How good is open source support?

How good is open source support?

Summary: What is meant by the word support is often in the eye of the beholder.


Ralph Kirkland, inhousetechsupport.blogspot.comThe cheap answer is "as good as you make it."

The real answer is more complex.

As our friend Big Money Matt notes today, open source vendors are not really selling software, just support, and they have an image problem.

The image of enterprise customers is their support isn't as good as that of Oracle or Microsoft. This could be because most such vendors, like Alfresco, are fairly small.

It could be that the market is diffuse, with many third-party support organizations competing with vendors. Would it be better if they could just get along?

Or it could be real. Because what is meant by the word support is often in the eye of the beholder.

To an open source vendor, it can mean the attention of the person who wrote the program. It can mean community contacts to get bugs fixed quickly. Your guy calls my guy and we work things out.

To a big enterprise, it may mean the ability to train, deliver, and physically support thousands of desktops, or hundreds of servers. It may mean the ability to handle a non-software problem, like security, in a scaled manner.

Big vendors have grown to handle these challenges. Small ones have not. Alfresco is not IBM.

To individuals, on the other hand, support is often unneeded, but when it is needed it is well worth paying for. I've faced that several times, most recently when a lightning strike knocked me offline for several days last week.

My support guy, Ralph Kirkland, had me back online days before Comcast, my ISP, could even get to my house. He lent me a cable modem, a router, and installed a new Ethernet card. (That's Ralph sitting at my desk above.)

He even helped me ask Comcast the right questions when they finally did come by -- turns out my 25 year old cable connection was never properly grounded.

So support, for me, is like the police. I don't need it unless I need it, and then I need it badly. I need it here and I need it now.

The point here is there are many types of support. There is ongoing support, there is on-call support, and there is personal support.

How do you like your open source support, and what should be done to make it better?[poll id=85]

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Networking, Open Source, Telcos

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • This why I do not want open source.

    I can never get help when I need it, and those that try to help have a very snobbish attitude, and like to say you are not learning because you do not want to learn.

    Well I can only learn what a teacher teaches me. Books are little no help when trying to get something to work because they assume you the commands, and the ones that tell you what commands to type do not tell you what to do when something fails.

    So unless better support comes to open source with an understanding that people do want to learn, but it takes time to learn something new.
    • I get that same snobbish attitude

      from Windows and OS X "experts". That's a common trait for all computer geeks, no matter what companies or movements they follow. Saturday Night Live even made fun of that attitude with Nick Burns, Your Company's Computer Guy.
      Michael Kelly
      • Get the attitude more from linux people,

        but since I am a Windows guy maybe that is why I do not see from Windows Tech, but I also have not seen it from Mac people when asking help on my mom's Mac.

        The Mac wanted to help and told me what to do, and so far everything they told me to worked.

        When some tells me something to in Windows it works about 75% of the time. (Of course I tried a different way first because I did not like how they told me to do soemthing. :)

        And for Linux it is like 14% of the time it partially works.
        • Keep talking to the wrong people

          Sound like you talked to an idiot (who claims to be a Linux expert) and was dumb enough to listen to him/her.

          If you go to a professional an ask for assistance, you usually get a professional answer. But sounds like you just want free help from the town idiots and expect that to be "tech support".

          It doesn't matter what OS you use, you get better support from the pros than from the street. Sometimes you can find a "nice kid" with some good base knowledge. Most of the time you just find pretenders.
          • I was actually talking to Lindows tech support

            before they became Linspire, and in the end they told me to write a program.

            I responded I am not a programmer and would not know where to start.

            I had received that answer from Red Hat, Suse, and Ubuntu support.

            So I have given up.
          • phhht

            "I had received that answer from Red Hat, Suse, and Ubuntu support."

            yeah right, i've never had that from Suse.... sounds like the usual trolling to me.
          • ... and in the end they told me to write a program.

            Who did you think you would fool with such an outrageously cockeyed post?

            If you needed a script to fix a Lindows problem it would be as easy as receiving it in an e-mail or copying/downloading it from a web-site. If you can't program that doesn't automatically mean that you can't fix a Linux issue. If you can't copy and paste you may be computer challenged but it has nothing to do with Open Source.

            Saying that 4 different commercial vendors told you to write a program to resolve it means that either you are misrepresenting what happened or all 4 of them used the same technique to try to get rid of you (and it worked). The latter is the less likely of the two.
            Still Lynn
          • Hello Bro

            The only Linux I know even a little bit about is Ubuntu.

            I have got help through the Forums,usually reading about other users with same problem.
            Of course in any place or situation you will get someone who is a(usually young) smartarse,showing his/her knowledge in a very small area.

            However I don't recall being told to write a program.
            I did buy a book "Beginning Ubuntu Linux", just as many users of MSOS buy books on using that OS.

            An advantage of using Linux is the considerable saving in not requiring protection from Viruses etc.
    • RE:...why I do not ...

