Friday, 18 March 2016

Comparing Open And Closed Source Web Based Software

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The core of modern technology is dependent on software. The importance of software cannot be overemphasized especially in developed nations. Many products of technology around us are powered by software. Our phones, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant), modern cars, some wristwatch, microwave, and industrial machines and so on all depend on software to function. The internet wouldn’t exist without software. All that we surf on the World Wide Web are made available by web based software. This software can either be open source or closed source. Open source software is available in source code form while closed source is not. In this post we’re going to compare web based open and closed source software (in the form of plugins, content management systems and blogging engines) in terms of performance, security and availability.

Before we move on, let us quickly discuss the terms Plugins, Blogging engines and web CMS (Content Management Systems).

Content Management Systems – A web CMS is a system designed to simplify the publication of web content to web sites. The user of a web content management system does not need to know how to code or how the core of the system works. Some CMS like Joomla, WordPress and Drupal are open source while others like Microsoft SharePoint are closed source.

Plugins – These are modules of code that are meant to be addendums to existing software for added functionality. For example after creating a web site with Word press, a plugin can be added to provide site statistic. They’re actually called modules in Drupal CMS. Word press also has a lot of plugins, many of which are freeware.

Blogging Engines – These are meant to simplify the creation of blogs without having the knowledge of HTML, CSS and some other web related languages. Word press and Blogger are two most popular blogging engines.

Now we can go ahead to compare open and closed source web based software in terms of availability, performance and security.

Open source web based software is available in source code form. This is why skilled web developers with good knowledge of web scripting languages are very flexible in using CMS like Word press. Closed source web software is not available in source code form. License is required for every use of closed source software. We can therefore say that open source software is more readily available than closed source.

It is believed by some developers and internet enthusiasts that closed source software perform better than open source. They reasoned that programmers behind open source software are not skilled and experienced enough. Others believe that code available in source code form is easily analyzed for bugs and as a result performance optimization tips are quickly suggested and this is a plus on the part of the end user.

Of the three issues, this is the most important. The major concerns of open source are fear of backdoors, flaws and other security vulnerability issues. Since open source software is easily accessible in source code form, it is believed by some developers and security analysts that hackers and malicious users can easily find out flaws and launch attack afterwards. Therefore they tend to embrace closed source software. However some other experts argued that most open source software are backed by community effort and as a result security vulnerabilities are easily found and fixes made available in form of updates and patches. This is the reason why users always need to be aware of recent versions of open source software.
It has also been proven that many closed source software have fallen victim to exploitation of security flaws they’re vulnerable to, almost at the same rate with open source. As John Viega and GaryMcGraw noted, it’s “a false belief that code compiled into binaries remains secret just because the source code is not published”. That is, when code is running, hackers have various methods for examining it – “security by obscurity” isn’t as affective as many think.

We have compared open and closed source web based software in terms of availability, performance and security. It is now left for readers to make their choice. To me there isn’t much advantage in choosing closed source over open source when it comes to web based software but you can make further research before making your conclusion. I hope this post has been educative. Thanks for reading.
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