While IT pros find a lot to praise in free Linux and open source software (OSS) support offerings, they also see its weaknesses. In interviews with SearchEnterpriseLinux.com, they pointed out these free support shortcomings.:
- There is no 800 number, said consultant Peter Rescinti. Most initial contacts with free support services take place via e-mail. Sometimes, free support teams will send a phone number in response to an e-mail query. Of course, 800 numbers are as helpful as rubber crutches.
- Some online Linux/OSS instructions are very "high level and difficult to decipher," said systems administrator Pati Moss. IT manager Rick Segeberg agreed: "Newbies to Linux (especially non-programmers) find it difficult to follow the very technical documentation and how-tos that are available," he said. "Most of the technical documentation is done by technical people for technical people."
- Sometimes you can stump the free support experts, said Moss. The good news is that they usually don't stay stumped for long.
- Information overload is a danger. Mailing lists and newsgroups set up and moderated by the developers are effective only if one has time to read the messages they send out, said IT manager John Ries.
- You have to a do-it-yourself attitude, surveyed IT pros said. Good research skills and knowledge of IT basics is important. Accessing free support and implementing solutions provided is not a job for the lazy or unschooled.
- Unless you have an in-house Linux/OSS guru, free support options may not meet all your needs, said Segeberg. Figure out how quickly you need to fix problems in mission critical services. If you want a guarantee of responsiveness of minutes not hours, hire an on-call consultant.