Headaches for Small Businesses

Brother did a survey of small business’ attitudes to technology:

  • 85% report productivity suffers because of technological problems
  • 77% report problems cause missed deadlines and opportunities
  • 31% would give up a week of vacation to fix things
  • 66% report they are overwhelmed by tech choices

(click for full-size)

Here’s where FLOSS can help. A small business can migrate to FLOSS in a day or two, often over a weekend, and have software that just keeps on working. Problems that drop off the radar:

  • malware and slowing down – The software is not bundled with the PC in many cases so you are not pestered to load up the PC to the point where it cannot do the job because someone wants to sell you more software and hardware.
  • updating individual drivers, applications and operating systems – GNU/Linux operating systems like Debian GNU/Linux have a software package manager which allows one person to upgrade all the software (drivers, OS, and applications) without walking around. A lot of the testing and fiddling gets done by the organization which makes sure everything works together nicely.
  • having to replace PCs every few years – Since they don’t slow down they will do everything the tenth year that they did the first. You can even speed them up by moving applications to powerful servers and give the client machines even less to do/mess up.
  • having to pay for software licences – Instead of being taxed for every feature of your IT system, you get the ability to harness all the capabilities of your hardware for one low price, $0. You can invest that money in better hardware or other places in your business.

I’ve done a lot of work in schools which are the size of many small/medium businesses. Given a little planning, a lab or small department can be converted to run FLOSS and GNU/Linux in as little as 1 hour: change each machine to boot PXE and load software from a server and run all software on one or more servers instead of fighting with hardware and software problems on every PC. A few servers are much easier to maintain than a bunch of PCs. In a school lab, for instance, a single newer PC can run all the applications for the whole lab with no additional hardware and everyone gets the look and feel of a new machine on their screens. Many schools need no more applications than a good distro like Debian supply. Much of the work gets done with LibreOffice, a web browser and a few educational applications.

Let the world take care of your headaches by producing and sharing Free/Libre Open Source Software. The world is bigger than any corporation and can and does create its own software.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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9 Responses to Headaches for Small Businesses

  1. @Mats Hagglund, that’s a great link with practical tips for migrations in huge organizations that cannot migrate quickly to GNU/Linux because of locked-in file-systems and the like.

    Small businesses/organizations usually have it easier. They can shift files from one OS to another on the server and all the clients in a day or two, so there is no need to do networking M$’s way. The IT-person simply sets up a new GNU/Linux server and prototype client and sets things up in advance. On the day, the old server is replaced and the clients as well. Issue new credentials for everyone and mash them into /etc/shadow or openLDAP and you’re done. The IT-person can do file-migrations by scripting. It is a pain to have to redo a lot of templates but fortunately small organizations have fewer of those. The last school in which I worked had only four documents that mattered, old M$-Works report cards. They took an hour to fix. They had no server at all so I modernized the whole system at once with no need for new hardware. I did the high school report so that it was integrated with my database of marks but each high school teacher was responsible for their own section of a shared document so most just typed into a template created cooperatively. Interestingly, it was the one teacher who insisted on using that other OS who was the odd woman out. We had to giver her a GNU/Linux PC just to do reports. She was annoyed that she could not use her old printer with “7” as well.

  2. oiaohm says:

    Robert Pogson its the huge archives of existing documents in Business that are the issue.

    Over night migrations in areas with large archives of documents cause major headaches for the end users.

    By the time documents are 10 year old in most countries they are not that important any more.

    Basically stop creating new non cross platform documents is the first step in a slow migration.

  3. oiaohm wrote, “Nicer for users is plan on the 10 years”.

    I disagree strongly with that. Organizations tend to have increasingly more and more complex IT. The sooner they escape Wintel the better off they and the world are.

    I have done most migrations “cold turkey” (overnight/on the weekend) but I might have eased it for users with a presentation, cheat sheet or individually handing over re-imaged systems. Most schools I have been in have a lab plus one or more PCs per classroom. It is then simple to do the lab immediately and use it to introduce teachers/students to GNU/Linux. I have had only a tiny minority object to this as they get vastly superior performance for little effort on their part. For a larger organization, inducements/compensations like newer/better keyboards, mice, and monitors help too. I’ve heard of migrations that were so smooth folks thought it was just an update by M$… Chuckle. That’s one reason I like XFCE4. It’s a lot like M$’s old familiar interfaces. Indeed, M$’s little changes from one release to the next may be just as confusing for some as GNU/Linux’s different file-systems and menus.

  4. Mats Hagglund says:

    William von Hagen, Systems Administrator, Writer, WordSmiths:

    Linux is a powerful operating system that is free and — nowadays — also easy to use. Using Linux on your desktop or portable computer can provide substantially better performance than operating systems such as Windows and is also a great way to give new life to older computers. ”


  5. oiaohm says:

    –Munich, the apparent flagship of the move to freeware cause, has taken 10 years so far and isn’t even finished. How can you say “day or two”? The facts don’t support such a claim.–
    You don’t study the one that has gone perfectly it does not teach you anything.

    French Police did 15000 in 2 years. Yes they are still planing on a 8-10 years for full migration of 90 000 machines.

    Even that French Police is many times larger than Munich the Migration time does not expand. 10 years is the upper limit.

    A few countries government departments did it in 24 hours. Darn rude shock to there staff. Yes end day on Windows have to start day on Linux and stiff bricks to the issues since the government at time did not have the money to spend.

    So a Linux migration is somewhere between a few days and 10 years. Nicer for users is plan on the 10 years.

    Reliability of computers is a huge issue. Another huge issue is the cost to small business to get enough hardware to be Reliable.

  6. kozmcrae says:

    bw wrote:

    How can you say “day or two”? The facts don’t support such a claim.

    The facts don’t support such a claim? What facts? You gave an example that is so far removed from dougman’s claim it’s useless.

    Is that how you measure things? Choose one example that’s way out of proportion to the existing case? Your desire to present Linux as unacceptable has gotten the best of you bw. Your opinion, your experience, your comments are of no consequence. You have dismissed yourself.

  7. bw wrote, “How can you say “day or two”? The facts don’t support such a claim.”

    Munich is a huge business, not a small one. They have 15K employees and umpteen departments. A small business may well fit in a single room and can be run by one or two servers and a number of clients.

  8. bw says:

    “A small business can migrate to FLOSS in a day or two, often over a weekend”

    Munich, the apparent flagship of the move to freeware cause, has taken 10 years so far and isn’t even finished. How can you say “day or two”? The facts don’t support such a claim.

  9. dougman says:

    At my day job, I hear countless horror stories from users of XP, Vista, 7 & 8 as the IT dude troubleshoots the problems. All I can do is chuckle, why you ask? I use Linux Mint. 😛

    There was a study done of last years troubleshooting calls and the time was considerable. So now there is a push for WAN users to start using Chromebooks exclusively to connect to the RDP server.

    Chromebooks are economical, let’s study the differences:

    $200 * 50 users = $10K

    ($800 * 50 users) + ($125 yearly support * 50 users) = $46.25K

    Cost savings: $36.25K

    Any CFO would, sign off on this and bump your salary up a notch. 🙂

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