[nSLUG] Possible Berwick Migration
jim at on-site.ns.ca
Thu Mar 1 18:07:44 AST 2007
Robert Ashley Of Berwick was musing about a migration to Linux. He was
not clear if he was thinking Desktop or Server Migration.
I have used in one form or another, sometimes successfully and sometimes
not, Linux as a server. I have struggled as have other users, with the
Linux desktop scenario and cannot afford to waste time on it.
I have several clients using Linux as a file and print server on a daily
basis, without being aware of the OS. For file and print services that
is the way it should be.
For any other than basic file and print service, specialized,
complicated, and hard to find would be the way to describe support for
the server. If Berwick was to contemplate a move to Linux as a server I
would suggest some very careful study of the entity's needs and user
Let's start with e-mail. How is their mail currently handled? Do they
use Outlook? Outlook Express? Are the users mail files stored on a
server or the local PC? Are all the systems using the same version of
Outlook / Outlook Express so a user can move from desk to desk, login and
see their own Outlook files?? Are some users popping their mail and
others getting it from an Exchange server? If they use Exchange, and the
calendering and appointments system, what will they use in the future?
What will the training cost be? Will there be functionality
What feature loss or gain will be a deal breaker or maker for the users?
How will the Blackberry's be handled? No BlackBerrys, what about syncing
to the 10 different PDAs they have? ( He did indicate they have about 10
users. So 10 different PDA's would not be out of the question.)
Do they run a small database?? Maybe they run a host based app that runs
on a Windows box. When I say host based, I mean a Windows OS of some
sort running an app that all (most) users use in a Workgroup setting.
How will this app be handled in the future?
Are all the versions of Word Processing they use, the same?? I have a
client with 4 different versions of MS Office on only 7 computers.
Outlook handles mail and appears differently on each of the 4 versions
and their respective patch levels. And their mail goes back 4 years and
they have some 5000+ messages and attachments. In some cases they have
had to split up the mail as the mail store has exceeded 2Gb for each of
several users! They all have individual contact lists, and Address
books, as well as the system wide.
>From a support point of view it is a nightmare, yet they are all
reasonably happy and don't want change.
Now lets look at mission critical apps. Is there a municipal billing
package that is common among municipal units? Are they all expected to
use it? What if a Berwick strays from the mold. They would have to
develop their own support system, or pay dearly. How would they access
historical data if the old system is on one platform and OS, and the new
and improved is on another? Can a small 10 user entity afford
virtualization and to maintain OS licenses and support for legacy apps?
Lets say Mr. Ashley develops and configures a new Linux server system
with all the attendant unique configurations and apps for the municipal
unit and they are happy. What will happen, and I am not meaning to
imply that I want it to happen, but if the notorious highway through the
valley claims his life and the laptop with all the carefully developed
system tools and documentation??
If they had a non-Linux box with a corporate vendor, they would call up
the vendor and find another experienced support admin. As they are
generally similar in operation, support would continue with a new name
attached to the support role. Now if it is a Linux box, who you gonna
call?? Do they support that flavour and version of the OS? Debian, oh
well we only support XYZ Linux.
I have worked with the RedHat / Centos releases since RedHat 4.x (not
RHEL 4.x but those versions before Fedora). At one point we tried to
change to SUSE. The OS was the same right? Wrong. File locations,
functionality, tools, all usually different, located in what we regarded
as weird points in the directory. But it was Linux right? We gave up
and continued with RedHat / Centos. Much of the difference is that the
cultural difference and thought processes of the creators, are not the
same. A manual written by an English speaker in the UK will have much
less readability for a North American English reader. Now just make it
German thinking translated from English to German and back into English.
There is as much difference from SUSE to RedHat as from a Mercedes to a
Toyota. They are both cars right?
So what is Berwick to do? As a responsible admin, and I find it hard to
believe that a group with 10 users even needs an admin person, the
foremost task is to satisfy the needs of the users. IT is a support
function and an enabler of the task. "IT" is not the reason that the
Berwick Municipal unit exists. One finds the needs, both legal, and
operational of the users. Find / develop a solution at the right cost in
dollars to acquire, administer, and support that municipal function.
Find best in class software solutions that meet their needs, from both a
server and desktop perspective, and go with that. If linux can provide
the solution then go with it. If another solution is better, then the
admin is obliged to do what is best for the entity being served.
Now I am in favour of an e-demo of a potential solution for small
municipal units. But before that is attempted the real needs of serving
the community must be defined.
James A. Haliburton
On-Site Computer Services of Halifax
Suite 100, 25 Walton Drive
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Canada B3N 1X6
Office/ Cell : (902)499-5250
Home/After Hours : (902)477-8342
e-mail : jim at on-site.ns.ca
Please avoid sending me Microsoft Office attachments.
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