Pros and Cons of Open-Source Software to Support Critical Infrastructure

Pros and Cons of Open Source Software

Open-source software is becoming a top choice for professionals. From completing internal tasks to supporting public-facing servers, you can see open-source applications everywhere. But before you start using such software for critical infrastructure, you must understand its pros and cons.

Once you know both sides of the open-source software, it would be easy to conclude whether to use it or not.

So, let’s examine the open source software pros and cons to make the right decision for critical infrastructure.

What is Open-Source Software?

Open Source Software or OSS is a non-proprietary software. It means that someone has developed and released software that can be used and customized by everyone. The most common example of open-source software used in infrastructure is the Linux operating system.

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The main purpose of releasing open-source software is to collaborate with other professionals and update it for high-end usage. However, the purpose can differ from one software publisher to another. However, the code of such software can be accessed, modified, and used by anyone according to their requirements.

Pros of Using an Open Source Software

Open-source software benefits in numerous ways and the following are the top pros among them.

1: Freely Available

All the open-source software is freely available by the developers. Anyone can download, install, and use them regardless of the project’s size and type. Due to its availability for free, numerous freelance developers consider it to lower the project cost.

If you also want to cut costs, using open-source software can help you. Primarily, software development IDEs, operating systems, and testing tools are available under open source license. You can utilize them in your infrastructure to invest the saved cost for some other operation.

2: Community Support

Open-source software is primarily supported by a community of professionals, freelancers, and all other people who can contribute to it. It helps you avail of the support from a wide range of audiences with experience in different aspects of the IT infrastructure.

In addition, most of the open-source software has a forum associated with them. If you find any difficulty or need to discuss something, you can post it on the forum, and other professionals in the community will reply or provide the solution.

Furthermore, connecting with new people and expanding your network is an added advantage.

3: Easy and Quick Customization

You can access the code of open-source software and customize it per your requirements. For instance, if you want to integrate an additional functionality, you can write and add your code to the software. It will help you save money on purchasing new software for that particular feature.

Additionally, you can easily fulfil the needs of your infrastructure and align the software to business standards. As a result, you can expect favorable outcomes and modify the software until you are not satisfied.

4: Highly Flexible

When you choose to use open-source software, you are not bound to any architecture and infrastructure. You can choose the software per need and of your choice and utilize it. However, if you want to modify it, the code is accessible, and no one can stop you from doing so.

Therefore, you have complete control to integrate any new component, modify existing functionality, and embed new security mechanisms. As an outcome, your critical infrastructure will effortlessly run the software and provide you with the expected results.

5: Compatible With Latest Platforms

The community behind open-source software explicitly updates it whenever a new operating system or digital platform is released. Most of such software is compatible with the latest versions of Windows, Linux, and other operating systems.

In addition to the software compatibility, open-source software easily adapts to the new hardware and associated firmware and drivers. Thus, it supports you in utilizing the latest OS with all advanced functionalities for your critical infrastructure.

Cons of Using an Open Source Software

Let’s look at the cons of using open-source software, helping you understand why you should avoid them and prefer proprietary software.

1: Zero Vendor Support

Open-source software is supported by its community. You cannot be ensuring that a professional or a trained support executive will be available 24/7. If you face an issue or get in some trouble, the only choice is to solve it yourself or wait for a community member to respond to your query.

The forum replies are sometimes as late as 3 to 4 days or more. If the open-source software is running a critical infrastructure component, then its availability will be compromised.

2: Compatibility and Performance Issues

In some aspects, you can expect open-source software to be compatible with your chosen operating system and digital platform. However, the updates required to remain compatible are not released constantly. Due to this, the software starts to trigger issues, leading to lower performance and speed of the infrastructure.

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Furthermore, sometimes you are even required to remove the open-source software and use a proprietary one urgently. Therefore, the downtime increases, and additional costs have to be bearded.

3: Integration Issues

You can find integration issues while using open-source software. If the operating system developer or the hardware manufacturer changes the usage requirements, your infrastructure will immediately stop working.

You must think that you can make it compatible by writing custom code. But it’s not always the most affordable case. If you have the resources available, then you can try to modify the software. But, if you think of hiring a new employee and purchasing the system for development, it’s going to cost you more than purchasing proprietary software.

