One of the big attractions behind the growing popularity of open source software is the ability to get it and use it for free. In a world of ever-rising costs in pretty much every other aspect of business and life, "free" is an offer that's increasingly difficult to refuse.
Support is one area, however, where "free" may not be all it seems -- particularly for enterprises.
Users of free software typically rely on the generally sizable community of users and developers for help if questions arise. That support can be excellent, and many users swear by it. At the enterprise level, however, it's worth considering more closely -- particularly when many users are involved and the software is mission-critical.
In addition to offering their software for free, most of the big enterprise Linux operating systems and numerous popular applications give users a choice of paying for support from the developers themselves. In some cases, a software developer may even sell a more feature-rich commercial version.
So when does it make sense to spend the extra money? There's no one formula to provide an answer to that common question, but numerous key factors can help you decide.
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