Continued from : Is your company afraid of Linux? (Part 2 of 3)
Fear #4 (Support!): This is where Linux shines. Because of the open nature of the Linux community it is considered to be the most widely supported platform and the most inexpensive.
To get professional support for your Microsoft server platform, you have to either pay for a professional support plan from a Microsoft Partner or from Microsoft themselves. I’ve never run into an SMB that had purchased a professional support plan from Microsoft. To obtain one-time support for your Windows server operating system you would pay a per incident fee anywhere from $99 (next business day) to $260 (4 to 6 hour response). No support is included with the purchase of the Microsoft operating system itself. So these fees are on top of the licensing fees you pay for the right to install and use the Windows OS. Licensing for Windows Server 2008 ranges anywhere from $500 to $4000 which doesn’t include the client access licenses (CALs) which run around $40 per desktop or per user on your network.
Most Linux distributions are free to download and use, although, there are a few Linux enterprise shops that provide licensing and professional support for their product. SUSE (now a division of Novell) and RedHat are two of the most popular. SUSE’s enterprise server license ranges form $400 to $1500. RedHat is anywhere from $400 to $1,200. These license plans “include” professional support anywhere from email-only support to 24×7 phone support. Each license is renewable yearly because of the licenses focus around their professional support plans.
All the licensing and professional services aside, there stands Google (synonymous with “web search”). Whether you say you are a Windows person or a Linux person you should be a pro at finding answers to your server woes through the Internet’s best search engines. If you are not then you need to brush up on this basic yet critical skill. If you are a manager then part of your interviewing should be testing the capacity at which the employee-to-be is capable of finding solutions to difficult situations through search engines.
The internet has changed over the last 5 to 10 years. At a time past, I would have said that finding solutions and fixes for Linux related server issues is much easier than what could be said for Windows server issues. The Windows server community has loosened up and I would go so far as to say that the score is almost even, but not quite. I don’t know that it will ever be even as the openness of the Linux community by it’s very nature makes it so much easier to locate problem resolutions.
If professional support is what helps you sleep at night – then fear not. Linux has options for professional-grade support at a fraction of the cost of Windows Server and Windows CAL licensing. If you are comfortable in your technology staff then you should also be comfortable in their ability to support your Linux platform with the tools and resources available to them at no extra cost to you. Personally, I like having the $400 a year email-only support plan in my back pocket but I must also confess that in over 15 years of Linux server administration I have only used it on two occasions.
Fear #5 (Can it do the job?): This is where you have to take a step back and look at the big picture. Can Linux replace your Active Directory server, File server, Web server, Storage server, Database server, Remote Access server, Application server, etc.? Yes, it can, but not always. You have to know your environment and it’s requirements. Some enterprise applications require a Windows Active Directory server platform. Some require Windows server period.
You should always consult your application vendor as they often provide Linux installations of the same product or may have a development roadmap that includes a Linux installation. If they don’t have a Linux compatible version than suggest to them that you would like to see one offered.
You might not want to change your enterprise application now but it is good business to keep your software vendors honest by looking at the competition. You can also discover significant savings in software licensing and yearly software support and maintenance contracts by switching to another application product that supports Linux server environments.
I will close with this: You don’t have to be a Windows only or Linux only organization. Most businesses we support are mixed environments. They pick and choose what does the job for their individual needs. Linux provides an opportunity for SMB’s to save money on asset and operational budgets. The popularity of Linux is evident and it is as mainstream as Windows server. I urge you to push past your Linux fears and investigate further to discover if Linux has a place in your business.
About the Author
Brad Triem brings years of experience from start-ups to large well established companies in business systems analysis, project design, implementation and process management, network infrastructure, network security and systems support. He is also an accomplished software developer designing and deploying affordable hosted solutions for IT professionals.
Brad is co-founder of Trinsic Technologies, Inc., a provider of managed IT services for small to mid-sized businesses and easy-to-use hosted IT solutions for IT professionals. http:www.TrinsicTech.com
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