4: Lack of Security Controls

Most open-source software lacks security controls. They are configured with basic mechanisms, leading to enabling passwords and creating different user credentials. Due to this, the possibility of facing cyber-attacks has increased. You can face the following attacks on your critical infrastructure if you utilize open-source software:

  • Privilege Escalation
  • SQL Injection
  • Account Takeover
  • Backdoors
  • Ransomware
  • Spyware
  • Brute-force attack
  • XSS and more

Moreover, sometimes you are required to avail of external security software and hardware so that your infrastructure running on open-source software remains secure.

5: Complexity To Comply with Standards

There’s a very rare chance that open-source software complies with coding, regulatory, and industry standards. If you ever analyze their code, you can find repetitive code blocks performing the same functionality.

Using such software can lead you to face legal charges in certain cases, such as:

  • If you are processing financial transactions and the software doesn’t comply with PCI-DSS standards.
  • If you are using healthcare-associated data and the software doesn’t align with HIPPA.

Similarly, the regulations change per the government and industry, and there’s a high possibility that open-source software will comply with them.

How does Open Source differ from Proprietary Software?

Open source and proprietary are the two primary contrasting software types. You should assuredly know the difference between them to make reliable decisions for your critical infrastructure.

1: Licensing

 In the software industry, license refers to the terms, conditions, and distribution model used by the application developer/publisher. According to the license of proprietary software, end-users are not allowed to access code and perform any modification. Only the default features and functionalities can be used.

On the other hand, open-source software provides access to their code and allows modification per business needs.

Proprietary software examples:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Spotify
  • YouTube app
  • Windows OS
  • Netflix
  • Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code

Open Source software examples:

  • LibreOffice
  • GIMP
  • Linux OS
  • WordPress

2: Security

In terms of security, proprietary software is considered more secure than open source. The proprietary software publishers ensure that:

  • The app aligns with the latest standards.
  • All the vulnerable loopholes are patched.
  • The framework and associated components are updated to the latest version.
  • Advanced security controls are available to use, such as multi-factor authentication, access control lists, authorization, encryption, hashing, and more.

In contrast, not all such features can be expected in open-source software. At some point, you will need additional solutions with open-source components to maintain data integrity.

3: Cost

Some people choose open-source software because they are freely available. But, the free download is not the only thing that will help you save costs. Even paid proprietary software is a good deal.

Look at the following use cases to determine which software licensing is affordable.

  • If free open-source software lacks security control, it’s expensive, as you will need additional solutions with it.
  • Paying for proprietary software that provides all the necessary features will help you save money in the long run. Also, you will save money to purchase additional solutions.

Thus, cost-saving depends on personal requirements. So, you should always analyze every factor before making your decision.

4: Customization

Among both, open source is highly customizable. You can edit its code, add new features, and delete a code block according to need. In addition, it allows the integration of any third-party component regardless of its publisher.

However, proprietary software doesn’t allow customization. You can only use the provided set of features and functionalities. Moreover, you can only integrate APIs, plugins, and extensions allowed by the developer.

Thus, if you want software customized the way you want, open source wins.

5: Support

For open-source software, you will get community support through forums or any other means of communication. Also, you can troubleshoot by yourself and solve any issue by going through every code block and impacting security and availability.

But, with proprietary software, you receive dedicated support from the company. They will release updates to ensure stability, security, performance, and compatibility. In addition, you can contact their support executives, who are trained to resolve every error and issue within minimal time.

Concluding Up

Open source software (OSS) is highly used in critical IT infrastructures. However, it comes with some pros and cons that everyone should know before utilizing it. An OSS is free to download, easily customizable, flexible, and compatible with platforms.

However, it can also lack security controls, cause integration issues, and even severely impact resource availability. So, whenever you need to use open-source software, thoroughly analyze its features and then only implement it in critical infrastructure.

Windows Security

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta is a Cyber-Security Enthusiast who constantly updates herself with new advancements in the Web/Cyber Security niche. Along with theoretical knowledge, she also implements her practical expertise in day-to-day tasks and helps others to protect themselves from threats.

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