If you’re even somewhat interested in using Open Source, whether it be at your home or your business, I highly recommend you read the latest edition of the Enterprise Open Source Journal. Their website is located at http://www.eosj.com/index.php.
In the latest issue, they tackle the subjects of Integrating Open and Closed Source sofware. Also they discuss how you can’t have one without the other (or more aptly, why you shouldn’t try to have one without the other). Possibly the most important article (IMHO) in the magazine is the clarification of what “Free” actually means, when it comes to Open Source.
People (myself included at one time) are under the misconception that “Free” in respect to Open Source, means free- as in free beer. This is further brought on because some of the people who provide Open Source software specifically state that in their description of it. The truth is, “Free” in Open Source is more like “Free Speech” rather then “Free Beer”.
Even though there is no cost to get the software (unless you purchase a Support Agreement or purchase additional features), there IS an investment cost. If you’re a consumer, then you’ll be investing your time in it. Whether it’s simply to keep it updated, or to code it to meet your needs (or code it to fix a bug), you’re still making an investment in the software. And, if you do have an issue with it, you’ll be investing time into researching and implementing the solution (or creating one of your own).
If you’re an Enterprise user, you’re not only investing the time that the consumer is, but you’ll also be investing money in paying someone a salary to invest the time. You may want to pay money to purchase the support that the developer offers. This reduces the amount of time that you or your Enterprise has invested, but it doesn’t remove it altogether. There will always be an investment of time on your end.
Now, by no means am I suggesting that Open Source is not a viable option. In many cases, it’s more viable then the closed-source versions of the same software. What I am trying to accomplish here is to make sure that anyone who is considering Open Source goes into this with their eyes wide open. I would rather see you go in knowing that you may end up spending some money or time (probably less then you would with the Closed-source versions), then see you going in with the misconception that it’s all “Free” (as in Free Beer), and being rudely awakened.
I highly encourage everyone to explore Open Source, and see if it’s right for you. Some will go totally Open Source.. Some will stick with all Closed (Proprietary) Source. But a lot will choose the path down the middle. The important thing is, that you are able to make the choice. That’s something that some people on both sides of the issue don’t want you to have. In your research, you will see people writing about how Microsoft (and other Closed-source) companies don’t want you to be able to use Open Source. This is not true. In fact, Microsoft had an exhibition at Linux World. And, they have exhibitions at other Open Source Expositions.
So, make the choice. Do the research. And do what’s right for you.