The Differences Between Open Source and Closed Source Software

by | May 11, 2019 | Technology Featured

No one ever said that running a business is easy. Every day you will be faced with tasks, challenges, and decisions that could potentially make or break the empire you are busy building. One solution to many issues that arise is HR software. Cloud systems are especially helpful when it comes to streamlining company processes and automating a lot of the administrative work. Deciding on what type of software your company will benefit from the best, however, is one obstacle that needs taken care of first.

Choosing between closed source and open source software is not a decision that can be made on a whim. You will need to outweigh the pros with the cons and decided which system will give your unique business the best advantages.

In this post, we will take a look at software differences. Before we do, let’s first clarify what open source and closed source software is.

Open Source Software (OSS) – This type of software operates by using the code that’s freely available on the internet.  This code can be duplicated, changed or deleted by other users and organizations. This software is open to the public who then have the option to continuously make updates and improvements as well as add on to the code and functionality.

Closed Source Software (CSS) – When it comes to operating CSS, the code is closely guarded and not open to the public. Only the original authors of the software can access, copy, and alter it. Closed software is not an in-house purchase, instead, you pay a subscription fee to use it.

To better understand the characteristics of OSS and CSS, we have made a comparison of 5 basic aspects: fee structure, security, support, source availability, and usability.

  1. Fee Structure

Open source software is often referred to as free software. You have access to open code that incurs no charge. Smaller businesses or start-ups often opt for free software because it helps to keep overheads low while the company finds its feet. This free product or service can, however, incur costs for additional features, like support, added functionality or a unique feature.

Closed source software, also regarded as paid software, requires a subscription fee (paid monthly or annually) so that you can make use of its functionality. The costs can vary depending on the complexity of the software. Generally, the more you pay, the better the product. This software tends to come with 24-hour support and is more agile in structure.

  1. Security

When it comes to security, open source software is more vulnerable. This is because the source code is open and can be viewed, shared and modified by anyone in a community – making it easy for hackers to practice on. The only benefit OSS has when it comes to security is that bugs are fixed quickly and the code is checked thoroughly, leaving the gaps for security breaches far and few between.

On the other end of the rope, you have closed source software. This can be fixed and maintained by the author of the software only. So, while security is extremely tight and almost impossible to hack, if something does go wrong with the software, you might have to wait some time before you get the support you need (usually no more than a few hours, however).

  1. Type of Support

In terms of the quality of the support you will get, CSS offers a better service. The fee you pay usually includes support from qualified software developers and programmers and in most cases, your query will be answered or your problem will be solved by an expert within hours from logging your details. The response is well organized and documented.

Since open source software is a free product, the only support options are forums, informative articles, and the odd hired expert or two. The response time when it comes to OSS support, however, can sometimes be faster than closed software support, depending on who’s online and who is ready to be of assistance.

  1. Source Code Availability

OSS gives anyone the ability to change the source code and there are no restrictions. Individuals can use the code to develop what they want as well as benefit from functionality that has been developed by others within the open software community. As the source code is easily accessible, it enables the software developers to improve the already existing programs.

In comparison, closed source software is more restricted since the source code cannot be changed or viewed by anyone other than the author or organisation to whom it belongs. While the source code might be confined, these limitations contribute to the better security and reliability of CSS.

  1. Usability

Usability is, unfortunately, one of the weaker aspects of open source software. User guides tend to be written for developers rather than to give instructions to the layperson. Also, because OSS is continuously changing, user-guides are often not updated to stay in line with the software’s features and functionalities.

When it comes to closed source software usability, however, then this type of software has the upper hand. Documentation is usually well-written and contains detailed instructions that are easy enough for the average user to understand and follow. CSS programs also tend to include one-on-one training. This training is often included in the licensing or subscription fees or it could incur an additional cost.

The Bottom Line…

The advantages of open source software lie in its flexibility and scalability. As your business grows, so too can your software, giving you free options to utilise the source code to its utmost capabilities.

Closed source software is easier to work with in the sense that it is more customised to your specific needs. You also don’t need to know how to code to get the software working – the developers do the tricky bits while you, the user, simply navigate the user-friendly user-interface.


  1. 5 Differences Between Open Source and Closed Source Software. API2Cart
  2. The Difference Between Free and Open-Source Software. Digital Ocean
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