Does open source software have a place in business? Before we answer that question, let's define what open source software (OSS) is. Without getting into legal jargon, I'm going to simply the history and the licenses aspect of what OSS is but if you really want to dig into the finer details, the Wikipedia page is a great resource. So, let's start with a little history.
Back when computers were first being developed, and I'm talking back in the 1950's it's infancy, programmers would share their code with each other to spur innovation and so the early programmers could learn from each other. This is where operating systems like Unix came from. If you've never heard of Unix, that's ok, it's not important for this article. The point is, it was a free and open environment where professionals could learn from each other and improve the applications that they all use.
Then, in the 70s and 80s, commercialization of software came about and closed source applications became common; Microsoft was founded 1975 for example. With the closing the source code to applications and operating systems, these companies would then charge for these applications for profit. Which, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with being a for profit company. When charging for applications, companies will often charge a premium but that will cover the expenses of support and future development of the application.
During my career, I've always heard that paid applications are better than open source applications but no one could really give me definitive proof of why. Most argue that the lack of support is the main reason and there is some truth to that but not 100%. At MyGeek, we work with LOTS of different software vendors and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, the support for some paid software is essentially non-existent. So that can't really be used as a selling point for me any longer. So, in my book, the point is moot.
Price is a huge selling point for open source software and honestly, it's one the main reasons that we evaluate open source applications before paid. With certain applications costing in thousands of dollars per year, it only makes sense to look for an alternative. Some of our core applications that run our clients businesses or protect their data are open source applications. We utilize them for many reasons but one of the main is price. What could cost use thousands and thousands of dollars per year only costs us the price to operate.
A fun fact about open source software, is the fact that you're probably already using it and just don't know it. Do you have an Android phone? You're using open source software. Have you visited Google today? You're using open source software. Lots of the inner workings of the Internet are based on open source software. Open source software has been to space and is on Mars right now.
Collaboration is also a HUGE part of why we use open source software. With a lot of the applications we use, they have a wonderful community that backs the application up. Other users will offer support, ideas on how to solve complex issues with the application or some even contribute their own code to the application. With many eyes on the source code of an application, one could argue (and many do) that makes the software more secure. Governments have already been busted with having back doors into closed source applications. Collaboration also helps serve underprivileged in society. What some people take fore granted, some don't have access to. In terms of technology and computers, having access to source code of programs will help others learn and understand technology so that they may raise their status in the world.
To end my rambling, it really jumps out at me that most people already use OSS and they don't even know it. OSS runs the world and most don't even know. So to answer my own question; yes, OSS has a place in business. It's already there.