Third-sector organisations are traditionally cautious about making changes to infrastructure, but upgrading to Open Source Software can bring important benefits while reducing overall IT costs.
The third sector is just as diverse as the business world, ranging from small local charities with a handful of voluntary workers to multinational organisations every bit as complex as a major corporation. Charities are inherently cautious about making changes, especially if it involves spending money on their own infrastructure rather than on their core aims. But there comes a point when, in order to be efficient, IT systems need to be upgraded. So why should a third-sector CIO or network manager consider Open Source Software (OSS)?
Well yes, but few charities, or organisations for that matter, have the spare staff to deploy away from their regular job to focus on setting up a new IT system: they need an expert consultancy to help and advise, and of course they need paying. However, in the long run this can actually be cheaper than paying an annual licence for proprietary server software.
Smaller charities can use standard OSS applications with minimal configuration, but the larger ones can use Open Source systems as a basis for building their own specialised applications ideally suited to their sector.
It prevents vendor lock-in
Not only is OSS and Linux generally available free of charge, the licensing terms prevent vendor lock-in. Open Source Software uses Open Standards for data storage so you are free to move your data to a different application, or switch your support contract to a different company, any time you want. This tends to keep developers and consultancy companies on their toes.
The Linux operating system runs on smartphones, and powers Google’s worldwide network. A small charity might run a single Linux server, a larger one might need several. However big your organisation, it’s almost inevitable your IT needs will grow. Maybe you will run more programs for more clients backed by more funders, and employ more staff and volunteers. But even if you stand still in terms of service provision, it’s likely you will collect more data from more sources and need to process it more quickly to remain on top of your game. Adding more servers, more work stations and more storage can be lot cheaper when the software is free.
It supports virtualisation
Even if your organisation grows quickly, it is unlikely to keep pace with the development of IT hardware. This often means that several legacy server systems can be consolidated on to a single server running several virtual machines. With Linux, virtualisation is an integral part of the operating system kernel.
Cloud offers third-sector organisations a way to modernise their IT without major upfront investment. Why build and equip a new server room or a new data centre when you can buy in storage and processing power, even software, as and when it’s needed? All the major Cloud providers run Linux on their own systems; having a Cloud-ready Linux system of your own makes integration easier. Your Linux and OSS partner can help you create a ‘hybrid Cloud’ system that allows you to ‘burst out’ of your own system whenever there is high demand.
– Think about how quickly your organisation is growing and if your current IT system will be able to keep pace.
– Research why the UK government has mandated a preference for Open Source technology.
– If you want to maximise on the ROI and TCO of your IT infrastructure, talk to a Linux and OSS consultancy like LinuxIT who are helping organisations in the third sector reduce the cost of IT.