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Avoiding the IT 'root canal'

Open source offers a great way to spend responsibly through the downturn. We must continually to spend intelligently, if we're to avoid major, preventable costs down the road.

My dentist brother-in-law noted an interesting factoid this weekend at dinner.

I asked him how his dental practice is doing in light of the recession. He told me that nine months or so ago, his practice saw routine cleanings decline, as people sought to save money by avoiding the dentist. In the past three months, however, root canals and other major dental procedures are way up, which, he theorizes, stems from the lack of routine care.

I'm afraid that we're heading for much the same in enterprise IT.

The initial reaction to the September/October 2008 Wall Street implosion was for budgets to go into deep freeze. Big projects got axed, but so did small projects. Every financial outlay became suspect.

Today, things feel like they're loosening up a bit. While budgets are still tight, and spending scrutiny is more rigorous than I've ever experienced, enterprises are starting to spend money again, if only in dribs and drabs.

This climate favors open source, which enables companies to start small, buy only what they know will work (because they can evaluate the software before buying support or add-on services or software for it), but enterprises need to be careful that they don't tighten the spigot so much that they set themselves up for an IT root canal down the road.

As in consumer spending, we need to be more responsible with our spending and need to continue to increase our savings. But we do need to continue to spend. Open source offers a great way to spend responsibly, but it's by no means the only way.

That ERP upgrade your enterprise needed before the downturn? It probably still needs it. Looking to swap out more Unix servers for Linux? That probably remains a "go" too.

In short, don't neglect those "routine cleanings," or you'll end up with an IT "root canal." Spending intelligently now can avoid bigger spending projects down the road.