside and out. These devs are welcoming and happy to solve issues (or provide answers to things that they’ve already solved).
Being software engineers, they’re also a bit more adept at getting into the technical side of things than a support employee that you’d have to deal with when using proprietary software. And you’ll likely reach an answer faster than you would with a support team, which sometimes takes hours or days to resolve an issue.
Even if you don’t feel like waiting for an answer, most open-source solutions have plenty of responses on Stack Overflow and similar resources that answer questions about popular issues. Those solutions that are popular enough might often have documentation compiled that answers not just the most frequent questions but some niche ones as well.
This does mean you’re dependant on the quality of the community and it’s not always going to be great. So make sure you’re not putting everything on its shoulders.
3. Having Freedom and Saving Time
Time is absolutely priceless for an early stage startup, especially when it comes to making your first proper tech solution. Be it for internal use or an external project, that’s when your team really starts to unify and show its true potential. But, at the same time, if your team is being bogged down by software that turned out to be subpar, you can expect plenty of hiccups along the way.
And you often can’t just replace non-open-source tools on a whim because you might have paid for a year-long subscription or had to integrate it into your process in a way that makes the tool indispensable. This, in turn, might force you to start from scratch which means your team will likely take longer to deliver results. If you feel that proprietary software you are planning to use on your project can lead to this issue and you are not comfortable taking the risk, you can always turn to open-source as a great alternative.
4. Sticking to the Budget
This isn’t going to surprise anyone and it’s not a shocking revelation: keeping your expenses low is always smart. But it’s particularly important for a startup in early stages where poor financial decisions can and will sink the whole company.
Proprietary software can be more affordable at face value but it will often charge per each user. Considering how expensive these solutions can be, expanding that cost for each person in your team might simply be impossible for an early stage startup. The prohibitively high cost could bankrupt a company that hasn’t established itself yet. Not to mention the fact that most proprietary software will also come with the cost of support, additional upgrade charges, yearly subscriptions, etc.
Open-source does have an upfront cost of integration, which can get pretty steep. But it won’t pile on with extra spending for support, subscriptions, or upgrades. Ultimately, if you’re fine with spending more right away to cut the cost down the road, open-source is a solid option.
5. Not Limited By One Company’s Vision
Open-source software is like the foundation to a building. You can put many things on top of it, ending up with a product that’s suited best for your company, maybe quite different from what the others do with the source solution. Proprietary software, though, is the whole building and extensive remodeling isn’t the intended use.
Remember that open-source solutions are made to be iterated upon, upgraded and modded to fit any kind of need. It’s a multitool that can be tailored as you wish. To see how varied a single open-source framework can be, check out this article on Flutter. From shopping to music to finance, these are all real possibilities when you have a sprawling foundation to build from. Open-source software is basically a license to be creative and a chance to chisel your tools into something that fits you just right.
Of course, this does run the risk of you getting carried away and ending up too ambitious. Open-source isn’t a license to go wild and you shouldn’t be taking on this type of solution if you don’t have a solid plan in place.
6. Bends to Your Will
You can configure open-source software to run on different systems and hardware, which can be very important if you have remote workers that might be running tech different from the one in your headquarters. This isn’t always easy and modding the open-source solutions to support various systems can take a long time but quite a few options come with built-in support for different hardware.
That’s what makes it different from proprietary software, the freedom to adapt. Proprietary will mostly put hurdles in your way as it’s made with a certain configuration in mind and for certain systems. Want to run it on an unorthodox setup? Turn to support, pay for an upgrade, etc.
So while open-source isn’t necessarily going to be run on your toaster or smart fridge, it’s just a more flexible choice versus the rigid proprietary software. Let’s say your startup expands and you have several solutions running, all of them essential to keep things going smoothly. With proprietary software, connecting those solutions and making them work with each other might be an issue. Some companies will refuse to collaborate with others, meaning their solutions won’t be compatible. Some just don’t bother enabling that kind of interconnectivity.
Open-source, though, lets you establish links between drastically different solutions as long as your dev team or vendor has the right skills. This makes it easier to expand and diversify your operations, growing your startup.
Ultimately, what open-source gives is freedom of choice. Proprietary solutions do provide quality and could work well for your startup. But if you have a set of needs that deviate from the norm of if you want more freedom in your solutions, open-source is probably the way to go.
So, these are the six reasons why a solid open-source solution is good for early stage startups. Hopefully, you’ve found a couple of reasons that fit your current plans and can now begin the search for software that’s just right for you. There’s AUSK - Apollo Universal Starter Kit, designed to streamline development and solve the issues of time and cost. It has a growing community around it and is already being used widely by devs all over the world. If you’d like a brief overview of what it can do, check out this article. For more information, check out the official website.
If you still have apprehensions about using open-source software, don’t hesitate to contact me via LinkedIn or Facebook, or talk to SysGears’s specialists to hear more about the benefits and intricacies of using open-source.