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Open source support for small IT companies

For those of us who work in small IT shops, isn't open source code irrelevant? Isn't open source code so complex that we'd have to have a code guru on staff to modify it? If we don't have the in-house expertise to do this, then why should we use open source software?

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Yes and no. The trick here is to choose open source software that has made it beyond the "early adopter" phase. In the beginning stages of any open source software project, the code is very hands-on. The first people who download and try the software typically have the time and inclination to put in some elbow grease to make it work for them, and they benefit the software by providing feedback to the developers.

Understandably, small IT shops frequently don't have the resources or desire to jump in at this point. So you need to look for open source software that has made it into mainstream use. Avoid beta releases and look for commercial support options. Search for case studies in the press that will lead you to believe the software will work well in your environment.

Smaller organizations can also receive the benefits of open source software. You just need to look for projects that have had a little time to mature.

This was first published in October 2005

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