When it comes to the different types of database software, business owners have the opportunity to choose from two; commercial database software (also referred to as proprietary) and open source database software. Global sales tend to grow annually for enterprises using both open-source and closed-source software. However, organisations are now gravitating towards open source solutions. Read on as we dive into the pros and cons of, and the differences between open source and commercial software.

What is an Open Source Software?

From a simple point of view, open source means that just about anyone can easily view the source code of any application. There are tons of legally approved open source licenses that allow users to do just about anything since permissive licensing is included. However, there are also some that are stricter and only allow certain actions when it comes to usage. 

Unlike other options, open source provides a wide range of attractive options. This is only due to the fact that they are full-featured relational database management systems. Most times they're provided for free or at a small additional and affordable cost. Popular examples of open-source databases include MySQL & PostgreSQL.

See: 8 ways to backup MySQL databases with commands & tools

What is a Commercial Software?

Commercial software is that which has been created for commercial purposes only. In essence, when these software are released, they're done for a premium and are not free like that of open source databases. However, there are still a number of commercially viable software that are free for the commercial setting, such as Oracle.

So, if you're interested in commercial software, there's the limited non-free licensing that requires an additional annual fee for support. With commercial software, the supplier or vendor is solely responsible for ensuring that quality control issues are dealt with, along with maintenance, upgrades and of course state-of-the-art technical support. They're also expected to facilitate patches, bug fixes, and provide updates as needed. 

Open Source Vs Commercial Databases

The Benefits of Open Source Databases

When it comes to the benefits of open source, there are tons to consider. Common bug fixes are easily implemented without needing to approach corporate for an approval process. As previously mentioned, the software is free and there are less restrictions on the license. For every paid option, there is always a free open source alternative available with the same and more features. 

Additionally, open source software can be audited for security purposes and it's a huge benefit since open source is more transparent by nature. If you're skilled in this area, you'll also be able to repair security issues and further inspect the source code. If you didn't know, there are some companies that also provide bounties for users that positively contribute to the safety of products. 

Some open source software can easily work across tons of other platforms if needed. Within the corporate setting, there is basically a bountiful share and most of the OSS project code is generally written by versed employees. 

The Downsides of Open-Source

While there are tons of good benefits of using open source, there are still some drawbacks. The main issue some people face is the technical support. The support offered generally comes from volunteer pros instead of full-time paid staff. It should be noted that open source products are only deemed safe when they're maintained and actively supported. However, this can be solved by using third party support, such as EDB Postgres. This popular solution offers all the benefits of an open source database (such as PostgreSQL), with additional technical support that usually only comes with a paid commercial database system.

Due to compatibility issues, there's no guarantee that open source software will work in each user's environment. Some of these issues range anywhere from software to hardware and professionals are needed to maintain and even install the relevant infrastructure. There's also a huge security risk associated with open source since some of them can easily contain security exploits.

There's also the burnout effect that comes when there is continued criticism of contributors' work. This results in projects being abandoned quite easily. Some software support and development plans can even be uncertain and limited. Hence, multiple factors play a huge role in the future of projects after they're released. 

The Benefits of Using a Commercial Database

There are quite a number of benefits that come from using commercial software. The main one being that there is a single contact point for any problems that occur. While it may sound simple, the truth is that you paid for particular needs and there is an entity that is accountable if problems should arise. 

The licensing is usually clear and there is a guarantee that comes with commercial software. Developers usually have a detailed plan for the software and roll out updates as they see fit. This allows companies to cut back on the costs associated with technical outages and failures.

The Downsides of Commercial Databases

There are also some common disadvantages that can happen at any time with commercial software as well. The biggest one being that the licensing guidelines are very strict. Most businesses move closer to over-licensing these software because they're terrified of audits. There's also the fact that software isn't guaranteed to perform in the way that it was intended to. 

Hence, it's only right to accept the best services with the highest performing solution when it is supported by a QA team, professional support or a corporate image. However, not because all of these are in place means that everything will be smooth sailing. 

While most businesses require licenses to fulfil their needs, there is still a huge risk when it comes to license wastage. Corporate software will work to a company's advantage but most of the features will waste away since some will never be used. The source code of corporate software cannot be altered which forces companies to spend extra on premiums for more functionality. 

Vendors can easily discontinue software at any time. This then forces businesses to find alternatives that will cost time and money. It might even be quite the tedious process to transition from one platform to another. In these cases, staff will also need to be retrained.

Open Source Vs Commercial Databases: The Conclusion

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that both open source and commercial databases have their downsides and upsides. If you are considering which database option to go for, in most instances it makes more sense to opt for open-source over commercial databases since they are far more cost effective.

In addition to this, they come with better quality source codes, tighter security against hackers and superior performance. For best results, opt for an open-source solution such as PostgreSQL, but with the added security and technical support of a third party.

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