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How to Choose the Best Open Source Software

Open source software

Open source software can bring many benefits to businesses.

The term “open source” refers to software that is designed and built to be publicly available, so that people may use, modify or share it as needed. This means that anyone can access and modify the source code – the engine room of the software.

One of the big advantages that draws people to open source software is that it is free. If I can use LibreOffice to create documents and presentations for free, why should I pay for Microsoft Office?

There are actually several advantages and disadvantages to using open source software in your business, so it’s important to weigh these up. If you’re making the decision to go with open source software, do so knowing how to make the best choices. Let’s take a closer look:

Free download: Get our checklist for choosing open source software

The risks and advantages of open source software

Advantages of open source software

  • There are usually no or very few licensing fees. Open source software can also be installed on unlimited machines or devices, as opposed to limits set by licensing agreements.
  • Saves companies time and money by providing software that is ready to use. (You don’t have to spend months creating a proprietary code).
  • Open source means many experienced people have had access to code the software and fix bugs. This can also mean rapid fixes if anything goes wrong – you don’t have to wait for the next release from a software company.
  • You can customize open source software for your own needs. For example, you might create your own plugins or mix and match features to suit.
  • It tends to have good longevity. Anyone can access it so it is evolving continuously to suit current conditions.
  • Any security issues tend to be fixed promptly due to so many people being available to take care of them. (Sometimes you will wait a long time for vulnerabilities in licensed software to be fixed).
Open source software

Disadvantages of open source software

  • Sometimes the GUI (Graphical User Interface – the bit you use on the front-end) is not particularly user-friendly. Many open source software focus on getting some kind of big job done, not so much on the interface.
  • You probably won’t have great support. Licensed softwares often have 24/7 support desks in case you have the need. There are forums for open source software which can be very helpful, but you’re still going to wait.
  • With anyone able to access the source code, there is a chance that some people with malicious intentions might do so, creating security vulnerabilities.
  • If you are reliant on open source software and there is a problem that needs immediate fixing, you may find that you need to pay considerable amounts to developers to get the issue fixed yourself.

Open source software can be a time and money saver, but not without potential risk Click To Tweet

Tips for choosing open source software

If you’ve decided to go for open source software, or any other kind of software, the first thing we would do is make a list of all of your requirements that need to be met. This will help you to choose or eliminate options. Does it already have, or can you add the features that you need?

Once you have a short list of open source software options, here are a few things we would look for:

The track record or reputation of whoever is behind it

What do reviews say about the software? Who founded it and what is their background? Do they have a good track record for keeping open source projects going?

Sometimes people offload their open source projects or simply cease to work on them. That might be fine with you if you have the expertise to keep it going, but you will probably find all upkeep is now on you.

One clue that the software will probably be available and maintained into the future is if a company has developed a tool for in-house use, then opened it up. If they’re still using it in-house, then it’s probably here for the longer-term.

The security protocols and vulnerabilities

Look for regular updates to the software – what version is running and how long has it been going? Look for the last stable version. There is virtually no software that is without bugs, so if Version 1.0 is still in use a few months after launch, there’s a good chance that issues aren’t being picked up, or at least aren’t being fixed.

You’re looking for clear evidence of ongoing effort, that is, unless you’re quite happy to pick up the package as-is and deal with any bugs in-house. Given that you can access the source code, this option is available to you.

Your company has the skill set to deploy and maintain the software

One of the cons of open source software is that you don’t usually have readily-available support. You can turn to forums, but there is no one there waiting to answer support questions, unlike licensed, proprietary software.

This means that open source software is best deployed in a company that has the available skill set to maintain it themselves. What if you were reliant on the software for critical activities in your business? You need to have any issues fixed as soon as possible.

There are active communities

If a software is popular and has active communities around it, then it will be more likely that it is maintained. You’ll find that if it’s not the original developers, other groups of core users will take over maintenance.

You’re looking for regular contributors – if the software has not been updated in a long time, then there’s a good chance it’s about to die.

An active support community is also a very good sign. Look at popular open source software such as WordPress (which now powers at least 30% of websites) – there are huge communities around it and constant flow of information. While your choice of software might not be as big, you still need to see an engaged community.

Good documentation and clean coding

It’s always helpful to have clear documentation to help with implementing and maintaining the software. Documentation is also a good sign that the software project is being taken seriously and is intended to continue.

You should also examine the code base for the software (or get someone with the right experience to check it). You’re looking for clean coding that has clearly been well thought-out. This is a good indication that seasoned professionals are behind the software and that it has the potential to be maintained in-house.

Open source software

Have an open source policy

If your company is going to use open source software, it’s a good idea to implement an open source policy. This helps to ensure that everyone understands how and when open source software is to be used. Having a policy helps you to maximize the benefits of open source software by enabling employees to use it effectively.

Your policy for open source software should also tackle how you will minimize any associated risk. Companies are often concerned with the implications, should anything go wrong with the software. You might include a risk assessment, using some of the key disadvantages outlined here as a starting point.

You should also clearly identify key stakeholders and outline your strategy for how open source software is selected, used and maintained. Make sure you have buy-in from all key stakeholders.

Get our checklist for choosing open source software here

Final thoughts

Open source software can be a real gift to businesses, helping them to save into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a whole lot of time on proprietary development. Open source gives you access to all sorts of features and to improvements made by developers from all over the world.

