To pay or not to pay, that is the question. Or at least, that is the question many web developers find themselves pondering when choosing software. It doesn’t take much digging around the internet to discover tons of open source, aka free, software to assist with projects. JQuery is lauded as a favorite, to give just 1 example of hundreds.
But is open source software (OSS) really the best way to go? Most of the time, closed source, aka paid, software will save you time. Since time equals money, this provides a pretty strong argument why you might want to shell out the money and get the job done right (and fast).
Here are some reasons why web developers should consider paying for tools.
Open Source Software Is Limited
OSS touches every niche available, and this is great. If you are a new developer or not exactly sure where your weak points are, playing around in OSS might be just the kick you need to keep a project from stalling. However, most OSS software is limited in what is offered.
Transparency Does Not Equal Support
The community-based OSS can feel a bit more transparent to a web developer. Wikis, question boards and comments often give the illusion of complete support. I hate to break this to you, but while fellow developers often do have great answers and a love for the job, they won’t always know your exact problem. You can’t depend on the kindness of strangers to be there to work with you on a bug or question like a paid tool provider.
Areas Where Paid Support Matters Most
- Guaranteed Support. This one is pretty non-negotiable. Many companies will not even consider allowing their developers to use OSS. Too risky, and bad for reputation. Paid tools come with peace of mind that your problems can be answered, and all the time that would have been spent on forums is reduced to almost zero.
- Reputation. What exactly will you tell a client who has just paid you good money to create a product, only to find out you don’t use professional tools? Granted, there are a plethora of outstanding OSS tools out there. We aren’t discrediting them, but clients who don’t understand web development won’t understand why you aren’t using paid tools.
- Code Quality. Not all OSS is created with a large budget, or any budget at all. The infrastructure and tools required to make dependable products just isn’t there. OSS has a problem with code quality. The higher the lines of code rise, the faster quality falls.
- Licensing. When using OSS, there are specific rules. Users must comply with license terms depending upon which components you’re using. When you choose a paid tool, the vendor license agreement has you covered. You know exactly what you are using it for, and won’t be piecing it together. Should you have a software compliance audit and your OSS licenses are not correct, there could be serious legal ramifications.
Support, Support, Support
Fixing bugs is part of the game, and sometimes, it’s most of the game. Having tools available to test, make life easier and most importantly, save time, puts the control back in developer’s hands. The more time you have to focus on what is important, such as user behavior or future directions, the better.
With OSS, there is no easy fix. Bugs mean scouring the internet, posting on message boards, and begging favors from other developers to help give you your project back. Paid tools offer the convenience of emailing customer service, picking up the phone, or everyone’s favorite option: entering a ticket.
Tickets aren’t fixed immediately, but you know someone is working on it for you, and they will be getting back to you with an answer. All of this is happening while you are busy on another area of your project.
The guaranteed support, code quality and reliability of paid tools make them a solid investment. Plenty of OSS tools are legit and made with the best intentions by dedicated communities, but they can’t help you the way a paid technical support team will.