You may be in the market for new knowledge base software, either because you want to promote internal knowledge management within your organization or provide public documentation for your end users. You’ll no doubt be facing a conundrum – should you use open-source knowledge base software or a proprietary SaaS solution?
A knowledge base is critical for enhancing information-sharing across the company and helping your teams to achieve their goals. Some benefits can include fewer tickets to your support team, fewer churned customers, or an improved employee experience.
So companies want to know where they should invest their resources when it comes to choosing knowledge base software. Open source software can represent significant advantages but it’s not all a bed of roses when it comes to installing, using, and maintaining this software.
For that reason, you might want to consider a SaaS solution. In this post, we’ll consider the benefits and drawbacks of open source and the situations when you might want to opt for SaaS.
What is An Open Source Knowledge Base?
First, let’s look at the definition of a knowledge base. So knowledge base software is any software that facilitates the creation of a knowledge base, which stores all of the relevant information relating to a particular topic. It comes with the front-end architecture of the knowledge base website, and the back-end content management system that users use to create content.
Now, we’ll explore just what we mean by open-source software. Let’s look at a definition from Opensource.com:
Open source software is software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance.
So with open source knowledge base software, you have access to the source code which means you can alter how it works or add new features. In contrast to closed-source or SaaS knowledge base solutions, you have full control over the code and the ability to host it on your own servers.
Benefits of Open Source Knowledge Base
As we’ve mentioned, you can host your open-source knowledge base software on your own servers, which means you can be responsible for security and uptime. In contrast, SaaS knowledge bases are hosted by the software provider, so open source is a good choice if you want the reliability of your own servers.
It is Often Free or Cheaper
Many open-source solutions are free for companies to use as they see fit, as long as it falls within the terms of the open-source license. Even if there is a charge, open source is usually cheaper than their SaaS counterparts. While SaaS solutions often require an ongoing subscription fee, open-source software is usually a one-time payment if you’re a corporate user.
Flexibility to Modify Code, Innovate and Integrate
Even if your open-source solution isn’t exactly suitable for your needs, you have the flexibility to modify the code and adjust the software to your own description. Frequently, if you modify the code then the open-source license requires you to make the source code publicly available. Instead of having to build a solution from scratch, you have a working version of a knowledge base that you can integrate with your other systems.
Excess Freedom for the Users
With SaaS software, you are beholden to the decisions of the provider. In the case of open source, you can build a completely customized platform that is suited to your needs, and that works exactly as you want it to. You can also contribute to the original source code and help the project move in a direction that you want to see.
Cons of Open Source Knowledge Base
Need to Invest Substantial Internal Resources for Set-up and Development
When you opt for a SaaS solution, you’re ready to go from the minute you sign up. It doesn’t quite work that way with open source. Your development team needs to commit substantial resources to the set-up and development of your open-source knowledge base software, not to mention the ongoing maintenance of your program. SaaS software teams have their own engineering resources that are responsible for delivering the application, which you miss out on when you go for open source.
Your Software Version May Cease to Function
When you’re using an open-source software solution for your knowledge, the version you are using may cease to function if the project maintainers lapse. Since open source requires the contributions of volunteers, many projects become stagnant if the contributors become too busy to maintain them.
No Dedicated Support
With open-source software, there is a reason that it’s free. There’s a lack of a dedicated support function for open source, unlike SaaS solutions which have helped support teams to cater to your every need. If something goes wrong with your open-source product, you’ll need to rely on your own developers or hire external contractors to help you fix any problems.
Limited Visibility on New Features
When it comes to open-source solutions, you’re unlikely to have visibility into the product roadmap so you won’t know when the project maintainers are going to develop new features. You could end up crossing wires with the open-source community and developing a new feature yourself that is already under production.
Need to Pay License Fee to Project Maintainers
It has to be said that open-source software solutions are not necessarily free of charge. Some versions may be free for access to the basic features, but large companies will almost certainly need to pay a license fee. Since you’re also hosting the software on your own servers and paying for the development resources to maintain your solution, open source ends up not actually being free.
Top Open Source Knowledge Base Software
eXo functions as an internal knowledge management solution aimed specifically at the enterprise for large teams who want to collaborate digitally. This solution has a community edition that is available for free, while their enterprise edition costs $5 per user per month.
eXo actually comes with a lot of features that focus on improving the employee experience including modern employee communication tools, private workspaces, and an employee engagement suite.
- Store and organize organizational information in numerous ways – documents, wikis, rich articles, and discussions.
