Your Guide to Software Selection

Pros and Cons of Open Source ERP Software

With ERP software, as with any kind of software product, there are big questions about how to source software platforms, and how to compare vendor options and other choices.

One evident competition is between specifically licensed ERP products and the collection of options known as ‘open source’ ERP software — ERP platforms that are not built for profit by a particular firm, but maintained with open source licensing, often by communities of users.

Here are some of the relevant pros and cons of selecting an open source ERP solution for business.

Pros

Platform Diversity

One of the biggest advantages of open source ERP software is that businesses can explore more open and interconnected ERP platform models that may work better, particularly for a smaller business that doesn’t need a slick, highly crafted proprietary ERP solution. In terms of being interconnected, open-source products can sometimes be more compatible with the company’s hardware system, or with other standalone applications.

Community Support

This is an overwhelming benefit of many open source ERP systems popular with companies who choose to go this route. Many of these platforms are supported by vibrant user communities — the support is experimental and transparent, and for IT professionals who love to be immersed in this environment, open source can be a good solution.

The Big Vendor Problem

Others who promote open source ERP solutions argue that going open source frees a company from the “big vendor” trap — some talk about “walled gardens” where functionality is limited to tools from a particular vendor, or even where vendors start to control proprietary customer data in disturbing ways.

No Installation or Licensing

In some ways, this is the number one benefit of open source software — there is no burden of licensing software, by physically using software keys or installing and registering products in a particular way. There are none of the costs associated with licensing, costs which can get pretty steep for vendor licensed products.

Open Source Prestige

As a less tangible benefit, some companies will enjoy the reputation they get by using open source products in an age where much of the tech community finds open source to be a ‘moral high ground’ in the industry, or in some ways, an indicator of more tech prowess. In some ways, it’s much like the sourcing of organic foods, or other high-value product quests. Of course, this is very subjective, and not everyone values open source over proprietary, but there’s a significant amount of open-source cliquishness in areas of the tech world.

Cons

Less Support

As for the drawbacks of choosing open source solutions, one of the biggest ones relates to the quality of support available, and the accessibility of the support itself.

Although many companies may love using products that are community supported, others will have a tough time getting actual troubleshooting help and other types of immediate support. One of the selling points of vendor licensed products is that they come with 24/7 support through specific channels. By contrast, there is often no one to call on the telephone when an open source product starts to give a company problems.

Lack of Proprietary Engineering

One of the things that companies pay for with proprietary products is specific engineering that serves their goals. For example, all of the research and development that a company has done on its products can support less downtime, reduce different kinds of failure rates, and increase ease of use. There is the idea that “you get what you pay for,” sometimes backed up by the idea that open source products that are buggy can be extremely hard to deal with.

Data Problems

Again, when companies run into problems moving or transferring data, they can end up spending a lot on IT support for open source products. Vendors offering licensed products may have specific shortcuts or backdoor solutions, but with open source, the burden might be entirely on the customer company to do this kind of troubleshooting.

Open Source Licensing Issues

Although open source licensing is generally easy when it comes to procurement and installation, other licensing problems can pop up later on. One of them is related to certain kinds of open source Oslo licensing, where companies may be asked to reveal proprietary coding changes that were done to support the product.

Poor Ease of Installation and Use

Here’s another major drawback that keeps some companies away from open source adoption.

Simply put, the right ERP tool will help streamline and automate business processes, and the wrong one will sink a business model and mire it in confusion.

Most company operations are fairly fast-paced. Busy companies may not have time to invest a lot in training for all levels of staff, or put the necessary work into open source implementation. These companies will need user-friendly, intuitive interfaces that are ready to go right out of the box. In response, vendors of proprietary product have built these products that way, specifically to help end-users deal with relevant issues. The companies which have put all this work into their vendor licensed product will point this out in company literature as a reason to value their product over open source ones.

Think about all of the above considerations when it’s time to choose an open source or proprietary ERP software package. Let SelectHub help with guided comparisons of different available platforms.

Michael ShearerPros and Cons of Open Source ERP Software

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