Linux, remember your training

Users and experts agree that companies that want to use open source must first budget for proper training and have a plan before they go jumping blindly onto the Linux bandwagon.

NORWOOD, Mass. -- For Linux and open source to succeed in the enterprise, it could all come down to a matter of proper planning and competent training.

John Horn, CEO of Kansas City, Mo.-based Interstate Software, said both of these components are necessary if an enterprise is considering open source technologies in areas such as the desktop, database and server.

"The most egregious mistakes done by enterprises are that planning and training are not done properly," said Horn, who spoke last week at a Linux seminar sponsored by Source Code Corp.

Horn added that every enterprise evaluating or beginning the migration to open source should have a budget set aside solely for training and planning.

"Technologies like MySQL and Apache must be given the respect they deserve --training," Horn said.

As companies and end users begin to set aside time and budget space to train on various open source technologies, Horn said people will begin to see the benefits over proprietary software.

"OpenOffice.org is as good as PowerPoint, [Microsoft] Access can be easily brought to MySQL and [Microsoft] Word docs to OpenOffice are easy," Horn said.

Horn said OpenOffice, which can run on a Windows operating system, is also a good way to wean your organization off Microsoft Office, since it allows users to do a side-by-side comparison.

Such comparisons would emerge through adequate training on open source applications and platforms, allow trained IT staff members to return to their departments and dispel what Horn calls "political roadblocks" that discourage companies from taking risks with open source.

Denise Robichau, a former system administrator for a Boston-based research group, said her former company used Linux as its operating system. However, she said everything she knew about Linux and open source was self-taught through Internet tutorials and hands-on experience.

"Our research group didn't really train the end user [in open source], and implementation was often slow and poor," Robichau said..

Robichau has her own Web site, which she runs with MySQL and OpenOffice. She believed that Linux, like all new technologies, was off to a slow start but would get stronger.

Horn offered several low-cost alternatives to an enterprise-wide training program. He suggested a company send one IT administrator off to train with an independent provider like Interstate Software and then have them go back and train 20 coworkers.

"People aren't going to change simply because something is better; just look at what the majority of people have been using for years. It's not necessarily the best product out there, but it's what's being sold to them," Horn said.

Some of those in attendance were skeptical that they would be able to set aside the money for a five-day training course, which can go for approximately $2,000 per day.

"Our training budget is frozen. I can't afford the real training and that's why I'm here for the free one," said a system administrator who did not want to be identified.

In response, Horn gave what he called a "cost benefit analysis." He asked that IT administrators step back and compare the $20,000 it costs for proprietary software to the $2,000 it would cost for a day of training and an open source database.

And if a company decides to take a calculated risk by moving to open source or by starting the evaluation process, Horn offered one last bit of advice.

"Think conceptually; augment, don't replace," he said. "We don't dislike Microsoft, we just want to implement them."

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