Should a company select proprietary, open source, or free software for its most important business information systems?

Essay by cspaffordUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, July 2009

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The debate over what type of software to use for important business information systems has been going on since computers were invented. In the early days of computers, open source and free software was riddled with security flaws and had nothing but problems. Commercially available software also had its issues, too, but at least you had someone to call if something went wrong - most of the time. Nowadays, even open source software has the option of commercial support through a concept called "commercial open source". This opens the debate up again to a whole new ballgame.

In 1981 when Microsoft released the first MS-DOS Operating System (Bellis, UNK), there was very little software available for commercial use. Applications consisted of small utilities that performed very specific tasks - scientific calculators, spreadsheets such as VisiCalc and word processors such as WordStar (Bellis, UNK) were in their infancy and really only performed basic tasks.

I can remember browsing around CompuServe's file areas looking for applications to do anything from keeping track of my home inventory to calculating my taxes. Most of these applications were free or were available for a small license fee and were deemed "shareware". Basically, you paid the author a small fee to use his/her software. You didn't own it, nor did you ever get the source code.

In 1984 when the GNU Project was started by Richard Stallman, the world was first introduced to the concept of open source software. Stallman had the goal of "creating a complete Unix-compatible software system made entirely of free software" (Unknown, 2009). After the internet became popular, websites began popping up such as SourceForge and FreshMeat that allowed developers to showcase their source code and allow other developers to contribute to their projects. Big projects such as OpenOffice (an open source...