Posted: 06 Jan 2009 12:00 AM PST
This guest post was written by V Scott Ellis of Blackbox Technologies, a business that helps companies to maximize their web presence. If you have WordPress knowledge and are interested in writing a post for WordPress Hacks, please contact us.
For years free & open-source software has gotten a bad wrap, though sometimes deservedly so. Many businesses, large and small, are hesitant to run mission critical applications based on open-source software largely out of fear of a lack of support coupled with concerns over buggy or unsecure software. So to recognize free & open-source software as being ready for prime-time we have to dispel a few misconceptions right up front.
To begin with, “free” and “open-source” are often used interchangeably and incorrectly so or at the very least it causes confusion. Just because software is open-source doesn’t mean it is free of cost because there is still support or expertise needed to make it run appropriately for your business.
The difference is that software doesn’t come with any licence fees. Organizations such as Automattic (the makers of WordPress) are viable and funded organizations which are there to support, enhance and advance the software on behalf of the users that use it for free as well as those larger customers who require regular support.
As a result, many large companies are running their websites (or at least part of them) on WordPress. Companies like the Wall Street Journal, CNN Blogs, C-NET & Ford to name a few. And while WordPress isn’t threatening industrial-strength CMS’s yet, with it’s existing support, proven track-record and extensibility, it could, and probably will very soon.
The good thing about all of this is that companies who use systems like WordPress will save a ton of money on software & services and will only have to reinvest a portion of that back into services for support or to bring talent in-house which brings us to the second big benefit; it provides a huge opportunity for all of those with good WordPress experience to provide services to those companies as consultants or employees. The result is a new economic eco-system benefiting everyone.
All of that said, there are still hurdles to overcome before open-source software goes truly mainstream in the corporate environment, but with other open-source projects continually gaining ground (like Linux, MySQL, PHP and others) companies would be doing themselves and their shareholders a disservice by not at least considering the open-source options. Open-source won’t be for everyone but is definitely worth a look.
One of changes I’d like to see for WordPress which might help is better database support for DB’s like Oracle which can also run on Linux and which are still much stronger (though also more expensive) than MySQL, but given the importance of the data layer to business that’s one area where they’ll continue to spend a lot of money.
Another would be the development of a reporting engine or an integrated and extensible reporting tool. Businesses intelligence is becoming more and more of an important competitive differentiator for businesses of all sizes, and providing tools that help businesses not only review data but make sense out of it will become a compelling “selling” point for making the switch to open-source software.
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