Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My once-a-year training class

I get to go to training (or a conference) once a year, so this week I'm in a four-day Linux class. I've been managing Linux servers at work for about four years with no formal instruction, just the bits and pieces I've picked up along the way. The class has turned out to be more of a review than new material, but that's OK. I need the practice, and it's been useful to see the best way to do things, instead of the haphazard methods I've been following for years.

One thing that the instructor said has been bothering me. He pointed out on the first day that many companies will pay for Linux software from vendors like Red Hat, Novell, etc., and buy support from those companies as well. However, since there's a rich community of Linux administrators on the Internet and many sites with Linux documentation and tips, the instructor said several times that it's a waste of money to pay for support. If you can get help for free, why pay for it?

Well, if something goes wrong with one of my production servers and I can't fix it, I don't want to tell my boss (or his boss) that I'm checking user groups and web forums and waiting for someone in Europe to get back to me with a suggestion. I'd be in a world of trouble. We buy support for all our software, regardless of how trivial or how extensive the user community is. You never know when you'll need help, and you can't rely on Joe Sysadmin in Fresno to know how to fix your systems. That's why we "waste" our money on support. Because you never know.

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