Planning for an e-commerce operation is crucial to its success and choosing an e-commerce platform is the keystone. At this stage, people often wonder what is available from open-source solutions such as Magento, Open Cart, OS Commerce, etc. especially in terms of the costs that may be involved.
Ideally, the open source model should be seen as a concept that favors community-based collaboration. In practice, this is not what happens! Let’s imagine an ideal world in which progress goes something like: free open source solution, source codes as company property, new features being developed without being locked into a specific development company.
Okay, so open source model code is free to download. But then what?
Someone will have to deploy, customize and support this solution, with hardware and monitoring to keep it up and available, while constantly evolving and displaying a competitive edge.
In most cases, customization alters the features of a solution, losing the user-friendly appeal with the installation of new, community-based functionalities, which tend to be compatible only with non-customized versions.
Another factor is the national origin of source code and applications developed. Most Brazilian applications are made for the North American market, so they are not standardized, which means more risk for a store installing them.
This kind of installation becomes much more laborious and the result is often that the community ends up not being tapped in the most effective ways it could be. There are also security issues for open source solutions since there exists the risk of greater exposure.
Customizing an open source solution
Customization can also create another obstacle for a company: it becomes the vendor`s hostage. A team hired to deploy and customize may concentrate all of the project’s details using restricting linkage with all of the platform’s requirements, in effect, making the project completely dependent upon the “solution” by locking it into the platform.
Finally, having source code may be an overall disadvantage: as part of a company’s assets, it will depreciate unless there is a continuous investment to develop it further and innovate to evolve with the times.
In addition to these challenges, some companies choose to deploy and customize source code internally, which leads to infrastructure failures. Not to mention the wasted energy that could be used for their core focus – thus directly impacting costs and results. In essence, even if a solution if advertised as free there really is no such thing as a “free lunch!”
It is interesting to note that the uptake of open source solutions have followed the same life cycle as other technologies. Initial pioneers’ enthusiasm was followed by massive adhesion that produced the impression of fast growth. Then came the reality of fragmentation: companies started customizing their solutions so they were no longer open-source and they created new cycles with projects of their own.
In conclusion, an open source solution, within the source code ownership model, will eventually be confused with programming languages. An open source solution may compete directly with a programming language and its deployment team will be competing with commercial solutions on the market.
Another aspect is the wide range of costs involved for an operation using open source software: hardware, internal and/or external teams, the cost of the effort required for the platform’s evolution, new functionalities and corrections.
On the other hand, SaaS model solutions are gaining tremendous ground. Enterprise companies like Consul, Brastemp, Sony, Electrolux, Disney, and L’Oreal have used this type of technology for their e-commerce operations, and have been met with excellent results.
This model ensures that a retailer will be focused on the core business activities for their operation: “selling and delivering,” instead of continuously having to correct mistakes and support to their technology. If you are interested in a more efficient performance for your E-commerce operation, it is important to know from the start that the open source model is not truly “free.”