Book review: The Practical Manager’s Guide To Open Source <i>by Maria Winslow</i>

Book review: The Practical Manager’s Guide To Open Source by Maria Winslow


Cover of The Practical Manager’s Guide to Open SourceCover of The Practical Manager’s Guide to Open Source

Free software has grown in leaps and bounds. All too often though, there is a lack of concrete evidence of its usefulness in the workplace. While you and I know the advantages of free software, in the world of business it’s all about money. Most IT directors have experience with free software, so they know the money they’d save. Showing that to a board of directors is completely different.

(Editor’s note: In her book, Maria Winslow has used the term “open source software”. In this case, we believe the terms “free software” and “open source software” are intended to be synonymous.)

Maria Winslow shows IT directors how to do that in her book The Practical Manager’s Guide to Open Source. As a business analyst and LinuxWorld contributing editor, she knows a great deal about free software in business. She has aided many of her own clients in converting proprietary applications to cost-saving free software.

Useful guide for business IT

While it’s doubtful that an IT director isn’t already aware of free software, Maria begins with some background information about free software. She also gives basic truths about free software and dispels some myths we’ve all heard. The real-world case studies show actual facts and figures with none of the zeal we see all too often. Lest you think only businesses need budget help, there are case studies for non-corporate environments such as the North Carolina Cooperative Extension and a charter school.

Maria shows actual facts and figures with none of the zeal we see all too often

There are instructions for discovering where you save and how to find room for improvement in your current hardware and software. There are also tips for using older computers in the workplace since reusing hardware costs less than buying new hardware. Once all of the basic legwork is done, Maria shows you how to calculate ROI (return on investment, or cost-benefit ratio). There are worksheets available on the book’s accompanying website to aid you.

It’s nearly impossible to discuss free software and not mention Linux. She does so by highlighting more popular distributions like Red Hat, SUSE, Debian, and so on. There is help finding specific applications, including server-side and desktop applications. The book ends by helping you find resources. After all, having free software is no good if the IT department can’t get help or stay up to date.

Pros

Maria does a wonderful job showing sound business reasons for switching to free software. She also reminds you that you can’t account for every saving or expenditure since total cost of ownership (TCO) can be a vague thing. She also reminds you that during a switch like this, productivity does suffer.

Cons

If you’re not a fan of Linux, you might not enjoy this book’s heavy Linux references. I feel there should have been more talk about security. Businesses spend money on damage done by viruses and exploits, but this wasn’t addressed to a great deal.

Final word

This is a valuable guide for any IT director or small business owner. If you have computers in your company (and who doesn’t?) then you need this book.

Title The Practical Manager’s Guide To Open Source
Author Maria Winslow
Publisher Open Source Migrations
ISBN 1411611462
Year 2004
Pages 226
CD included No
Mark 9

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Raymond Burke's picture

Biography

As a young geek, comp sci teacher, computer repair specialist, and consultant, I've learned quite a few things about computers and their users, both technical and non-technical.