Open source software is worming its way into small firms by stealth, as companies increasingly rely on hosted web applications without realizing their open origins.
But open source still has a mighty battle against ignorance, inertia and disinterest to gain the hearts and minds of small UK businesses. They don’t know this stuff exists, Dr Malcolm Newdick, managing director of Riverbank IT Management told delegates at the Westminster Open Source Software eForum.
Plain old suspicion is also a key factor. There’s the feeling that you get what you pay for, so if it’s free, it can’t be any good, said Newdick.
The old cliche that you’ll never be sacked for buying IBM has simply shifted to the Microsoft camp. Steadfastly clinging to the traditional Microsoft Windows model, most firms would rather pay up than risk making changes. Non-proprietary software from small vendors is seen as a risk and a risk should be avoided at all costs, said Trevor Pegley, founder of systems integrator Visionhall.
Despite their ignorance, small firms’ desire for cheaper, easier to use web applications is propelling open source toward the mainstream, according to Red Hat fellow Alan Cox.
From small businesses, increasingly the answer I get is: ‘I don’t care about open source and proprietary, I care about the person I hired to make it work’. We’re seeing more and more web-based models, because companies just want to get the job done and pay less for it, said Cox.