SMEs opt for free and open source software to cut costs

Wednesday January 11 2012

Microsoft controls close to 90 per cent of the global computer software market.

Photo/FILE Microsoft controls close to 90 per cent of the global computer software market. Whether open source software is less costly to administer than proprietary software, argue the experts, depends largely on a ready pool of resources trained on the system, the availability of administration tools that allow system administrators to manage a greater number of systems, and the number of version upgrades and patches that are issued by the developer. 

By FRANKLINE SUNDAY

Free and open source software is steadily growing in popularity in Kenya as firms move to cut costs and achieve more customised technology solutions.

Many companies particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have adopted free and open source software (FOSS) to power their systems in the wake of increasing costs and shrinking IT budgets.

Adoption of FOSS is also seen as a promising solution to software piracy in countries like Kenya.

Globally, software piracy is blamed for the high cost of commercial software. In Kenya, estimates show that 80 per cent of the commercial software is pirated. Faced with legal action, many operators of cyber cafes have migrated to the Free Open Source software, whose source code is available for modification and is often free.

Enock Kiprono, the CEO of Fenesi, a tech start-up that offers internet solutions, says the increased adoption of FOSS has a lot to do with the cost element. “One of the main reasons why piracy is so rife not only in Kenya, but in Africa is the prohibitive cost of off-the-shelf registered software,” he says.

“A typical management information system (MIS), for example, will cost you millions of shillings depending on the size of the organisation. This is without taking into account other costs of hardware configuration, customisation, support and the overall time it will take set it all up,” he said.

Mr Kiprono said many web developers are using FOSS to design internet solutions for their clients not only because of the cost effectiveness, but also for convenience.

“Many web designers nowadays will go for open source resources like Joomla, PHP or Wordpress because it offers more control to their clients in terms of content management,” he said.

“If you want to migrate to another domain, for example, you can easily move all your content including comments to the new address. This saves the inconvenience of having one’s content scattered over two or three sites,” he said.

It also easier to configure and customise at the back end, allowing users to manage their own portals once the website is up and running. Clients can make their own changes and update the information as and when they want.

“Most of my clients upload their own content and this has reduced the fee on websites development for clients because in the past you had to pay someone to upload the content for you every so often,” said Mr Kiprono.

Linet Kwamboka, a software developer, says many developers prefer to use open source resources because it provides them with the opportunity to do more.

“Most of your clients will ask you for very specific customisation and as a developer you have to give them