Ever since taking the dive into FOSS4G (Free and Open Source Software for Geo) I’ve always wondered “Can I do support?” and if you’ve remotely followed the business you’ve seen me float out different ideas for software support and mostly they’ve been rehashed examples I find from other companies and my past experiences with ESRI. That’s one of the main complaints from people “There isn’t any support” which is 100% wrong – there’s plenty of support it’s just different support.
The last two months found me providing QGIS and Geoserver support to two different companies. QGIS support really turns into the old 80/20 rule. 80% of the problems are commonplace and 20% are something I have to research. So far QGIS support hasn’t been that bad. I try to bill every 15 minutes and round down and overall it’s been somewhat fun.
Geoserver was a whole different beast. I can get it installed and I can share out the common services quickly and easily. What I learned is there is a lot of flexibility built in that I didn’t know about. So research. Re-installations. Docker. Luckily this support contract was a troubleshooting/research oriented job – so a short duration and a lot of reading and learning.
My approach to support In my opinion has always been backwards. If you look at ESRI Support you buy “Whatever” and you pay maintenance for “whatever”. You get QGIS and you also get the width of breadth of about 3 different software packages. Geoserver you’re getting a lot of functionality and there is cross pollination with QGIS. So how do I make this worthwhile? Retainer basically. The support has to be different – and like I said above – half of the 80% were just data problems. Most of the time what was left was “you really need to upgrade QGIS”.
Anyway – excuse the lengthy babble on support. I end this all to say I’m probably going to make a push to do support on a retainer model. Spell out what I will and won’t do – and do what I can/can’t. I’ll help you with software, data, and tell weird jokes. You not only get Free software but you get an old guy with 30 years in the Geo field. Dang. 30 years. Well – that’s not quite depressing but it’s getting there.