Proprietary software products often have better documentation, better support; more thought out design and are more aggressively tested. Because the product supports an entire company—it must succeed. They have nicer tools, nicer interfaces. But there are downsides too, if a problem isn’t outlined in user troubleshooting documentation, it can become incredibly difficult to diagnosis and correct, and doing that is a frustrating, time intensive problem. The black box nature of the product is very limiting. If it’s not in documentation, it might as well not exist at all.”
From a business prospective—using open source allows you to invest in a technology that gives you the power to modify the code to better meet your business needs. It can accelerate development time and speed of diagnosing problems when issues pop up. And issues always do pop up. If something is not working very well, we can look at the problem which a much higher degree of granularity.
If it’s a simple problem, we never contact support. We only contact support when we’re stumped. And we’re not easily stumped. Usually, they can’t answer they question immediately because if we’re asking for help, the problem is complex. Our ticket is escalated, and eventually we talk to someone who can help us. But it does take time. Even if a support staff is top notch, there is the time is costs to deal with that, and that costs us and our clients’ time. We have a highly customized ESP installation for one of our clients it always take an enormous amount of time to explain over and over how we have our systems set up, the different parts work, and it’s a big pain to go through that every time you run across a problem. If it were open source, you can simply look at the source code and solve the problem.”
If you choose a popular open source search engine solution like Lucene Solr, you have an active, passionate community behind that solution. There are several developers looking at that engine, working on it, and actively posting in publicly available forums. You can often get your questions answered there by top notch experts in search technology. You can potentially talk to the original coders and creators of the product—and they are often happy to help you.
The downside is the formal documentation isn’t usually as good as the proprietary, and there isn’t a dedicated support team for the product. But if you have some savvy software developers on your team, the open source community is robust and willing to share information about the product. And having access to the source code is extremely valuable.”