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Open Source PIM: Why Your Brand Shouldn't Invest in a DIY Solution

August 8, 2019 / by Tina Eaton

These days, with a little Googling, just about anything can be found for free or cheap online.

But just because you can download that movie from a sketchy bit torrent site instead of paying $2.99 to rent it on iTunes doesn’t mean you should.

And just because you can download an open source Product Information Management (PIM) solution that’s less expensive than paying for a SaaS version also doesn’t mean you should.

OK, so we’re comparing apples and oranges a little bit. One of those things is literally against the law (pirating the movie—do we really have to tell you that?). An open source PIM solution is a completely legitimate option that may save you some money upfront, but in terms of labor, upkeep, customization, and more, the cost is likely to add up in the long run.

Deciding on any PIM software takes careful consideration, so let’s walk through the pros and cons of open source vs. SaaS. By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to choose a PIM that will truly help your bottom line.

What Is an Open Source Product Information Management (PIM) System?

Any kind of open source software is software that has its source code posted online, so users can make modifications to it to fit their needs. Open source software is generally available to download for free or at a steep discount compared to its SaaS counterparts.

Open source PIM software can generally do all the things any PIM software can do. PIM helps to:

  • Maintain data consistency across multiple channels
  • Improve the accuracy of your product data
  • Enable faster and easier omnichannel marketing and sales
  • Decrease the time-to-market for your products
  • Improve communication with manufacturers and suppliers
  • Lower costs for product data management
  • Adapt to market changes as they happen
What is a PIM

Every ecommerce retailer should have a PIM solution. But an open source one?

On the surface, open source sounds appealing. It’s cheaper than SaaS PIM software and basically infinitely customizable. But a deeper look shows that an open source solution is not right for every retailer.

Pros and Cons of Open Source PIM

At the end of the day, whatever PIM solution you choose is an investment in your business. You want to make sure you’re getting as much bang for your buck as possible, so choosing a PIM takes careful consideration of all the options, including open source software.

There are upsides and downsides to any software. These are what we find to be the pros and cons of choosing an open source solution.

Pros of Open Source PIM

If you’re considering an open source PIM solution, you’ve probably already been drawn in by some of its pros, which include:

  • A solution that adapts to you because you can configure the software however you need and on any platform, based on the requirements of your product catalog.
  • Unlimited API connectors so you can add all the ones you want or need, not just the ones that are offered by the PIM system you choose.
  • No permanence—you can make changes to your system whenever you want to.
  • More affordability. This is probably what drew you to open source PIM solutions in the first place—you can often get one for free or much less than the licensing fees that usually come with SaaS PIM.

Cons of Open Source PIM

Before you jump in, keep in mind that no system is perfect. The pros of an open source PIM, in many cases, are outweighed by the cons, which include:

  • Unless you’re an expert at coding, you’re going to need to hire an IT team to help you implement and customize the system.
  • It can be tough to find compatible extensions and connectors for an open source system.
  • Your PIM system won’t come with a contract for complementary plugins, like the ones included with many SaaS systems.
  • You won’t get any included training or customer support with your system, a perk that usually comes with the license for a SaaS solution.

Why You Should Choose SaaS Over Open Source PIM

Those cons are the reason we think SaaS is a better fit for most business owners.

SaaS stands for Software as a Service. SaaS is a type of software for which you pay for a license, often on a monthly or yearly subscription model.

Why choose SaaS over open source PIM?

Going with a SaaS PIM solution will allow you to focus resources on your product information, rather than spending a ton of money on an IT team to implement and maintain an open source solution. It means focusing your money on your business needs without the restraints of having to meet the needs of a team of developers. Implementation and support for SaaS solutions are usually built into the licensing fee, so you can focus on what you’re good at: Running your business.

Plus, there are SaaS PIM solutions that won’t break the bank, like Plytix’s free PIM software for small- and medium-sized businesses.

That’s not to say that SaaS solutions are perfect, either, though. They’re just not as customizable. You can’t edit or change the software’s source code, and if there’s a functionality you want that isn’t there, you can’t build it yourself — you’re limited to what the software’s developers have already created.

What To Compare When Choosing Between SaaS and Open Source PIM

When making the decision which type of PIM software is best for your business, there are a few key comparison areas.

  • Time to get things off the ground: SaaS solutions are designed to get up and running quickly. An open source solution, on the other hand, is more likely to require you to choose a theme and acquire hosting and security, which means more work—and more time—for you (or, more realistically, the IT team you’ll have to hire to get this thing up and running).
  • Ongoing maintenance and support: While maintenance and customer support are generally included in the licensing fees for SaaS solutions, if you go open source it’ll all be on you. You’ll have to make sure your software stays up-to-date, your infrastructure is properly maintained, and everything is hosted and secure. Oh, and if something goes wrong, you’ll have to troubleshoot and fix it yourself.
  • Security: Hacking is a reality of our digital world. You have a responsibility to your customers to keep their private and sensitive data safe. SaaS PIM solutions handle the security for you, but if your PIM software is open source, this is your job, too.
  • Integration: Like most ecommerce sellers, you probably use multiple systems to run your business. In addition to your PIM, you might have an ERP, POS, ecommerce platform, or inventory management system. Will your new PIM integrate with your existing systems?
  • Total cost of ownership: The low price tag on the open source PIM drew you in initially, but by now, you’re probably realizing how many other costs come with it–integration projects, an IT team to get it up and running, ongoing maintenance and security concerns, and lost profits from outages, just to name a few. Is the ongoing cost of running an open source PIM still cheaper than paying the licensing fee for a SaaS solution? We bet not.

A DIY-style open source PIM might be a good option for the most tech-savvy of ecommerce retailers. But for the average online seller, SaaS is the clear choice. If you’re ready to start looking seriously for the PIM solution that’s right for your business, check out our Ultimate PIM Buyer’s Guide, where you’ll find everything you need to select the right system.

ultimate buyers guide

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Tina Eaton

Written by Tina Eaton