Choosing an Open Source Solution

by Martin Davis

The debate over the ability of open source programs to handle enterprise-class businesses, complex nonprofit operations, and government needs is largely over. While the heavyweights in the proprietary world aren’t going away anytime soon, organizations are increasingly coming to realize that to ignore open source solutions is placing their business at a competitive disadvantage. But not all open source is created equal. What’s the better web solution—WordPress, Drupal, Joomla? What about a CRM—SugarCRM, CiviCRM? I could go on, but you get the point. The success of open source is driving the proliferation of solutions. And the winner is your industry, so long as you know what you’re buying into. While many proprietary systems tout are sold a cure-alls, open source solutions often target specific markets. We at Synaxis do a lot of work with Drupal websites, because for the types of complex web solutions we create, it’s arguably the best product on the market. But it’s not the best solution for every enterprise. Knowing how to match your needs to the best open source solution is the key to a successful experience in the open source world. There are a number of places to look for guidance. has just released its 2012 Best Open Source Software (or BOSSIE) awards. BOSSIEs focus on the best, but the awards themselves specify the who the solutions are best for. So in the web design class, Drupal, WordPress and several others are “winners,” because the BOSSIE selection committee does an excellent job of explaining for which types of clients the software best fits. When starting your search, start here. OSS Watch is a go-to place for not only understanding exactly what open source is and isn’t, but it’s the first place to go for knowing what types of questions to ask when looking for a solution to match your needs. UK-based at Oxford University, OSS Watch has as its sole mission to be an honest broker in the open source world. While its true that open source is no longer the step-child in business solutions because buyers don’t suffer vendor lock, buying into an open source solution that’s too big, or too small, for your needs can prove costly. So go open source, but go educated about what will best meet your needs.