Of course, the nature of open source means that it also comes with risks. It’s important to weigh up the risks and benefits, and establish criteria for assessing possible software choices. Lastly, establish a policy for open source software in your company. This helps to ensure orderly selection, implementation and maintenance.

Networking Champions Do This. Do You?

Networking-Champions

Here’s a networking tip for when you’re out and about spreading the word about your new business. Instead of chatting briefly and exchanging business cards, ask this, “If I were talking to someone who needed your services, what should I say to them?” This gives them the opportunity to give you their 30 second commercial touting their business. Everyone loves to talk about themselves and their business.

Ask for ten of their business cards

Then ask them for 10 of their business cards instead of one. Why? Because it says to them that you’re interested in networking with them, instead of just marketing to them directly – like every other sales rep they’ve ever met. It sets you apart.

Reaching their sphere of influence

When you think about it, everyone has a sphere of influence. When you say word of mouth is the best way to grow your business, how do you get that prospect or client to spread the word about your business? It all starts by showing an interest in their business, providing solutions that help them, and above all – great customer service.

They just said, YES

You’ll never be able to reach their sphere of influence on your own. Ask them for referrals (their sphere of influence) immediately after the sale. They’ve just said YES to your product or service. They know, like and trust you. Take it one step further. Ask them to let the person they just referred to you know that you’ll be calling.

Ask for the referral

All sales reps know that you have to ask for the sale. The same principle applies in networking – you have to ask for the referral.

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Total words are counted, then a text/HTML Ratio Test is executed. The ideal ratio of text to HTML code must be between 20 to 60%. Where is yours?

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H tags are then analyzed followed by whether your site has robot.txt and a sitemap. Not all of your site should be indexed, but every site should have a sitemap.

Favicon

Oft overlooked is the Favicon. Sites without favicons are frowned upon for lack of attention to detail, and lost opportunities for branding.

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This one catches a ton of websites, but it is important as it strengthens the message toward search engine providers AND improves the accessibility of your website.

Is your site Doc Type defined and does it contain depreciated HTML tags?

Doc Type isn’t critical, but it is used to validate your web page. Are you using older HTML tags and attributes? If yes, be aware that they’re likely to become obsolete, so future support cannot be guaranteed.

HTML Page Size 

Ideally, you want your pages to load fast, so reducing size matters, but so does structuring your site so that the most critical things load first. Enabling GZIP compression also helps. Is your site GZIP compression enabled?

Inline and Internal CSS occurrences

Excessive inline or internal CSS occurrences increase the loading time of your site. Not only is this a ranking factor for the search engines, but it also correlates to viewer experience. Once a visitor finds your site, your goal should be for them to hang around a while, get to know you and maybe purchase something.

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What our analysis looks for here are multiple domain names registered under a single IP address. Why? Search bots can label other sites as duplicates.

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Do you like spam? None of us do, so one of the things our analysis looks for is plain text email addresses on your site. Scraping agents are constantly crawling websites looking for victims.


Mobile Friendly Check

This one should be obvious. Everyone and their brother or sister carries a mobile device of some sort. Does your site display properly across the broad range of mobile devices on the market?
Are all of your links and buttons large enough for your visitors to easily tap? Does your mobile site download quickly? Want to know what your Google Page Speed Insight score is? Our analysis gives you that score.

What else do we analyze?

We look at Page Statistics, the Plugins you may be using, whether your font sizes are legible, your Google Desktop Page Speed Score, any landing page redirects and whether your site leverages browser caching.

How quickly does your server respond?

If your site is underperforming, our analysis addresses the issues and identifies potential problems.

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Not only does our analysis identify how resource size can be reduced, it gives you the percentage of possible reduction.

Optimizing Images

This one is a biggie. Our analysis identifies images that should be optimized and displays the percentage of possible reduction. What you want to do is reduce an image’s size without reducing its quality.

Above the fold

What we analyze here is whether the above the fold content is properly prioritized.

Link Information

We identify all of your site’s internal and external links, plus your NoIndex, NoFollow and DoFollow Links AND if your links are SEO friendly.

An SEO friendly link follows these basic rules:

The URL should use a dash as a separator, not use parameters or numbers, and should be a static URL.

To resolve this, use these techniques.

1) Replace underscores or other separators with a dash, clean URL by deleting or replacing numbers and parameters.
2) Merge your www and non www URLs.
3) Do not use dynamic and related URLs. Create an XML sitemap for proper indexing by search engines.
4) Block unfriendly and irrelevant links with robot.txt
5) Endorse your URLs in canonical tags.

AlexaRank

Need to know what your traffic or reach rank are? We give you the score that Alexa assigns to your website.

Finishing Up

Do you know who your site is hosted with or where they’re located, or whether you’re IPv4 and IPv6 compatible? How about cURL responses?


About Hostirian

Hostirian has been helping businesses with IT solutions for over 20 years. Offering this FREE resource is just one way we push the envelope to help businesses do what they do best, and that is to run successful online businesses.

How to add a heading in WordPress

Heading styles not only give your viewers a better visual representation of what the important points of what your post and pages really are, they also help search engines determine the important content on your site, helping improve your visibility.

To create headings, use the styling options drop-down menu in the first row of the toolbar (the default styling is “Paragraph”). Highlight the text you would like to modify, and use the drop-down menu to select a different style. By default, WordPress offers six different heading styles for highlighting points on your content or for separating topics on the same page – Heading 1 is usually the largest and most important, incrementally scaling down for each of following headings.

When your content is formatted as you would like it to appear on your site, remember to save or publish your content!