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  #1  
Old 25th February 2007, 04:57 PM
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What's left for the IT professional?

I'm always looking for an opportunity to make a living with this Linux stuff. Being able to offer full service technology solutions using open source is a personal goal. Technology is getting really cheap and easy to work with, not to mention readily available. Recently, I was at my neighbourhood garage, these two brothers started their business 2 years ago doing oil changes and fixing cars. They also take care of their own computers, in essence, run their own IT services. Routers and switches are just plug and play. They bought a new computer and got their 18 year old cousin to install it who ran the network cables to connect it to the network. Similarly, I was at my local clinic. The doctor built his own computers and networked his servers together. What's left for the IT professional?
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  #2  
Old 25th February 2007, 05:15 PM
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There's always opportunities for someone who can do it better, faster and cheaper.
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  #3  
Old 25th February 2007, 05:21 PM
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What's cheaper then buying a wireless router for 50 bucks CDN and getting a 13 year old to setup the wireless? They're doing backups with a USB external drive that comes with synchronization software that is also encrypted. I've been struggling with the question, what segment of the market is the one man IT professional fit for?
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  #4  
Old 25th February 2007, 05:27 PM
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Being able to plugin a router and usb stick is quite far cry from being able to build an extra/intranet that is flexible and capable enough to grow as required and secure it as well.
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  #5  
Old 25th February 2007, 05:46 PM
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For small mom and pop shops, maybe the IT professional has lost some of their business. But there was never that much money there anyway.

The IT Professional is needed in much bigger environments. Large corporate networks do not run on $50 routers from Best Buy. They run on enterprise class gear like Cisco and these devices require trained and technical people to configure, monitor and administer. In addition, large companies need extensive firewall configuration and intrusion detection systems. The average home hobbyist isn't going to do a very good job with these types of setups either. Put the average person in front of a Cisco Pix firewall and watch them go to work configuring it.

Plus, large corporate networks need massive amounts of storage which is not available from disk drives from NewEgg or Best Buy. These networks use SAN and NAS environments from companies like NetApp and EMC. These devices require training and knowledge to get that setup and working properly. Not to mention, fairly large budgets and wise planning to make sure that the right equipment is purchased the first time.

So, if you are going to survive in the market place as an IT person, you have to acquire the skills and training necessary to offer value to an end user. Sure, somebody might build a few computers and network them together....but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are configured in an optimal manner. From a security standpoint, it's likely just a problem waiting to happen. Look at all of the problems with Windows computers (viruses, spyware, adaware, malware, trojans, rootkits, etc). I think a high number of these problems stems from the fact that the average user THINKS they know what they are doing and have done the work themselves. When it all blows up, they blame Microsoft. Sure, sometimes MS is to blame.....but their fundamental lack of training and knowledge certainly is a major contributer to the problem.
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  #6  
Old 25th February 2007, 06:03 PM
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Off hand, I'd say consulting in some areas the mom&pop shops don't think about.

Education and prevention regarding liability and licensing issues (the biggest opportunity is here.)

System security. Locking the whole mess down to prevent unwanted system penetration

System and network tune-ups.

System and component upgrades. Up-sell the gear.

Virus and malware removal. (Prime opportunity to sell Linux.)

System policy and procedure development and etiquette education. (The second biggest opportunity is here.)

A little "Top of Mind" free advice for a known presence, so when it all gets borked beyond belief, the "Who ya gonna call?" number, is yours.




Dan




<......>
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  #7  
Old 25th February 2007, 06:16 PM
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I would say that the MOM and POP shops are a rather large market. I do handle some of these stores for my consulting. The main resaon they use me is I can get a stable secure network going for half the cost that the other guys offer. The resoan for this is I use Linux for the server and use older hardware. Alot if times they have a few old computers left when we upgrade the workstations. I'll just use these for the servers and get some extra hard drives. In the end it comes down to when it brakes they call me. I make more money off of the few call backs I get then I did the setup.

