Linux+: Linux Install 13 – Supporting Linux


Jarret W. Buse

Linux+: Linux Install 13 – Supporting Linux

Managing a single computer can sometimes be a job in itself. There seems to be software and hardware issues popping up at times. Imagine, though, that you have to manage a dozen systems or even a hundred or more. What to do?

The issue with supporting Linux systems is not a new one since any business, large or small, usually has a few systems in use. Linux is becoming more popular because it helps businesses cut the budget by not having to pay for an Operating System (OS) for each computer. Costs for applications can be cut down by using software under the GNU or GPL licensing. Any costs will be for the systems and the user training. Users may be used to a Windows system and need to be trained on the differences to use Linux. Applications may require similar training for the users. For example, users may be used to the Microsoft Office suite and need a little training on learning another suite like Libre Office.

Users are not the only staff which may need to learn new techniques. The Information Technology (IT) staff may need to learn Linux as well. It is best to have the IT staff learn a few weeks or months before systems are converted to Linux. Time is a big helper to let the technicians know the in and outs of the Operating System. It may be their responsibility to also determine that new software is found to replace all existing software used in the company. Any proprietary software may need to be ported to Linux if it is possible. Software specially written for the company should be able to be recompiled for Linux or new software written.

Any servers moved to Linux will require the IT staff to be able to manage the server as well as the user systems. Training of this type may require sending the staff members to a training class or even a Linux certification class. A certification class can assist the technician to manage user systems as well as servers.

When a rollout is performed to change all systems to Linux, a program such as Clonezilla can be used to create images of whole drives. Once an image is made, it can be used to recreate the same image on other systems. The process prevents a technician from having to partition and format the system, install the OS, change hostnames and all applications needed by a user.

NOTE: It is best to use an image on the same type of system. If different models of a computer are used, you may need an image for each model.

When troubles do arise from technical issues that you cannot fix, there are multiple sources for support:

  • Paid support
  • Knowledge Bases
  • Forums
  • Chat rooms
The more widely known Linux distros offer support which is paid for by a set time. Usually, support is purchased by the year. Distros such as Red Hat and Ubuntu offer paid support. When a problem with a Linux system occurs which cannot be fixed, you can call a number or access support through the Internet. Technicians can assist you with the problem you have with the Linux system. Of course with all support, some solutions may work while others do not. It is sometimes best to try solutions while the support person is on the phone. There can be a long wait time to get someone on the phone. If you are given a possible solution and hang up to go try it, but it doesn't work you have to wait on the phone to get someone on the line again.

Knowledge bases offer self-help support. Databases of problems with solutions exist on the Internet to provide you help. In these cases, you can type in the error message or problem and usually find a solution or at least know it is a known problem and is being looked into. Typically, using a search engine such as Google can fall into this category. Many people may have come across the same problem and hopefully there is a solution, even if it is a temporary work around.

Forums can be more interactive at times. You can look through problems others have had which may be similar and find a solution. In other cases, you post a message of the problem and wait for possible solutions from others on the forums. Some responses may happen quickly and unfortunately some posts may not get a response.

Chat rooms are more interactive and immediate. Since chat rooms occur in real-time, answers can come quickly at times. Be aware that not all answers are a true solution. It seems that everyone wants to help at times to give an answer, but not all possible solutions will work and some may unintentionally make your problem worse.

At all times when troubleshooting, keep a log of everything you do. In this way, you can go back to the log and find an answer to a similar solution. It will also be possible to undo a possible solution which did not work, but causes more problems later.

The main trick to support is to use your head and remain calm to think the problem through clearly.


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