Planning to move to open source software but don’t know where to start? Then let us help you by providing a base to begin with. Presented here are the key points to keep in mind before moving to open source software.
Start small.: Rome was not built in a day, so you can’t suddenly shift all your software lock, stock, and barrel to open source. Check out the low hanging fruits in open source software, like OpenOffice.org, the open source office suite, Mozilla Thunderbird the email client, and so on at the desktop. Trying them out doesn’t cost much other than your personal time. Then, move on to more complex open source products.
Start with Windows based Open Source Software: A direct follow on from step 1, open source doesn’t mean Linux. There’re plenty of open source software available on Windows as well, so try and get your hands onto those. Linux can be intimidating initially for a lot of people, so start using Open Source software on Windows, an OS that everyone’s already comfortable using.
Use live Linux distros to test before you deploy: The whole beauty of open source software is that you can create bootable CD/DVD/USB drives from them. So if you’re scared of installing Linux and the required open source software, then use a Live Linux distro edition of the same. There are plenty of them available for just about every need. In fact, the August 2011 DVD of PCQuest gave a comprehensive collection of special purpose Linux distros. You can find out more about them and know where to download them from here: http://ld2.in/404. You can find out how to create a bootable DVD from here: http://ld2.in/405. Simply create a live distro of the software you’re interested in deploying, run it on any machine, test it thoroughly, and finally roll it out when you’re ready.
Go for the tried and tested: The good thing in open source software today is that you can get spoilt for choice, because there are so many different options available for anything you want to do. The flip side is that you can never be sure of the kind of support and backing behind a software you choose. Therefore, it’s important that you pick your open source software carefully. Certifications by known names can certainly help. You might also like to do other background checks of the company behind the open source software you’ve chosen.
Build capabilities in your IT team:The biggest issue with open source software is support. While it’s very easy to download open source software and start using it, whom do you turn to when you land up in technical difficulties? You therefore need to develop inhouse expertise to help resolve those difficulties. That’s because even if you purchased support for an open source software, you would still require somebody in house to be able to interact with them when needed.
Look for community support: As there are support problems with open source software, look for the ones that have active online communities. Look for online forums, websites, social networking groups, etc to see if the open source software you’ve chosen is actively being talked about.
Reliability: the most common concern that most people have regarding open source migration is if the solution would be reliable or not. Nobody wants to migrate to a fidgety system which would be erratic in its functioning. Care should be taken while selecting a solution which is tried and tested and has all the required functionality.
Scalability: Every organization wants to grow. The solution and apps should be able to scale up according to the requirements in an organization. You do not want to fall in a trap where the IT department has to completely change the system because it supports only x number of users and won’t support any new entrants in the network.
Security: Data and network security is of prime importance in the company. The solution being migrated to needs to be secure so as to make them a viable option in the company. At no point in time should a security breach compromise the security of the data and the network.
Flexibility: The solution being implemented should be flexible enough to integrate with cross platform solutions. For e.g. One would not want to implement a desktop app which cannot talk to the already present Microsoft infrastructure at the back and vice versa. Cross platform compatibility is a major factor to look out for when choosing a solution.
Standards compliance: Since we are primarily talking about companies scenario, it is important that the solution be compliant to any standards which have been put in place for the working of IT infrastructure in the company.
ROI: One must realize that IT is an enabler and if a company is moving from a proprietary solution to an open source one then there is a good chance that economics has to be a major factor for it. Therefore, a clear and beneficial case of moving to the said solution should be clearly documented to prepare a compelling case for migrating to it.
Downtime: Since we are talking about migration, the down time incurred in putting the proprietary solution to sleep and go ahead with the open source solution should not be much. This is important to keep business process continuity. You do not want a migration in the IT systems to affect business in any which way.
User acceptance: IT department has to keep the preferences and capabilities of the workforce in mind while migrating to an open source solution. Most users have been fed on the windows way of working for long and generally do not take to open source software too easily because of some changes in UI. Therefore there is a need for the IT department to conduct training and familiarization to the solution. A certain handholding is always required in every organization. It is important to note that a certain amount of force-feed might also be required as certain users tend to resist every change because of the fear of the unknown.