Tech Support with Open-Source Implementation

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Proprietary software giants lead consumers to think that although open source software is free, it’s a nightmare to implement and maintain because of a lack of widespread technical support. New companies and services increasingly are popping up to prove them wrong.



The old guard would like both consumers and IT professionals to think there is a strict divide between open-source and proprietary software. This black-and-white version, however, is becoming more of a myth every day, as both sides are seeing the benefits (financial and technical) of working together.



Although there is true open-source tech support in classic sense, the more innovative providers are pulling the best of both worlds to create programs with proprietary reliability but open-source checks and balances, as well.



When discussing open-source tech support, Red Hat cannot be ignored. Long the industry standard in distributing Linux, Red Hat provides operating platforms, management solutions, consulting services and support.



From a business standpoint, using open-source software is attractive — the software is free, and you have to pay just for support. At the same time, businesses are as only as good as their reputation and higher-ups might want to use established brand software to keep from rocking the boat.



If Red Hat is traditional tech support for open-source software, with phone consultations, e-mail questions, etc., SpikeSource represents the possibility of a business pulling together open-source programs and selling them all as one package of implemtation and support. This makes it much easier for a business, if it’s thinking about an open-source switch, to realistically see itself implementing it. Where Red Hat sells support in addition to its software, SpikeSource integrates the two together as one essential package.



Another oft-cited worry of switching to an open-source program is security. Many advocates would say open source is a more secure environment because of constant updating and bug removal, a process that can take proprietary software companies years to fix. Nevertheless, having the support and confidence needed to run an open-source business with tight security isn’t as easy as clicking “Scan” on an anti-virus program.



Snort, an open-source intrusion-prevention and detection program developed in the late ’90s, started as a light, simple program, but it quickly morphed, now performing everything from real-time traffic analysis to packet logging on IP networks. Another concern of open source is it’s seemingly impossible to keep track of who has what open-source program, in a business environment — the most common open-source programs such as the Web browser Mozilla are downloaded individually from the Internet and not part of the overall architecture of the company.



OpenLogic has attempted to deal with this problem by developing a sort of diagnostic program to find all the open-source programs being used by the enterprise. Discovery is a program that helps enterprises inventory the open-source software installed on their computer systems, which gives management an idea of how widespread open source usage is. It also helps minimize the possible security and liability risks involved with uninitiated open-source users.



The recent trend of businesses making money, rather than losing it, from open-source software show how it’s becoming a mainstream “problem” to require such support. Just as a plethora of third-party tech-support options started as Windows took off, firms now are featuring or at least including some sort of open-source help.

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