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Source Code vs Object Code: Why you need to protect both

source-codeThe holiday season is the ideal opportunity to review processes and make plans to propel your business forward in 2017. Forward thinking SME’s and corporate giants alike are thinking outside the box to meet their clients demands in a more efficient and more effective way, and in the digital age this means investing in bespoke software. Never before have companies been so dependent on business-critical software, and long gone are the days when off the shelf programs sufficed. Like any investment, business owners need to carefully consider the outlay against the benefit of the software, but more importantly they need to consider how to protect this investment in the long run.

Source Code vs Object Code

Software is a computer program that is compiled of different types of code; source code and object code, and the two work in tandem to enable a program to be run on a computer. The source code refers to the programming statements written by a computer programmer then saved as a named file. This file is then known as the source code, and is ready to be compiled to create the compiled file known as the object code, which is only readable by a machine processor. When you receive a software package or application, it is usually the compiled product, or object code that you are purchasing, few software developers include the source code too. This is to prevent the software from being developed by third parties, and protects the developers interests but this can be problematic if the developer goes bust and the end user is left with a redundant object code.

Which code do I need to protect?

Computer software cannot exist without both forms of code, however as the object code is designed to be understood by a processor only, if further modifications or debugs need to be made then it is the source code that must be amended, not the object code. Of course, you need to maintain and protect the operational part of the code, the object code, in order to use the software on a daily basis, but the source code is the more useful part of code long term. For companies that rely upon business-critical software for their day to day operations, the ability to access and amend the source code is vital, as this is the key to any future updates and also enables you to host your software on another platform if your host fails. Usually amends and updates can be made by the developer, but if they fail to do so then businesses can quickly be compromised, so source code must be protected.

How do I protect my code?

The easiest way to ensure peace of mind for your business-critical code is with software escrow. The basic function of software escrow is to ensure that your business continues to operate as normal with access to the full software program – both source and object code – in the event of your software developer going under. The Software Escrow agreement is drawn up between you, your developer and the software escrow provider, and if the developer was to breach the agreement then the escrow provider would release the software code to the end user so that they could host it and develop it elsewhere. Some software escrow providers can even offer immediate hosting to maintain continuity until the business owner has decided where to host the software permanently.

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