UPDATED 09:00 EST / NOVEMBER 21 2014

Survey: 70 percent of IT pros prefer open source to proprietary software

hello my name is open sourceAn overwhelming majority of IT professionals favor open source software over proprietary alternatives, according to a new study from the Ponemon Institute conducted on behalf of Zimbra Inc., the enterprise collaboration provider. That mirrors a similar pattern among enterprise developers, over 80 percent of whom share that sentiment according to an earlier Forrester Research report.

The respondents to the two surveys pointed to many of the same reasons for their preference, most notably trust, with over 70 percent of software engineers and administrators believing open source and open core software, respectively, to be more reliable than proprietary products. Open-core software is commercially licensed software built on an open source base. Another area on which the two groups agree is that cost is no longer the primary differentiation between community-led and proprietary solutions. It’s now quality.

At the same time, Ponemon found that 66 percent of US-based practitioners believe that commercial versions of open-source software typically suffer from fewer bugs than the upstream project from which they’re derived. A similar percentage of their counterparts in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) agrees with that assessment, although the research institute found that they disagree on the risks. EMEA respondents favored privacy over security whereas their American peers tend to have it the other way around.

That fits into a broader picture of governance conflicts that the report reveals occur at alarmingly high rates. Nearly three quarters of the U.S.-based respondents acknowledged not following company policy on sharing sensitive documents and 80 percent admitted to accessing files not intended for them, part of which is because 74 percent of employees use collaboration applications that have not been vetted by IT.

That, in turn, is the result of what Ponemon and Zimbra present as dissatisfaction with proprietary messaging and sharing solutions. More than half of the American practitioners who participated in the study said they’re not content or only somewhat content with the current collaboration products used at their organizations, which are mostly closed-source. A proportionate percentage reported that they intend to replace their existing software within two years.

Zimbra sees that as an opportunity to drive adoption of its namesake communications and file sharing platform, which it offers in an open-source edition and a commercial version that layers proprietary features over the free core. With 65 percent of the American IT professionals who partook in the survey ranking ease of use as their most important consideration when choosing a collaboration solution, it’s not hard to guess what where the company will be focusing its value proposition going forward.

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