Should You Avoid Open Source Platforms For Business Websites?

Should You Avoid Open Source Platforms For Business Websites?

Category: General

A valid question, and one that for a while we swung back and forth on ourselves.

When we set out to establish ourselves in digital marketing we considered taking the easy route and to use what was already widely available. Consideration was given to whether by developing our own CMS platform we were, in some ways, reinventing the wheel. You simply can't argue that with the seventy-four million active Wordpress websites out there, surely they must be doing something right? That's not to mention other platforms like Joomla, Umbraco, Concrete5 et al. Even in the freely available open source CMS market there are many competitors. The plus points of these platforms are that they're fairly simple to set up but most relevant of all, they're cheap. Really cheap! Free even!! What's not to like about that?

Well, we know from speaking to prospects and customers who themselves were previously on open source (OS) platforms that they can seem like a good idea but that problems can begin to arise further down the line. This is usually when businesses rightly demand a better return from their website. As companies grow, they realise that promoting their business effectively online requires ongoing investment, both in terms of setting an annual budget and of course their own time.

For example, you discover that your competitor has an online booking facility that links to their internal CRM system? This saves them time and makes them more money while you still manually manage orders across multiple platforms. Or that they simply climb higher in the search rankings and gain more traffic than you? You may decide you need to expand your OS site to stem the flow of orders going their way and not yours. Problems can (and do) arise, when users need to expand the basic functionality of an open source platform.

At some stage you’ll inevitably need to install one or more 'plug-ins' and each one could potentially be created by a different developer - from any number of locations around the world. This can make getting support a real challenge. Plugin and platform upgrades are made frequently and independently which makes clashes and errors a fairly common occurrence. Managing your website can quickly become an exercise in plate-spinning.

OS Invaders - Closed Source Vs Open Source - Big Red Infographic

Open Source Is Free For A Reason

We often hear our clients ask, “If I can get my website done cheaply or even for free, then why should I bother with proprietary software?” The answer to that depends on how competitive you want to be, and what you want from your site.

With OS platforms, the old adage “You get what you pay for!” rings true.

But don't just take our word for it, leading Australian developer Bloomtools say, "The majority of web developers using open source solutions are not actually software developers.” In fact, many web companies can become experts at customising their chosen open source platform, but they’re not developers, so you could eventually find that they canno longer effectively support you.

Due to its nature, open source is reliant on an online community to support it and help to co-ordinate development.

Bloggers at IDR Solutions, a UK Based PDF and Java development house, point out that support for open source varies greatly, one plug-in or even the full platform can have great technical support and patches released promptly, while it is possible that other add-ons, installed in the same site, can have been abandoned, be out of date or have security problems. Finding a quick solution can be challenging to say the least.

The Developers’ Dilemmas

If a developer is using an open source platform as their base product then their business model can run into problems too.

On the popular industry news hub Network World, Peter Levine of Andersen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley professional who has invested in such start-ups as, Skype, Facebook and Twitter believes that, ‘Open source suppliers can’t differentiate their products significantly from the open source code their products are based on’.

They have to rely on other means of monetising such as support, maintenance and of course ironically, bespoke software writing with the added drawback that the code mustn’t conflict with currents add-on as well as future ones. Its an uphill task and with lower revenues than closed or proprietary developers their problems are compounded.

Levine continues, “There's less incentive for potential customers to pay for their products rather than continue using the underlying code for nothing. At the very least it limits the amount that open source businesses can hope to charge – putting a cap on their potential revenues. It's a vicious circle.”

So what’s the solution, is it all really so bad for businesses and developers who want to use the multitude of free code out there? Levine suggests an interesting way forward, that’s already quietly taking place. The merging of the two, open and closed source in harmony, even eventually moving to the cloud and served up as Software as a Service.

"I think we’ll start to see an increasing number of SaaS offerings that are a hybrid of open source and proprietary software." Levine says.

The Big Red Platform

Big Red have a history of innovative software development and are predominantly Microsoft-based with our developers using ASP.NET VB coding on Windows servers and workstations. Our M.D. came into the fold having previously used a variety of PHP-based CMS platforms and with both feet proudly rooted in the Apple orchard. Our software company already had the bones of their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform in place and as a team we pulled upon all our experience to design an extremely powerful, yet user-friendly CMS publishing platform.

The Big Red Business Platform is now in use internationally by large corporations and small businesses alike - all of whom have the benefit of working in partnership with us on their marketing. And crucially, since we wrote the software, we can develop and expand their website for them as and when required.

Here at Big Red we’ve already been using a ‘hybrid software’ model for a number of years on some of our larger ecommerce websites. We looked for the best open source platform available which was most user-friendly whilst maintaining compatibility with our codebase. NopCommerce was the OS product that we chose and we have successfully integrated this into our own platform to produce an industry leading CMS platform with all the functionality of an open source product - all supported up by our development team. As next-gen cloud solutions start to appear for CMS it’ll really mean that the sky truly is the limit for your website and of course your business too.

By Switching to Big Red, our clients have:

• Increased overall traffic to the website by an average of 57%
• Increased organic search traffic by 19%
• Increased Social Media traffic by 80%

• Increased unique users by 59%
• Increased page views (user engagement) by 17%

Is Your OS Platform Feeling the Pressure?

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