Comparison Between Proprietary Software and Open Source Software

Proprietary software can be defined as closed software that is distributed under a license agreement that limits any modifications to the software. Its just opposite to the concept of Open source software. Open source software can be defined as software that is distributed freely under a license agreement with no limitations on changes made to the source code.

Proprietary Software

Many proprietary corporations make software freely available to users. For example, Adobe provides users with the Adobe Acrobat Reader. The Adobe Acrobat Reader is an application that users to view documents that have been saved in the portable document format (PDF). The PDF format is developed by Adobe and has become a standard in saving files as electronic documents. ‘Standardization’ and ‘compatibility’ are the two main drivers for the success of proprietary software. Any user that opens a PDF formatted document with Adobe Acrobat Reader is confident that the document will be accessible and readable. The standardization of the PDF format for document files is what made almost every document processing application incorporate it into their processes. In turn, that made the PDF format compatible within document processing software. However, software corporations that incorporate a process to save files as PDF formatted documents must pay Adobe a licensing fee in order to have access the code that will convert files into PDF in conformity with the Adobe Acrobat Reader application. The Adobe Acrobat Reader creates user dependency. Users that create documents desire software that understands the PDF format and the software vendor must pay Adobe for licensing, in order to meet the requirements of its users.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both the proprietary and open source models. Open source software, such as Linux, is usually cheaper and less error prone than proprietary software substitutes. Open source software is less expensive by the meaning of being open. Open source software is less error prone if enough knowledgeable developers and users have had the opportunity to analyze and correct bugs in the source code. The flaws in Microsoft Windows operating systems that have made use of by malicious programmers are correctable but were overlooked during the developing and testing of the software. The overlooked errors can arise from carelessness to rushing the development. Any complex software development process goes through a series of growth, during which errors become apparent and are corrected. Open source software goes through this growth series fast when enough developers locate and fix problems, where proprietary software is closely isolated and the correction cycle takes more time. It has been said that Linux performs better than proprietary alternatives for those very reasons. Open source software is different from proprietary operating software because is developed (and constantly recycled) to execute efficiently on various platforms and environments. Proprietary software has matured significantly in volume and difficulty, exploiting the parallel growth of computer processors and memory. Proprietary software’s biggest advantage over open source software is that software from the same corporations integrates effortlessly. Proprietary software that is bundled in to integrated software (i.e., Microsoft Office) is more appealing to users than separate software that has to be incorporated individually to make a software bundle. This was proved by Microsoft Office 97 forcing Corel to bundle WordPerfect, QuatroPro, and Paradox into a more organized office bundle. Given the consequences of the software environment, the question for proprietary software has been how to balance between greater scalability, prolonged business, and evolving investments.

Licensing is a means by which propriety software corporations recover their costs for software innovation, software maintenance, training, and support. Licensing can cost from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars. This will depend mainly on the involvement of the software. The license has a base fee, but the majority of it is made of support and training fees. Software corporations like Microsoft and Apple have a strong reputation and when users pay for their brand, they know that the quality of software that is being purchased is worth the investment. Users pay for software from trusted brand name corporations that is adapted to their needs and that includes reliable security, consistent functionality, growing innovation, scalability, software support/training, and more user friendly. For those users that cannot afford the licensing fees of propriety software, the free cost of open source software is more appealing. Even more so if the structure of the corporation has the means to support, train, and implement in house. This would be lesser cost to the corporation. A big challenge for open source software it that it necessitates distinctive levels of technical knowledge in order to manage the software. It is very important for corporations to analyze the expenses sustained once the software is deployed. It may be significant unless resources have already been established to manage the software. Continuing expenses include the cost of deployment, improvement, costs incurred agonizing over service/support problems, and the costs related with investment in system architecture due to the difficult challenge of determining growth (assuming the corporation will evolve and design and will therefore have growing requirements). Open source software venders are progressively charging for add-ons, support services and implementation. In some cases, the total cost for some open source software may equal to some proprietary alternatives.