EDIT: They small companies like the fact that they can get the same setup a big company has for 1/32 the cost.
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Last edited by techmatt; 25th February 2007 at 06:18 PM.
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  #8  
Old 25th February 2007, 07:08 PM
stevea
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Let me give you a different take. Years ago all systems were mainframes and if you didn't have IBM or Univac or Amdahl tattooed on your a$$ you weren't allowed to touch anything related to the comupter. Frankly a lot of supposedly bright execs were bamboozeled by a lot of IT types (and mainframe sales folk). The execs knew they needed the benfits of mainframes, but didn't understand much more than that - and the IT types spent a lot of their time creating obfuscating teminology and bogeyman scenarios if they didn't get their way.

As more powerful workstations (like a Sun WS with a whole megabyte of memory and a 16Mhz 68000 *and* a coax ethernet cable* ) became necessary for CAD, there was a radical democratization of computing power in the workplace. Some software companies started adding biz software to workstations, and this caught on with small companies, but big companies were lead by the entrenched mainfrain IT gurus. They (correctly) pointed out shortcomings of WSs, but also claimed ridicuous things - similar to the modern Microsoft FUD about cost of ownership.

So now radically powerful PCs are available for under $2k, and after observing google, no rational person can possible believe that a you need pricey hardware to build a big server or IT system. They war to democratize hardware is over. The software revolution isn't.

In the mainframe days I sometimes used a facility with two IBM mainframes and they had two fulltime employees who did nothing but apply patches to the OS and utilities. Your current example of the two man garage has a lot more cpu power and storage and memory than those two mainframes, but they certainly cannot afford even a single employee to manage IT and apply patches. Their needs and means are quite different. They need to hire you or an 18yo nephew for a few days or at most a few weeks work per year.

Now if you think you can make a great income by setting up $50 routers or configuring $1500 PCs for mom&pop shops I think you are mistaken. Everybody has an 18yo nephew who can do this for just above minimum wage. You may be able to do this sort of setup for regional chain stores or even local business, where your added-value is that you are more reliable, and more knowledgable than the nephew. You have cabling tools, and networking knowledge and know exaclty what the fire & building codes permit in terms of cabling & power. You also have to be available (for a fee of course) to handle emergencies. Still this is commodity type installation. On bigger installs you'll suddenly get thrus t into making decisions regarding T1 lines, runnung optical between adjacent building, backup mechanism and programming cisco routers and how to securely share in a small corporate network and .... you'll have know a lot to cover larger installs. I would't want an amateur designing an optical comm system between buildings. You can hire (subcontract) others to do the parts you can't, but their work will usually be a passthough item (little or no profit) for you unless you can keep them as full time employees.

Instead I'd suggest that you become expert in some niche that isn't being filled. You're garage and clinic examples of commodity services; most reasonably bright people can set up a PC and a router and do a little network cabling these days. I would wager that your mechanics nephew doesn't know how to set up mySql or GnuCash or Quickbooks to easily track inventory, purchases & sales; to produce statement they need for FICA, or taxes or business or to generate billing. I'll bet they don't have any nice way to enter records so that can see the history of a particular customer or vehicle. I'll bet they'd like to have way to list regular customers and send them holiday cards or oil change reminders. Of course such software must be reliable & simple to use - and that's a big challenge. You may need to train users at a cost. There are similar opportunites at a clinic; probably more. Still you can't make enough from a small operation to make a living.

If you pick some specialization you'll probably find that there are some existing software solutions on the market - don't be scared of their marketting hype & brochures. Instead talk to customers - often the best brochures are from vendors that customers hate.

My point is there there are plenty of great opportunities, but the ones that used to be easy and highly profitable are quickly gone - you need some value-add above the commodity level. No one is paying high-school kids $150 an hour to make websites anymore either (like circa 2000).

Oh yeah - GPL. I'll post another note wrt to GPL
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  #9  
Old 25th February 2007, 09:33 PM
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Well if you are doing small comaines like that you need to be doing more than just 1 off of 5 I make some good spare cash
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  #10  
Old 25th February 2007, 11:32 PM
stevea
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re GPL

As an aside ....

Quote:
Originally Posted by techmatt
Well if you are doing small comaines like that you need to be doing more than just 1 off of 5 I make some good spare cash
You are right - but spare cash isn't a living. Unless I was in college or underemployed I wouldn't bother starting even a personal services company that didn't have the potential to boost my inome by 30-50%.

==
GPL -

The GPL has a huge influence on the structure of any business that uses open software (GPL'ed software). I knew of Richard Stallman (and even had an email exchange w/ him many years before GPL ever appeared. I recall reading some of his early ideas on the topic via usenet/net-news before the WWW was invented.

