Storyblok solves the Proprietary vs. Open Source Software dilemma
Are you caught up in the proprietary software vs open source software dilemma? If so, you have come to the right place. This article offers a comparison between the two software applications and talks about the areas in which Storyblok, as a headless content management system (CMS) and a proprietary software solution, can provide the most benefits for agencies and clients.
Most digital agencies will usually work with multiple vendors across all their technology stacks, including CMSs. Although we are aware that agencies will have technological preferences depending on their history, type, customers, preferred industries, and success stories; it’s important to highlight the characteristics of both proprietary and open-source software applications and inform you about some of the amazing benefits of using Storyblok for your projects. So, let’s start by providing simple open-source and proprietary software definitions.
What is Open Source Software (OSS)?
OSS is software that is distributed with its source code, making it available for use, modification, and distribution with its original rights. OSS typically includes a license that allows programmers to modify the software to best fit their needs and control how the software can be distributed.
What is Proprietary Software?
Proprietary software comes with proprietary rights, meaning the source code is hidden and the user cannot modify it. The proprietor has control over its development, which results in a ready-to-use product. The user purchases a license to be able to use the software. Windows, macOS, or iOS operating systems are examples of proprietary software.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the characteristics and benefits of OSS and proprietary software, as well as the differences between the two.
Although OSS is viewed as being license (cost) free and proprietary as being licensed (i.e. incurring cost), the reality is somewhat different. In fact, many open source products do have a nominal licensing fee in addition to the added cost of hosting, support, and maintenance costs - as opposed to proprietary software which typically includes most, if not all of these within the license price.
It’s true that proprietary software has a higher licensing cost than open source. However, the total cost of the software will typically be much higher on an OSS deployment when you factor in implementation, development, support, hosting, and other professional services costs. And while on OSS deployments the agency will likely have support contracts in place that will bring recurring revenue on a monthly basis, this revenue won’t be of high margin.
OSS solutions tend to be quite flexible and can be customized to the specific needs of a particular client. Licensed proprietary software, by contrast, will predominantly be the same across all clients, with the opportunity to customize certain features as needed. The fact that all features, updates, and enhancements are done at a product level as opposed to a client level, there are no real requirements on either the agency or the end client post-installation.
Development & Deployment
Proprietary software is, in most cases, an out-of-the-box solution, only requiring implementation and potential integration services. This makes it easy to use, even by non-technical people. While there may well be an existing framework with OSS, it will still likely need to be built from the ground up, as well as any associated implementation and integration services. Therefore, although OSS may offer more flexibility and customization, this can significantly slow down deployment, as well as add unnecessary additional costs both upfront and during the lifetime of the project. In addition, proprietary software is much more stable than open source alternatives because before releasing the code to the public, the owners ensure that their software goes through significant testing processes, quality assurance reviews, and vulnerability checks.
While additional revenue from customization may be enticing for agency partners, it doesn’t come without its own pitfalls. For example, a client may constantly request minor UI updates for their users, but it would be difficult to judge if these actually bring any value to the client. It may suit the client, and the agency, to concentrate on projects that will truly bring benefits to the client, rather than lots of small customizations that are very time-consuming for the agency and costly for the client.
Support & Maintenance
Support and hosting contracts for OSS solutions can be very attractive for agencies as those provide a revenue floor and guarantee a small stream of future income. However, the cost of maintaining support can be very high when taking into consideration the resources required to triage, fix, test, and deploy bug fixes. Moving developers from one task to another (i.e. software support) is incredibly inefficient and provides a much lower profit margin than, for example, having a developer work on one project for an extended period of time.
It’s more beneficial to allow the experts (i.e. Storyblok) who work on and manage the product on a daily basis to look after the maintenance - thus allowing the agency resource to concentrate on new and more profitable projects.
Security risk with open-source software
There are many additional security risks associated with open source software as opposed to proprietary software. To begin with, the source code is open, which means that software experts are extremely familiar with the source code and infrastructure for all deployments. Moreover, the security of the various applications and integrations available will also be highly dependent on the creator. In a proprietary environment, the owner (proprietor) gets to have the final say and control over all the integrations and applications that can be used with it and may revoke licenses or applications if they see fit for higher security reasons.
Finally, a proprietary software provider will take ownership of the overall security of the platform, making it extremely safe. Depending on the implementation or environment, an open-source provider may not take any ownership of security threats or issues and leave the responsibility and risk up to the end client or implementor.
In theory, there shouldn’t be much of a difference in scalability between the two software examples. Most software is designed to scale vertically and horizontally. Therefore, adding additional capacity or new features and integrations should not be an issue. However, since many open-source implementations are highly individualized and customized, there is always a risk that it could take quite a lot of additional investment for a client to be able to scale up when required, especially at the pace that they need to. In addition, OSS can be very version dependent, which means moving from one version to a newer one can be quite time-consuming and costly for the client.
In theory, OSS should be easier to retain than proprietary software. Proprietary software is typically designed to be implemented quickly and therefore requires less upfront cost and, of course, less capital investment over the time period of the software. Therefore, moving from one proprietary software to another will be more acceptable than switching from one OSS provider to another.
Why Storyblok and not an OSS?
Storyblok is maintenance-free - new features and versions can be launched without any effort for the end user or for the partner agency.
Storyblok provides support directly to the client - reducing the need for the agency to provide and manage the software
With Storyblok, agencies enjoy a quicker and smoother deployment than with an OSS. This results in happier clients and more profitable projects.
Using Storyblok guarantees reduced security risks - no open access to source code and audited apps & extensions.
Storyblok provides enhanced future-proofing for agency clients - continued development and deployment means clients don’t get stuck on old or outdated versions of the software.
Using Storyblok allows agencies to open up their talent pool for hiring - no requirement to have new team members that have specific knowledge in Storyblok as well as front-end technologies.
Full end-to-end support team from Storyblok:
Partner Program, Partner Success Managers, and Account Executives to help during the sales process.
DevRel Engineers to help during implementation (license dependent).
Customer Success Managers (license dependent) and support team for post-go-live.
Marketing and content teams to help promote agencies and agency projects.
From the client's perspective, proprietary software is a no-brainer. There is a much lower initial and capital cost involved, it offers more flexibility in the future, and they will always have the most up-to-date and modern version available to them. And although there are a number of benefits that OSS provides to an agency, we hope to have shown you the multiple advantages of proprietary software for an agency and your clients. Some of those benefits include a better UI experience for your clients, a more secure platform, better support for you and your clients, a quicker and smoother deployment, and much more. The end and most important results are happier clients and more profitable projects.