In the IT world, is often common to think in terms of intellectual property, particularly when dealing with business. It is regular practice for IT companies to create custom software for businesses and then sell full or partial usage rights of the software for the business’ use. What many businesses unfortunately can attest to is that having such software is great until something goes wrong.
If something happens to the IT company, consultant, or even employee that was responsible for creating the code for the software, preventing the business from using their services, they are stuck with the software and may not be able to maintain it.
This is especially a problem if the IT company kept the source code, and many businesses find themselves tangled in legal disputes trying to get source code of software they exclusively use. The problem is compounded with web applications, which need to be changed much more frequently than local software.
With free and open source software, the user is free to view the source code, modify it, and even redistribute it under the terms of its free software license. It essentially extends the legality of copyright. While the default status of copyright is “all rights reserved”, free and open source software allows for “some rights reserved”. For example, the GPL allows modification and redistribution of source code, but only on the condition that the code is shared under the same license.
Many times, the software that a business needs already exists in one form or another, and by using and possibly modifying open source code, they can avoid vendor lock-in, keep whatever changes they make, and still get security and other updates from the upstream project. This allows them more flexibility and freedom, while also contributing to technological progress.
For this reason, and others, free and open source software has become very popular on dedicated servers, even for major corporations like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Although the benefit of lower costs cannot be overlooked, it is the freedom to customize their own software as they please and also get contributions from the community, that ultimately makes free and open source software so beneficial.