One thing is certain nowadays: people expect absolutely everything for free and there are a lot of open-source applications which cater to their needs. But what about popular sayings such as ‘you get what you pay for’ and ‘if something seems too good to be true, it probably is,’ are these no longer valid?’
There’s definitely a fierce battle going on between people who think that open-source applications always get the job done (after all, Web 2.0 sites enable you to keep track of your bookmarks, images and files as well as make it possible to communicate with the world and make a statement through bog posts, profiles, chat rooms and so on) and people who are willing to pay for applications developed by well-known companies which have an established track record.
Pros V/S Cons: The Showdown
Let’s try to analyze open-source applications for a moment. These are generally developed by companies which are not well-known (although there are several notable exceptions) and usually come with the following benefits:
- they’re 100% free
- people are actually encouraged to form communities and support each other in order to improve the open-source application
- you can test features such as security yourself and not blindly trust one company or another (since the source is made available)
- you can modify these applications based on the specific needs you may have
These benefits may make Web 2.0 web sites and open-source applications seem like the best thing since sliced bread, but there are some cons which need to be kept in mind as well:
- there’s only so much you can ask for in terms of support (after all, you’re not paying anything)
- the companies behind them are usually new kids on the block and have a limited budget (although, as mentioned previously, we do have quite a few notable exceptions), so you never know how long they’re willing to keep providing updates and support
- some of these companies may have a hidden agenda and people who are not tech savvy enough in order to understand the code often end up not realizing that
- a lot of times, companies end up charging for these applications at a certain point or move on to a ‘free trial’ business model
Alright, now that you have a general overview when it comes to Web 2.0 web sites and open-source applications, let’s look into some of the benefits paid solutions come with:
- you have every right to demand quality support
- since people are paying, they are far more likely to criticize and, for that reason, the reviews you’ll find online will often be able to help you make an objective decision (most open-source applications out there have people who just blindly praise them, even when it’s not necessary, and that can be quite misleading)
- companies have every intention of selling the product today, next month, next year and so on; for that reason, you can expect them to always update the application accordingly and you, as the person who already paid, can take advantage of that
- positive reviews are great for business, so you are less likely to find annoying bugs
- assuming that the company in question has been around for a while, these applications are usually more reliable than open-source ones (reputation plays an extremely important role and these companies will do whatever it takes in order to maintain this edge)
As always though, there are some cons involved as well, even if far less problematic:
- yes, you actually have to pay and that’s the nightmare of any frugal person
- some products tend to be overpriced
Case Study: Google Apps V/S Microsoft Exchange
Now that you’re familiar with the generalities, let’s move on to something specific and analyze two of the biggest players out there: Google and Microsoft. As usual, their business model differs quite significantly.
While you can take advantage of the features Google Apps comes with without having to pay anything (thatâ€™s as far as The Standard Edition and The Education Edition are concerned – The Premier Edition is not free), Microsoft Exchange does come with a free trial option but you will have to pay at a certain point.
When it comes to search engines, Google wins hands-down. In this case, however, Microsoft clearly offers a better product, one which is worth every penny. Google Apps may be free (and as opposed to a lot of other companies which offer something for free, Google is as reputable as it gets), but most of their services are anything but reliable, and in the long run, your business would end up losing a lot of money.
As far as Microsoft Exchange is concerned, you really do get what you pay for. If you take your business seriously, you need to work with the best. And fortunately for Mr. Gates, Microsoft Exchange is clearly the solid product which can help you build a solid business in this case, so what are you waiting for?