Free isn’t better; better is better


QIAGEN Digital Insights

Free isn’t better; better is better

Open-sourced software comes with a variety of risks. To more effectively advance your research, here's where to turn instead.

“Download our free app for endless entertainment!” declared the app store. You eagerly install the app, expecting a world of joy and amusement. Soon realize, though, that the ‘free’ app has crashing issues, limited content and no one to contact for support. A lesson that paying a little for quality and reliability often pays off in the long run — and is worth every penny.

In our modern world, the allure of getting something for free is constant, and undeniably enticing. We get it; the promise of not having to spend a dime can be incredibly appealing. However, the age-old adage still holds true: You get what you pay for. While it may seem like a great deal at first, the reality is that free often comes with hidden costs that can outweigh the initial benefits.

Open source vs. commercial software: What’s the better choice?

As a researcher, you also have many free options when it comes to bioinformatics software. You could invest in commercial tools or rely on open-source alternatives. Yet, settling for free options can often end up costing you more in the long run. Let’s explore the risks of relying on open-source software and unravel how you’ll benefit when you invest in value-driven bioinformatics software tools like ours from QIAGEN Digital Insights.

The risks of relying solely on open-source software

While open-source bioinformatics software has its advantages, it is crucial to consider the potential downsides when relying solely on such solutions: 

Linux is only free if your time has no value.

Fragmented tools and compatibility issues

Open-source bioinformatics tools often require integrating multiple software packages to perform comprehensive analyses. This can lead to compatibility issues, as different tools may have conflicting dependencies or be designed for specific operating systems. As a result, you may spend considerable time and effort configuring and troubleshooting the software environment, detracting from your main research goals. 

Limited support and documentation 

Open-source software typically relies on community-driven support, which may vary in quality and availability. As a user, you often must rely on online forums or user groups for assistance, which can be time-consuming and unreliable. And though some open-source software might have excellent documentation and support, like, for example, the core R language system or Python, for many packages, documentation and help can be pretty limited. This makes it difficult to effectively harness the software’s full potential, especially if you can’t read source code, or don’t have the time to try and understand someone else’s source code.   

Lack of validation and quality control 

Though some open-source software may be professionally produced, many tools lack extensive validation and quality control processes which are core to commercial solutions. Without rigorous testing and ongoing maintenance, there may be a higher risk of encountering bugs, inaccuracies or inconsistent performance. So you’ve got to be ready to invest additional time and effort to validate open-source tools and ensure the reliability of your results.  What’s more, some open-source systems are produced without rigorous software engineering practices. That means it’s up to you, the user, to validate and perform the QC yourself. Who’s got the time to go down that rabbit hole?

Intellectual property and legal concerns

Using open-source software may raise intellectual property and legal concerns, especially if you work in commercial, regulated or proprietary environments. Open-source licenses may have “copyleft” effects, which could demand your work be open-sourced too, may exclude commercial use or may not be compliant with GDPR, HIPAA or other data security standards.  These are significant concerns you should carefully consider to ensure compliance with legal and institutional requirements, as the onus is on you, the user, to find out what the license does or does not allow.


You get what you pay for

These potential risks of open-source bioinformatics software tools may seem overwhelming, but rest assured there’s an entire platform of bioinformatics software tools that won’t end up costing you nearly as much as free tools. Why? Because when you invest in quality, reliability and user-friendly functionality and support, you save time and effort. And that translates to money.

Trusted data and cutting-edge technology create power

Comprehensive and integrated software tools 

As a single company, we offer a suite of bioinformatics software tools designed to address a wide range of research needs. From genome analysis to transcriptomics, metagenomics and pathway analysis, our bioinformatics software provides comprehensive functionality, and works synergistically to enable you to seamlessly conduct diverse analyses. With a single integrated platform, you can streamline your workflow, and eliminate the need for piecing together multiple open-source tools. 

User-friendly interface and workflow 

Our software is developed with a focus on user experience and offers intuitive interfaces and workflows. You can easily navigate the software and perform complex analyses without extensive programming skills. Our user-friendly approach to designing our software empowers you to accelerate your data analyses, reduces the learning curve and enhances productivity so you can focus more on your biological questions rather than the technical complexities of bioinformatics. 

High-quality data analysis and interpretation

Our bioinformatics software is built on robust algorithms and validated databases, ensuring accurate data analysis and interpretation. Our software leverages up-to-date reference databases and annotation resources so you can analyze your data and extract meaningful insights confidently. The reliability of our software means you can make informed decisions and generate high-quality results to more quickly drive your research forward. 

Dedicated customer support and training

We provide excellent customer support, including technical assistance, training programs and resources. Our team of experts is readily available to address your queries, troubleshoot issues and guide you through our software’s features and capabilities. This level of support ensures you’ll maximize the potential of the software and be empowered to efficiently achieve your research goals. 

Save costs in the long run

When it comes down to it, free software will cost you

When it comes to your research, you can’t afford to play around with cutting costs. While free may seem enticing, you’ve got to weigh the potential costs and quality before diving in. Because open-source tools compromise quality, have limited features, lack support and require you invest additional time and effort due to a lack of user-friendly interfaces or comprehensive documentation. So, as you evaluate which bioinformatics software you will rely on, keep this mantra in mind as a nugget of truth: Free isn’t better. Better is better.

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Learn more about QIAGEN Digital Insights bioinformatics tools

Explore our range of bioinformatics tools for research, clinical and pharma development applications. 

Check out this quick guide to QIAGEN Digital Insights software to see which one might be right for you.


  1. (accessed July 13, 2023)
  2. Commercient (accessed July 13, 2023)

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