Depth of support is key when choosing software


POSTED: Saturday, August 01, 2009

There are many questions to be answered when selecting software. Certainly cost must be taken into consideration, and this includes the initial license fee as well any ongoing maintenance costs. But there is an intangible cost that many folks often overlook, and we like to refer to this as “;supportability.”; Simply put, the more folks out there with detailed knowledge of a product, the greater its supportability.

While we love to pick on the Microsofts and IBMs of the world, the popularity of their software greatly increases supportability. The more people that use a software product, the more people know it. The sheer volume of users of these products creates an informal support group.

As a simple example, suppose you need help formatting a presentation using Microsoft's Powerpoint. Surely, you have a friend or relative who's used Powerpoint for a similar reason. Call them and ask. At most it will cost you a manapua or two. But what if you're using an open-source competitor? The list of people to call for help just got a lot smaller.

Certainly open-source software has grown more popular, and as such, supportability has increased proportionately. We expect this trend to continue. In fact, many open-source platforms are supportable nowadays, including the “;LAMP stack,”; which includes the Linux operating system, Apache Web server, MySQL database and PHP programming language. Some might say that the P stands for the Perl or Python programming languages, but PHP is by far the most popular and, not coincidentally, the most supportable of the three.

To no one's surprise, LAMP competes primarily with Microsoft.net and J2EE products from IBM and Oracle.

For many types of software, especially the larger and more complex variety such as relational databases, operating systems or application servers, “;user groups”; can be a big help. A user group is basically a bunch of people (OK, geeks) who get together to discuss the trials and tribulations of their efforts with that particular piece of software. User groups are an excellent source of informal education. The size of the user group is in direct proportion to the popularity of the software.

User groups are especially valuable in Hawaii due to geography and our relatively small population. While you probably can find just about any user group in large mainland cities, this is not always the case in Hawaii. While many user groups now meet online or on social networks, you still can't beat face-to-face interaction.


John Agsalud is the director of professional services, Pacific region, for Decision Research Corp. Reach him at 949-8316, ext. 171, or at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).