One of the most common questions that business owners ask themselves when choosing between a free and a paid version of the software is: "Why should we consider a paid system when there is an open source solution readily available for free?" Fair enough. But as the good old saying goes: “A miser pays twice.” In the case, trying to save money by choosing an open source help desk, you might end up paying more while getting lower quality service.
Today, we will try to figure out whether or not it is such a good idea for businesses to choose an open source help desk over a paid one, by comparing the main pros and cons of each.
Open source vs. Closed source: who is what?
An open source software is the one that allows anyone on the Internet access the source code and modify it whichever way desired. In the case, you get a completely free version of a help desk with all essential features which you can evolve to your discretion.
Closed source software is distributed on a paid license basis. In order, to say, use Zendesk, you have to purchase a license for each support agent in your company. You can’t access the source code and can configure the help desk within limits allowed by the vendor.
Given this, the idea of getting a free solution which you can modify without any restrictions sounds appealing. However, it can take a couple of interesting twists in the following areas:
- Support Service
- Upgrades and updates
Twist #1: Price
The most obvious difference and at the same time advantage is the fact that open source help desk is free. However, these days you’ll see have a long list of paid services on the other side of the price tag.
The majority of reputable open source help desks are semi-commercial. This means that you still get access to the source code, can use it free of charge, regardless of the number of agents; however, you may be charged for extras like add-ons, integration, and additional services, which can negate any cost-saving advantages in some cases.
Also, if you’re going to run a self-hosted help desk, then you will need in-house resources to evolve the install, maintain and evolve it.
Eventually, you may end up paying for a “free” piece of software when you could buy a ready-made, professional solution.
Twist #2: Support Service
If you’re hoping to get qualified support from an open source help desk vendor for free. Well, you probably won’t. Open source software heavily relies on loyal and engaged online communities. So, if you want to get support for free, you’ll have to browse forums and blogs to find it.
However, if the community fails to help you out with your problem, you’ll have to either solve it on your own or in the case of CDesk pay $50 for Instance Support.
Proprietary help desk vendors are very straightforward with what scope of support services you can expect. When choosing a pricing plan, you’ll see right away what is included in your package. Besides that, you also get access to a vast information hub with in-depth manuals, documentation, FAQs, and forums.
Twist #3: Updates and upgrades
If you have the in-house resources to evolve a self-hosted help desk, then an open source solution might be beneficial. Having access to the source code you get all the flexibility and freedom that there is. However, if you’re expecting the open source platform to adapt to the changing needs of the users, that probably won’t happen. Here’s why:
- To come out with new features and improvements, you need R&D specialists, which are hard to attract, especially for free.
- Any changes to the source code can limit the potential growth for other users.
Choosing a professional help desk, you choose growth and improvement. Vendors often have R&D teams who investigate customer’s needs to release targeted product upgrades and updates.
Twist #4: Usability
Usability and design are often a major area of criticism for open source software vendors. On the one hand, it makes sense. You get a tool with a set of essential features which you can modify whichever way you like.
On the other hand, if you don’t have the in-house capabilities or funds to hire a specialist to create yourself a sleek, intuitive help desk, then it may be a significant problem.
You may be thinking: “So what? We will use a tool that looks like it was built in the 2000s. Big deal.” However, design is about more than just looks. Its primary task is to create a flow and let users seamlessly follow it. I.e., be productive and easily achieve tasks.
Accordingly, poor design and usability = lower productivity.
Paying for a professional help desk, it’s much more likely to get a tool which not only looks good but is also intuitive. Design is one of the focal selling points for paid software vendors. They also take care of creating detailed user manuals to help adopt their software faster which is not always what open source software vendors do.
Twist #5: Security
As a company working with customers, you most likely have a lot of sensitive data in your database. Thus, the security of an open source platform should be a major concern.
Because of lack of continuity and shared vision of the development process, there’s always a risk of being introduced to a malicious code which not only can spread viruses but also collect information without your knowledge.
Paid help desk software vendors, on the contrary, write their code in a controlled environment by a dedicated team as well as assures the quality. Only authorized personnel can access and edit the source code which significantly reduces the risks.
Besides, the team consistently runs audits and updates their security measures. To be fair though, no security can be flawless.
To pay or not to pay, that is the question
There is no unambiguous answer to this question. Hopefully, we gave you a clue of the potential opportunities and risks of these types of help desk licenses which will help make an informed decision.