- Take advantage of powerful, permission-based, full-text search across the whole platform that gives you access to relevant knowledge whenever you need it.
- Collaboratively edit documents, co-write wiki notes, and capture tacit knowledge through discussions and hashtags.
Documize is a robust solution for information-rich teams which combines a product engineering hub with knowledge management capabilities. Documize is self-hosted and available for your organization for just $9 per user per year, which makes this a very cost-effective option for growing teams. It’s suitable for both technical and non-technical users and they offer technical support for their customers.
- Organize documentation enterprise-wide with zero folders.
- Assign labels to group similar topics and create spaces to hold related content.
- Put in place reusable templates and snippets catalog to establish your best practices library.
phpMyFAQ is a free open-source solution that offers support through community message boards and documentation. It’s completely free for all users and is available through Mozilla Public License Version 2.0.
phpMyFAQ is a mobile-responsive, multilingual, database-driven FAQ software that is capable of delivering single FAQ sites up to enterprise-ready integrations. It supports PHP 7.4+ and PHP 8, as well as MySQL.
- An FAQ content management system that allows you to administrate your users, groups, and categories.
- User and group-based permissions that restrict who can view, edit or create content.
- A powerful search that enables your users to find answers to questions with a search in all languages.
OpenKM is a very popular open-source knowledge base software that’s billed as a Document Management System. It can store, manage, and track electronic documents and images of paper-based information captured using a document scanner or other methods, facilitating good record-keeping across the organization.
OpenKM offers a free Community Edition without technical support, as well as a more advanced Professional Edition with consulting services.
- OpenKM users can search, update, and edit information gathered from various sources within an available application.
- You can integrate any application with OpenKM through their API, with OpenKM acting as the producer or consumer of knowledge.
- Teams can enrich shared documents by holding text discussions, editing any file type, and attaching all supporting materials to a final report.
CloudTutorial is marketed as the simplest knowledge base software, which has been designed to create customer-facing documentation that helps you reduce your support tickets. Not only that, but it’s also suitable for building a corporate wiki, or an internal knowledge base. CloudTutorial costs $19 per team per month, starting in their cheapest plan.
- Fully customizable to help you produce a tailor-made FAQs page or SOP using HTML and CSS.
- The ability to create categories and subcategories to help users explore your information.
- Team members can be added to the platform with specific rights so you can control who can create and edit your content.
Open Source vs SaaS Knowledge Base: Which One is Better?
Whether you choose an open source or SaaS knowledge base really depends on the unique needs of your organization. If you want to focus on knowledge management and documentation, without the fuss of installing and maintaining your own solution, then SaaS is a good choice.
You can benefit from dedicated technical support and a clear product roadmap so you always know you’re getting value for money. If anything goes wrong, you can be assured that the experts will be on hand to deal with any problems so your business can focus on content creation.
With the wide variety of choices in SaaS knowledge base software available, you’re very likely to be able to find a solution that meets your needs. While it is possible to customize an open-source platform with features that you want, this will take time and effort and divert development resources away from other projects.
Why Choose Document360?
If you’re in the market for a SaaS knowledge base solution, you should definitely consider Document360. Document360 is powerful knowledge base software that allows you to create high-quality content for the end users of your help site. It’s suitable for both an internal company knowledge base and public-facing customer manuals or FAQs.
Advantages of Document360:
- It comes at a very reasonable price, starting at $149 per project per month.
- You’ll benefit from our thorough onboarding process which gets you up and running with a knowledge base in a matter of minutes.
- In the event that anything goes wrong, you’ll benefit from our helpful support team which is always on standby.
- Document360 offers out-of-the-box integrations with many popular software including Olark Intercom, Slack, and more
- Document360 also offers multilingual support, so you can create the article in English and translate and publish it in 40 different languages
- In-built analytics allow you to understand and track the performance of your content so you can improve it
- If your enterprise is looking for more security, Document360 also offers private hosting to mitigate the security risks
- Choosing Document360 means you are assured to have a great user experience with the product. You don’t have to worry about bugs or updates as this is all taken care of for you.
Open-source knowledge base software can be a good choice for companies that want to download and modify the source code. They have the relevant resources available in-house and have the time to devote to technical configurations and setup. On the downside, most of these open-source solutions aren’t actually free of charge as their providers are operating a for-profit business model.
Another downside is that most of the open-source platforms in this article are aimed at internal knowledge management, with very few coming with the capabilities for customer-facing documentation. It all depends on what you want to use your knowledge base for.
If you want to create a knowledge base, consider Document360 as your solution. Schedule a free demo today.
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