No matter how much IT pro Jeff Small loves Linux, he can't force his clients to use it. He has a consulting business to run and customers to keep happy.
Customers are in a tough spot: they want a change from Windows and from other Microsoft products, but they fear the unknown, said Small, a consultant in Austin, Texas. He has yet to implement Linux for clients in so-called productivity areas, such as desktop operating systems and office software programs.
"Most are too afraid of anything they perceive as new and are worried they won't be able to find support down the road," Small said.
The fact that his customers are wary of Linux prevents Small from building a Linux environment he can show off to other clients.
"I can understand customers [being wary] because I have not established a solid history in other installations," Small said.
Despite the fear, Small's customers want to work with software other than Microsoft's. Almost all his clients are looking for ways to wean themselves from Microsoft products, but they're often tied to one Microsoft application or another. The reason customers are looking for a way out: maintenance costs.
"The costs to maintain Windows -- not including the hardware requirements -- go up all the time," Small said.
Using Windows tech support is costly and time consuming. With Windows, Small has to rely on remote telephone engineers. With Linux, he can view the source code himself and pinpoint problems.
The one area in which Small can implement Linux without running into client hesitation is the firewall. He installs Linux firewalls for every client, and he never has to touch them again. "They just run and run," he said.
Small had hoped for a successful Linux-Windows integration on a recent project. But Windows XP browsers on the client's workstations wouldn't recognize a Red Hat Linux server. (Read this application meltdown tale. LINK) The project was an example of how Windows-Linux integration is tricky because of technical incompatibilities and time constraints, two factors that work against independent IT pros like Small who strongly favor Linux.
Still, Small was able to install a trusty Linux firewall on the project.
The most integrated network Small knows is his family's home office.
"My wife runs Windows 98 on her desktop, and I have a Windows 2000 machine I use for testing," Small said. "Everything else is Linux. My desktop, my firewall and cluster all run Linux. I run Maya on the cluster for 3D rendering and animation."
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