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Linux/OSS support weaknesses

There may be an abundance of free support available online from the open source community, but there are drawbacks.

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, they pointed out these free support shortcomings.:

  1. 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.
  2. 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."
  3. Sometimes you can stump the free support experts, said Moss. The good news is that they usually don't stay stumped for long.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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