A common misunderstanding is that free software (replace the terms with "open source software" as you wish) will never involve costs. While this might be indeed true regarding you don't need to pay for licenses, they often don't understand

  • you might have to pay for actually getting access
  • the learning curve might be steeper (which means more costs)
  • you might have to pay for support, and are surprised if "customer" service will not help out for free
  • you might want to pay somebody to extend the software
  • developers generally need something to eat and live from.

I'd love to make them understand them the freedoms involved, how to benefit from those, that they are (or should be) part of a community and if possible return something to the community (for example, pay somebody to develop new features and put them back into the original product).

How to make customer understand free software might involve costs, but brings advantage beyond licensing costs?

  • 1
    Hot or How? Typo? – user114 Jun 23 '15 at 20:02
  • "you might have to pay for actually getting access" - what exactly do you mean by that? – Michael Schumacher Jun 23 '15 at 20:10
  • @MichaelSchumacher That you need to pay to edit or view, or to access it? – Zizouz212 Jun 23 '15 at 20:10
  • The definition of "open source software" can be very broad. Let's stick with products that involve payments for getting regular, direct access to it (this is common business model for a bunch of wordpress addons, for example). I'd consider proprietary software with sources revealed as out of scope here. – Jens Erat Jun 23 '15 at 20:13

There are two aspects to this.

First, the costs: you already enumerate several of these. I am not sure that this needs to be explained, because the majority of organizations that purchase software understand that there will be bug fixes, security updates, etc. They need some IT staff to manage this, and support may cost money via a support contract. If an organization does not "get" this then put it this way: not paying for support also has a cost when it is midnight on Saturday, the network is down due to a DDOS or security issue, and nobody is on call to fix it. Money is no longer coming in to the company because an IT system is nonfunctional. No revenue means no profit: that is an easy sell.

Next, the benefits. Whatever your feelings are, business suits do not typically care about the benevolence of giving back to the community. Unless there are some serious brownie points to be earned (e.g. a fracking company helping to clean up the environment is a good example), the political capital is ephemeral.

Instead, focus on the benefits to the company. With open source, you have the source. You can modify it and it does not cost anything. Be careful, however, as it may interfere with the support contract mentioned previously. At the very least, you can help the vendor fix bugs quicker when your own IT staff can audit the code, follow stack traces, understand core dumps, etc. You may be able to extend the code, write plugins, etc. that have minimal impact on support and provide business value to the company.

And that right there is the key: what is the business value? Think dollars and cents, and throw out any notion of the greater good. The people signing your paycheck probably do not care.

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