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I can remember when mentioning open-source software in a business context was unthinkable. Fortunately, times have changed. Indeed, open source is now often considered first but that dramatic progress has not entirely removed a number of misconceptions from users' minds. So I thought it might be helpful to list a few of the things people still get completely wrong about open source.
1. It's just for Linux
Most users trip up over this point. When open source comes up in a conversation, talk inevitably — and almost always initially — turns to Linux. The public always seems to assume open-source applications are only for Linux. In fact there are plenty of open-source projects that are either cross platform or Windows only. The Open Source Windows site lists a variety of software for Microsoft's operating systems. But the site doesn't include the listing of major forces, such as Apache, MySQL and Drupal.
This story originally appeared as 10 things you should know about open source before you use it on TechRepublic.
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2. It's always free
To be considered open source, the source code needs be freely available. That free availability does not mean the application itself is inevitably free. There are actually many companies making money from their open-source projects. Often, the suppliers tend to attach the price to areas such as support or added features. They also tend to make a community version of their product, which is free.
When a company sells a community version, it's usually a stripped-down, bare-bones variant of the commercial, open-source product. A great example of this approach is Zimbra, a powerful email and collaboration tool that offers a free, open-source edition as well as editions that have price tags and more features and less access to source.
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3. There's no support
Some open-source software offers support, sometimes at an extra cost, and some doesn't. This issue is often critical for larger companies. But even though a piece of open-source software doesn't have a corporate-friendly, 24/7 support hotline, that doesn't mean there is no support.
Sometimes, there are forums or mailing lists for support. In other cases, the developers who created or work with the software can be contacted. Support options are certainly available — even if that support might not be compatible with the corporate mindset.
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