In the latter case, the product’s implementation of the relevant file format may be limited. A case in point is OpenOffice which, while offering a high degree of compatibility, does not – and can not – guarantee 100% compatibility in each and every single case.
Now, Microsoft Office is a significant piece of software and so it’s been an obvious target for trying to achieve compatibility. Consider other products however. For instance, any financial software you might use. If it’s a proprietary package chances are the underlying data can only be used by that piece of software. If that software company goes out of business you might find you have data which can no longer be used in years to come.
Last year a small accounting software firm called 2Clix went out of business and into liquidation. This company achieved world-wide notoriety when it attempted to sue a popular online forum where customers had posted unflattering comments. If not for this, many people would never have heard of them.
Nevertheless, 2Clix shut its doors. One of the complaints customers had was that 2Clix would refuse to operate if the annual maintenance fee had not been paid – a fee separate to the initial purchase price and which, it had been assumed, only covered upgrades and support. This meant even if you discontinued use of the product in favour of a different financials package you had to continue paying maintenance for several years or you lost all access to historical data.
Worse, when the company ceased it was no longer possible to get maintenance even if you agreed to the fee. So, when your current license period lapsed that was it; businesses had possibly years and years of important information which was plain and simply no longer accessible. Even though it was their own data.
By stark contrast, if a FOSS program went belly-up you’d never be stuck. Your documents, your data, your information would be available forever because the specifications are always available – as encoded within the program source code.
Once again, you don’t have to be a programmer for this to benefit you. You might be the CEO of a major business. However, you can find someone – even if you need to hire them – to help out. You can rest easy that your electronic data can always be opened if it has been stored in a FOSS file format.
Remember, just because FOSS has the word “free” in it, it’s not the same as freeware. FOSS may not cost anything but it’s “free” in a broader sense. It’s free to use in any way you require. More than this, it’s free from risk.
Can you really afford to be using anything less?