I can't write a two sentence description of GPL which does the topic justice, but anyone even vaguely considering making a living and using open software would be well advised reading GPL and LGPL and probably understanding the differences between GPL2 and GPL3. Also the US gov't has some nice readable papers on what a copyright is (and isn't). Most people are completely clueless and there is a lot of misinformation spread around (and some every good info). I'm no lawyer but my brief list of highlight is this: a copyright protects a work of authorship ,and prohibits anyone but the copyright holder from duplicating the work (copying), performing the work (applies to plays and music, maybe software) or from making derivitive works.. A "derivative work" bit is the sticky part.

The upshot is this - if you create a derivative work from GPL'ed stuff (LGPG is differnet) then you do have permission to sell & distribute the deriviative work so long as you make the source code openly available. I *believe* (and I should re-read it) that you can either give the customer full source with the derivative binary or else you *must* make full source available to everyone on the planet for a nomical copying fee. I don't think you have to do both. Also your source is then comntrolled by GPL, tho' it *seems* you can grant additional rights.

I applaud the GPL idea for the good it has done. When I hit a bug I can find the source problem and fix it instead of just cursing. Also I can download tons of great software for personal free. OTOH I think it is a bit socialistic in intent. If I develop a GPLed Mom&Pop IT program, there is little hope that I can sell many copies - as the stuff is free to copy. I can provide services and I can sell upgrades (one or a few copies). Now if I am creating a major peice of GPL software for a big company things are quite different. as that large customer can afford to pay for the entire development effort and I can still charge for upgrades & features and such. and *maybe* sell an additional copy or two or variants. I'd really like to see the 'books' of some of the small open SW companies. My hunch is that the number of users who freely decide to paypal you a "donation" is ignorably small.

There should be some better compromise between "greedy capitalists" and GPL techno-beggars ("will code for food"). It's not unreasonable to have people choose to either pay for value received or else avoid a product - that's the stuff of free markets. OTOH I *hate* the idea of paying Intuit $80 a year for a tax program I use once, or MS a several hundred every time they roll out an OS or MS-Office##. It completely galls me that poor rubes actually buy Norton AntiV and especially the idiotic copy programs like Ghost. I expect to see a "Norton FloppyCopy 2007 edition" on the shelves for $16 when I stroll through a computer stores. How can anyone charge for something so basic. Serious greed going on there.

Still how does one make a decent income from Open Software development unless you land some bigger or mid-size customers who can foot the development costs ?

Off soapbox.
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  #11  
Old 26th February 2007, 02:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevea
Still how does one make a decent income from Open Software development unless you land some bigger or mid-size customers who can foot the development costs ?
How do you think Red Hat, IBM, Novell, MySQL, Trolltech, Mozilla Foundation etc etc make their money? Once you figure that out, you got your answer (hint: it is quite obvious on each case)
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  #12  
Old 26th February 2007, 02:21 AM
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See the whole deal is to get them to put you on "retainer" that way you have a cash flow, you go in once a week for a couple hours run some diagnostics, antivirus, check connectivity etc. Trying to get them into doing "Preventive" maintenance is the kicker, usually they wait until something happens until they call. You get a enough customers so you spend a couple hours doing preventive maintenance stuff and you just rotate through week, of course if a catastrophic failure happens and the customer deems it's an emergency, you can also change extra for some after hours work. It gives customers a warm fuzzy, paying some IT guy a couple hours a week to maintain a system, instead of full time IT guy to sit around waiting for something to happen. Plus when it happens the part time guy is only a phone call away.
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Old 26th February 2007, 02:23 AM
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Oops - I didn't mean to pick on Symantec/Norton without mentioning Symantec/Partition_Magic. PM can be downloaded for a mere $70, and the last time I looked the license was good for 1 machine for 1 --- vs gparted live cd for ??? gottaB smokin' somethin' to make sense of this.
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  #14  
Old 26th February 2007, 02:32 AM
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Be advised -- Partition magic has a rather nasty habit of breaking things.
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  #15  
Old 26th February 2007, 03:32 AM
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Hm what else could an IT pro do, maybe some gigolo work on the side.
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