Paying for Open Source Support: A Detriment or Advantage?

I came across a blog this morning weighing paying somebody, either a vendor or independent software consultant, to customize an open source application or leveraging the developer community. The author initially seems to take a pro-community stance, stating:

“My personal experience, after seven years of involvement with LAMP type production server environments, is that the free community distributions of many well-respected Open Source products are so good that they rarely, if ever, required paid support. That is, if you have the reasonable in-house expertise.

But what if you don’t? Or what if you’re leveraging a perfectly good open source application that doesn’t have the community ecosystem that a giant like Linux does? I’ve heard a similar argument before, notably from proprietary vendors or industry pundits who simply don’t like the idea of commercial open source. In the pass, they’ve almost made it sound like paying for open source support is a detriment, or oxymoron.

The truth is, with a few PHP developers, a company would be capable of downloading Sugar Community Edition and building out Sugar 5.0 themselves, without ever paying a dime to SugarCRM. But therein lays the difference: rather than considering paying for open source support a detriment, I believe it should be considered an advantage. The commercial open source model is about offering customers the flexibility to actually own the software and do with it what they please, whether that includes paying for customizing the software or doing it yourself.

If the company has the in-house expertise to build Sugar up from Community Edition, so be it. If they need a little help along the way and ask for either Sugar’s or one of our partner’s expertise, so be it. In either event, the end result is a piece of software custom developed to meet your business’ needs, and a win-win situation for all parties involved.