      <strong><em><font color=grey>"Well I can only learn what a teacher teaches me."</font></em></strong><br>

      There is the problem. It's not Open Source it's <font color=red>YOU</font>.<br>
      "Everone is constantly learning. Even a plumber, when he watches a better plumber work learns something. Forget about individual professions, the more you see of life, the more you learn."<br>
      FYI--This is why I don't use Windows<br>
      <strong><a href="" target="_blank">"Vista - Arrogance & Stupidity"</a></strong><br>
      • I think this would be the flack he was referring to

        Yeah...blame the end user, call them arrogant and stupid.

        Or imply their 'dumb for listening to someone' like above. In my opinion, you sound like jerks.

        Windows, Linux, Mac tech support folks don't realize that really they're selling 90% customer service and 10% technical knowledge. Most techs used to be hired for technical knowledge, now they're hired for 'soft skills'. With the spread of knowledge, any person can [i]eventually[/i] solve all their problems on their own, given research. The role of support is to compassionately and quickly resolve that problem and guide you to your solution. Like the man who helped you with the cable company by talking to them -- I've done that, when I could have easily just told the customer (and they are my customers, not 'users') it was the ISPs problem. It would have been right, but not helpful.

        Like telling someone it's their fault because they don't understand.

        Original poster: 'nix has some great advantanges and just knowing how to get around can be a valuable skillset -- especially given the entry cost (free!). If you're willing to give it another go, ignore jerks like these and take a look at some of the more robust, more GUI oriented flavours like Ubuntu -- I don't think you'll be disatisfied.
        • RE:...the flack he was referring to ...

          I gathered that. But he/she could've simply asked for some one else.
          Maybe that was a stretch..
    • Learn the basics

      How about this; learn the basics. The fact that you aren't even willing to read a book to get the basic foundation knowledge tells me that you're unteachable. Yes, a teacher teaches, and you the student need to do your homework.

      As for arrogance, the stench of arrogance wreaks from you because you are pissed off that you know Windows, not information technology. All the knowledge you have of Windows is useless in the *NIX world. It means that you're back and square one, and from the sounds of it, unwilling to learn.
    • Good support is rare but it exists

      Whenever you are looking for a supplier in a company, you pick tyhe right one from different criterias that are determined by you or your boss. Then you seek for the best supplier and it takes time.

      It's totally wrong to say that good support doesn't exist, it is just hard to fine.

      Also, You are probably a microsoft user, so you have probably been workming for almost 10m years on the same operating system.

      What you could do to migrate to Open source softwares (and I assure you, you should) is take training classes. Good open source providers always offer training services. Usually the training is 2 to 3 days.

      visit this site this is a good example ( of what a good Open source services provider is.
    • Community Support is that way

      Absolutely true. Some distros have nicer community support than others, but some just throw the book at you. Not sure why they even bother having a support chat.
  • Open sournce turns customers into their testers

    That way they avoid having to spend too much money on testing, which fits into their little budget. "Hey, we have a bunch of M$ haters out there willing to test run anything you label as open source. Let's use them".
    • .....

      And that's different from closed source how? Oh that's right, at least with Open Source you get the code too AND it generally doesn't cost as much. ]:)
      Linux User 147560
      • PFFT, and you get the code too?

        [i]Replied to the wrong thread originally...[/i]

        And your point is exactly what? That after I get it I'll fix it myself? Recompile my kernel? Yes?

        Idiot. What do you think I'm doing asking for support in the first place?

        You are the reason why open source will ever be mainstream. Look in the mirror = FAIL
        • I think you missed the part where he said...

 get the same thing from closed source. I'm dealing with a BIG bug in a closed source system right now that has been handled VERY poorly by the vendor. We purchased an upgrade to a system and the vendor did not tell us that the next version was nearing release. The bug is fixed in the next release and we will have to pay for that upgrade as well. So in a nutshell we just wasted money. Now had this been OSS the bug would be fixed either by us, the vendor, or another user willing to share.

          I also missed where open source isn't mainstream (as if OSS is one gigantic project). I think you'd be surprised to find out what some organizations are using. Having worked for some major government contractors and having done onsite government contracting I can tell you they are no strangers to open source and almost require that you look at it FIRST.
      • Imagine when you shop for a car

        This special dealer says, "Welcome to the OPEN automobile community. We offer you an excellent low cost OPEN car with every engineering detail revealed. If you have a problem, just look up the manual, open the car and fix it yourself. Here's a wrench. Take it with you. See, it is a much better deal than those proprietary Toyota, Honda, BMW and so on. Heck, with this model we may not have to offer customer service at all, which further reduces the cost of the car."

        Great business if you can make it.
        • You can't be this dumb....

          People do this ALL THE TIME!!! Do you know how many people buy a cheap car from a used lot with barely any warranty or customer service because they are of the DIY mentality??? How do you think Autozone stays open? Good grief this country is becoming a bunch of mindless zombies that need a service contract on their butts to safely take a dump.

          This is the same way open source works. For those that have the personnel it offers a cheap and powerful opportunity. For those that hire IT babies that need hand holding you have to pay for service contracts to help the babies click their way to solutions.

          Some of you folk are so babified in IT its ridiculous.