Some companies spend mind-boggling amounts of money on software. This can be for ‘good’ reasons, eg having bespoke software written to run a very specific task, or for ‘bad, when a company is spending money unnecessarily.

Once an investment has been made in software, most commonly in the form of licences, software acquires a monetary value and future IT decisions are influenced by that investment. Once locked in to the products of one software house, making changes can seem overwhelmingly complicated. Companies can find themselves obliged to use software that no longer best serves their interests, but apparently unable to migrate to another system. From the point of view of a software house charging a lot of money for licences to use its programmes, this is a very satisfactory state of affairs.

Software licensing certainly can be very complex. There are endless different ways of charging and different rules about what you can do with software once you’ve bought it. This can apply to open source software too – there are entirely free and open models but also some that charge for premium services or for licences for more than so many seats etc etc – but the crucial factor here is that the software [source] code is open to view and will adhere to open standards (or at least the vast majority of open source software will).

Think of these open standards as train tracks – if every train (program) has its wheels the same distance apart, they can all run on the same rails. Proprietary (or ‘closed source’) software has its wheels all sorts of distance apart from program to program, which is why it can be so hard to get unrelated proprietary programs to work together or on a variety of operating systems.

Once you begin using open source software (eg LibreOffice, Firefox web browser), the value of your software lies in what it allows you to achieve, not in the money invested in it.

We work with many companies that choose to host their online services with us, but cheerfully continue to use bespoke and/or proprietary software in the office. Ultimately that’s none of our business, unless the company is struggling to integrate services from us with an existing office function or wants to migrate a service away from one of the proprietary giants to open source. We’re always happy to help, to advise and to help implement, though we might have to tackle this is a separately-charged project if it is going to require something out of the ordinary.