As we approach the tax season, some retail companies may be in the process of searching for new ecommerce software. Most of them will probably choose expensive proprietary software from a commercial vendor, but some will look to free and open source software as a viable alternative. Is this the right move? Should an online retailer trust their business to open source software?
First, it is important to understand what free and open source software is. The concept dictates that software should be developed in an open environment and that the source code should be shared freely with the community. A free software license typically allows for the source code to be shared, redistributed, and even sold by anyone who wants to develop it.
Free software is widely used on the web. Apache HTTP Server is the most popular web server software, and Linux-based operating systems are widely used on web servers. These technologies are generally regarded as more stable and more secure than their competitors.
For retail, there are many options for software, whether it is on the backend or storefront. Free software gives you the benefit of having an open development model where you can freely modify the software to fit your company’s needs. Moreover, you can avoid vendor lock-in, since any vendor can pick up the source code and provide you with the commercial support and development that you need.
If you do not have the technical staff to develop or build upon open source software, you should probably avoid tackling it on your own. You could still seek out a commercial vendor that sells and supports open source, and you can still benefit from its advantages. If such a vendor does not exist and you cannot support the software on your own, you might have no choice but to opt for proprietary software with commercial support.