If the internet is an essential tool of a corporation, software is usually a less important concern, with levels of service and support needs taking precedence over of utilizing uptime and reducing downtime. Service is almost certainly the best benefit of having proprietary software. Proprietary software vendors provide continuous support to users, a main selling point to corporations that do not have technical knowledge. If the user encounters a problem the software and the software documentation is not enough, there is an immediate support to call for assistance. There is reduced risk associated with proprietary software because users are working with corporations that are feasible, and individuals that have distinct knowledge of the software being used should any problems arise. Because support is one of the key motives that users opt for proprietary software over open source software, many proprietary software vendors f with each other in providing support services. This raises the advantage of dealing for buyers and thus increasing customer service among propriety vendors. Support is one of the main problems facing open source software. Open source software is dependent on its developer and user network to provide support via forums and blogs. While there are multiples of open source user networks that users can call on, time lacking users of today are recognize the direct service and support that allows problems to be fixed in quick turn-a-round times, and the open source use network cannot promise the levels of receptive service and support that proprietary software offers.

Proprietary software vendors do not enable users to view or change source code. Some may view this as a disadvantage, but it guarantees the security and dependability of the software. Additionally, several proprietary software vendors provide users that have specific needs with personalized applications that offer more flexibility while spending more in Research and Development to facilitate periodic offerings of new software and upgrades. Furthermore, proprietary software vendors have user networks online that produce results by sharing thoughts, techniques and better methods through response systems such as forums and blogs, which also promote new ideas and enables the software to adjust with changes in residential, commercial, educational and governmental environments. Any new ideas are fully tested and deployed to all users of the proprietary software. It does not necessitate a venture in Research and Development or the technical knowledge of source code. Help with deployment is usually included with the software package. Since proprietary vendors must assure users that their software will not become unessential, users will benefit from the investment risks in Research and Development. Proprietary vendors are normally focused more on business than on technology. Open source software generates new ideas by offering users the freedom and elasticity to mold software to meet their needs, without any limitations. But, new ideas may or may not be communicated with all users of the open source software. It is a developer’s right to share any new ideas with any open source user networks. It has been questioned whether personalized modifications to original source code restricts the growth of the software, as these can result in versions of software that may have unsolvable problems and no expertise to help. It is important to note that open source software vendors have a hard time attracting major Research and Development entities.

Proprietary software usually has very extensive user testing. The software is targeted to specific users and is usually customized. Software’s usability is a very vital aspect in software development. Documented user manuals are offered by proprietary vendors. This allows quicker training and offers a faster reference, allowing users learn more rapidly. Software support consists of tutorials, specialized training courses, and widespread support to assist increasing software usage. While several users define proprietary software as ‘closed’, current proprietary software provides various assortments of tools for improvement by third party vendors and developers. Open source software does not have a favorable reputation in usability. This is mainly in part because open source technology is not test by usability specialists and is not specialized for the immense majority of computer users. Open source software is centered more on the developer than the user. Without software knowledge or the experience required to modify programming languages, usage of the software and capability to fix issues that arise is often restricted to individuals with technical know-how. Additionally, open source software does not oblige developers to document source code to create user manuals or guides. When documentation is offered, it generally, consists of assumed jargon, hampering the learning of the software. When sufficient documentation if not provided, users must depend on other resources such as user networks on the Internet, assuming users are able to find them and the issue is one that other users have dealt with or are willing to help solve. These problems are deterrents, but are not impossible.

Proprietary software is seen as more secure because it is designed in an environment that is controlled by a specialized team of developers with a common goal. The source code may be tested and modified by this team only, and is heavily analyzed, decreasing the possibility of viruses that are outside of the team’s environment and reducing the potential for any errors with the software. Open source software is seen as having security problems. Corporate executives and technology decision makers of big corporations are worried about the security of open source software. Open source software is not always designed in a controlled setting. While the bigger open source venders have a specialized development team, most of the time the software is developed by developers all over the world who may not work on the software for the period of its development life cycle. Any shortage of consistency and common goals can cause problems that affect communication in development of the software. Open source software is not always examined by peers or verified for usage. While users are free to analyze and validate source code, the skill of expertise needed means that there is a strong possibility that a malicious developer will code a virus to obtain personal and confidential information without users ever be aware. If open source venders work reputable developers or a highly collaborative development team supported by knowledgeable user networks, any potential risks are significantly reduced.

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