This is the thinking behind a Call for Proposals for changes to Libre Office and OpenOffice issued in March and required by a group of German and Swiss public bodies. "They're exercising their ability to leverage the market to get support work done at the best price by the best people," Phipps says.
A similar option - useful for smaller open source software projects where third party support contracts may not be available - is to contact the author directly and pay for his or her time to support the software on an ongoing or one-off basis. You may also be able to get support from the system integrators or consultants responsible for choosing the software.
An alternative to buying support for open source software is to support it yourself, getting help and pointers from the original developers or the open source software community involved with the software through mailing lists and forums. "If you have the necessary skills and just need pointers, then these forums are very good," Phipps says. "It's likely that you'll get the information you need to solve problems very quickly indeed."
However, he adds, you need good coding skills to perform this type of self-support. "If you have no clue what you're doing, these forums won't treat you very well," he says. That might mean that supporting the software yourself involves employing someone with the right skills.
Open Source Software Support Not Hard to Find
What does this all mean? Rather than relying on a vendor to support the product, with open source software you can get support in at least five different ways:
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