Over the last couple of weeks, I did a little informal survey. The survey was one simple question — what draws you to open source? I asked various levels of users, all of which were in the IT industry in one form or another. I was not at all surprised by the answers. I thought it important to share those answers with you and, in turn, ask of you the same question.

What draws you to open source?

Here are some of the responses I received:

“I use open source because of the freedom it gives me from the lock-down of proprietary software. It gives me the ability to do what I want, when I want, and how I want.”

“Because I couldn’t get the things done I need to get done otherwise.”

“Cost. Cost. Cost.”

“Without open source there’d be no way I could complete the majority of tasks at hand without losing my entire IT budget. Add to that the flexibility and reliability of the open source tools I use and it’s a no brainer.”

“I actually wasn’t given a choice. My manager told me get the job done. He added to that demand that I had no budget for the project. As I said, no choice. Not that I mind. Even with a budget, I’d probably be using open source.”

“Our company is small and primarily web-based. By leveraging open source to power our IT infrastructure, not only are we cutting costs, we’re gaining reliability and flexibility.”

“We develop a lot of our tools in-house. Most of those tools are developed with PHP, Perl, and MySQL. Without those tools, we’d be dead in the water.”

Every individual, every company has a different reason for choosing the software and platforms they use. From my perspective, it breaks down into two different groups:

  • Those who only use proprietary software and do not know of the alternatives
  • Those that choose the software best suited for the job

Ultimately, it’s the latter of the two that drives everything in IT forward. I think it’s become common perception now that there isn’t one platform for all. I deal with hundreds of clients now and each of them has a mixture of platforms:

  • Windows
  • Linux
  • Android
  • Mac

Each platform serves a purpose and serves it well. I fully believe the days of heterogeneous networks are over. In fact, as we move forward, I can’t imagine being able to solve your company needs without using a mixture of platforms!

For me, back in the mid-1990s, it was all about cutting myself loose from the tether of Microsoft. At the time I had had enough of the Windows 95 BSOD and couldn’t afford the software I needed to do the jobs I had. When I first discovered Linux it was like I had been released to a freedom I didn’t know existed. It took a while to get the hang of things (nothing Linux-related was easy back then), but eventually I was able to shed the last vestiges of proprietary software. I haven’t looked back, nor do I plan to.

Now, I pose the question to you, the TechRepublic-verse:

What draws you to open source? And if your answer is “nothing”, what prevents you from exploring it as an alternative? What specific needs or applications led you to explore an open source alternative?

The landscape of IT infrastructure is ever-evolving. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything in the business world evolving faster. But there is one thing, among these constantly changing ideas and ideals, that never changes — need. Every department in every company needs to perform, to get their job done. That is the single most important element of what we do — keeping things running. As every day passes, that is getting harder and harder to do without the help of open source.