Mercian Labels Open Source Software the Way of Future

The Birmingham Post (England), April 15, 2008 | Go to article overview

Mercian Labels Open Source Software the Way of Future


Byline: By Steve Pain Technology Editor

A Staffordshire company has labelled open source software 'the future' after turning its back on the big brands.

Mercian Labels, based in Watling Street, Cannock, supplies products including barcode, security and hologram labels to a wide variety of SMEs across the UK.

The company claims to be the market leader in its field, employing 20 staff with a turnover of more than pounds 1 million a year.

When managing director Dr Adrian Steele joined in 2001 he made overhauling Mercian's computer systems a major priority.

He said: "When I joined, the software and hardware was outdated - we were running just a couple of desktop machines using Windows 2000.

"We developed our own code on the Microsoft Access platform, but it was no longer meeting our demands and the time had come to migrate to new Microsoft software, or look for something else.

"The urgency of this was bought to life when our systems went down for four-and-a-half days in November 2006 which resulted in the loss of pounds 10,000 profit."

The company processes hundreds of invoices each week meaning the efficiency of its systems is vital.

Dr Steele investigated the options and the technological robustness of Open Source software made him consider this option.

Open Source software refers to the process by which programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software allowing it to evolve.

"Having an academic background, the philosophy behind the software appealed to me," Dr Steele said.

"Damage from viruses, uncontrollable system changes, security threats and difficult and expensive upgrade paths in existing systems made the decision comparatively easy.

"The idea of being free of vendor lock-in and significantly lower licensing costs also appealed."

Richard Jones took over as the new IT manager in 2006, with a university background in software engineering.

"It was evident that the current systems in place had a lot of potential problems that would soon manifest themselves with serious detriment to the company," Richard said "The concept of open source had always been of interest, and the idea of migrating to these solutions seemed most beneficial. …

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