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31 Mar, 2020


When starting to work on a project, one of the most common questions asked is, “what tools to use?”. Usually, companies are more inclined towards the idea of open-source tools and why shouldn’t they? They’re free after all. But is that always a correct decision? In my experience, no. Not because open-source tools are bad. But because the solution is somewhere in the middle of both types of tools. In this article, I will talk about instances when commercial tools should be preferred over open-source tools.

When you’re testing more than one technology

Before choosing a testing tool, it’s important to consider your business needs first. Open-source tools might be able to fulfill your requirements, but licensed tools can do it better. Needless to say, when you’re getting something for free, you have to make some compromises. In most cases, open-source tools such as Selenium are insufficient when it comes to achieving the required test coverage. Selenium is only for browser-based automation. So, for anything beyond that, Selenium is not your best option. A benefit of using vendor-based tools is that they allow automation engineers to combine a broad set of technologies – such as mobile applications, SAP, Oracle Forms, Java, .Net, and REST – in one set.

When ease of use is crucial

Dealing with open-source software testing tools can sometimes be difficult. Testing products using these tools requires a team that is equipped with the ability to technically cobble together a custom framework that meets their needs. Unfortunately, finding a team of testers with these skills is hard. One of the benefits of using vendor-based tools is that good products simplify the test-creation process. Out of the box, these tools provide additional features such as defect integration, monitoring, reports, object-recognition improvements, and built-in object spies. These features provide a total application lifecycle solution. And because of the architecture of these tools, businesses are easily able to find qualified test engineers since these products generally require fewer programming skills.

When you need certified-as-compliant testing platforms

Some companies require testers to get approval for the testing tool before using it. Some even require all tools to be submitted to an architectural review board before teams start using them. In cases like these, vendor-based tools can prove to be a better fit since they’ve usually gone through the rigors of meeting common compliance standards. In highly regulated industries such as finance and healthcare, it’s imperative to choose tools that are safe, secure, and standards-compliant.

When you can’t put up with buggy tools

What happens when bugs pop up in open-source tools? A simple answer would be, “No worries! It’s open. You can just fix it and make changes yourself”. Unfortunately, not many testers are equipped with these abilities. Proprietary software testing tools have an edge over here as well. Their technical support is solely dedicated to customer issues and is well-equipped to handle bug fixes or quickly provide a workaround to customers. Paid service also makes the vendor liable to solve your case with a sense of urgency or at least add the issue to its product roadmap. It’s usually the opposite when it comes to open-source tools and their contributors. This is because mostly, these contributors are supported by volunteers who don’t get paid for time spent resolving your issues. Open-source is not bad. However, many companies prefer to pay to have some measure of accountability.

When “free” software won’t save you money

The main reason companies give when asked why they opt for open-source tools is that they’re free. That’s true, but do they always save money? The answer is in the negative. Let’s consider an example of cloud-based testing environment providers. The increasing number of devices and operating systems increases the complexity companies have to deal with and therefore, they’re required to put in more time, energy, money, and other resources to maintain their test environments. Due to this, companies end up spending more time in maintaining test environments and fixing/patching issues rather than actual testing. Cloud-based testing providers can set companies free of the maintenance worries so that they can focus on what matters most: development and testing. Perhaps the biggest benefit of choosing a commercial tool is the reduced cost of ownership associated with less administrative overhead and easier implementation.

Priority #1: Business Needs

It always seems like a better idea to use the latest and the greatest software testing tools. But only if your business needs them. Make sure that the tools you use are the right fit for your company/teams and are in accordance with your way of work and goal/objectives you look to achieve rather than just satisfying your curiosity or building out your resume. Test assets and automation projects should be thought of as a part of the overall business by professional engineers. It’s not about using the most fashionable technologies or writing code; it’s about the fact that automation is a business solution.

How to make the right decision

There’s no denying the significance of open-source tools. Companies that prefer them over proprietary tools do that for a reason, one of which is that they’re free of cost. But they’re not always a total replacement for vendor-based tools. Keeping the open-source vs. commercial debate aside, all you need to consider is what your company needs are and then choose. You don’t necessarily have to choose one over the other. Many of the commercial testing tools integrate with their open-source counterparts, enabling companies to get the best of both worlds.

So, don’t miss either of the two. Keep the biases aside, focus on your requirements and evaluate your options to decide what’s the best fit for your company. You just might find a mix of both open-source and commercial software testing tools to be the best option.

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