While we are talking about any high tech solutions, we always need to make an educated choice, basically between two ways of obtaining them.
One solution is to buy expensive “professional” equipment and software. There are pros and cons of this approach:
– The system is ready to use, needs no additional tweaking.
– Usually meets the promises of the vendor.
– Is tested and designed for specific user.
– Is available more or less readily.
– Only partially relies on the external infrastructure.
– Looks and feels “seriously”.
– Specialised systems are usually closed. User has no way to know what is inside, at lease without an NDA, neither can develop and adapt the system on his own. Migrating to some other standard often means trashing old system and starting from the scratch. For more complex systems, there are hooks attached, forcing specific materials or services to be provided by specific sources.
– Some special systems manufacturers are usually under supervision of their country secret services, which means the cooperation may end abruptly if a political change occurs.
– Dual-use technologies are strictly regulated on the national and international level. Buying them means additional formalities, sometimes needs intermediaries of various kind.
– These solutions are quite expensive to acquire.
Another approach is to use freely available, open source technologies and the equipment that is available on the market. With a team of dedicated and qualified people, a system can be developed, matching all but the most sophisticated, proprietary solutions. In fact, many of these technologies are used in proprietary systems, only “packaged” in a closed environment.
The advantages and disadvantages of using open systems are:
– User has full control over open source components. Their updates and upgrades are usually reviewed and tested by hundreds or thousands of independent people worldwide.
– The configuration, maintenance and development of the specific system lay fully in the hands of the user (it may be a downside – see disadvantages list).
– Acess to technologies and components is open, rarely strictly controlled. Both initial purchases and replacements can be made easily.
– Open source standards are recognised worldwide. Migration and adoption of new solution is much easier.
– Open source solutions are way cheaper, as they usually do not include any “intellectual property” licensing payments.
– In case of problems, vast knowledge of global open source community is readily available, often in a form of consultancy or training – free or low-cost.
– While open source components are thoroughly tested, there is no warranty with them. It doesn NOT mean the risk of failure is bigger. It just means there is no one to sue afterwards.
– While the development of components is ongoing worldwide, any specific system has to be maintained by a dedicated team. It means that the user needs his own – even if small – R&D and support infrastructure.
– Building system with the open source “blocks” means that it needs to be designed, prototyped and tested. That increases time before deployment and makes qualified – and loyal – people key requirement for the whole project.
– Conservative decision makers will have problems accepting the “tinkering” approach to the critical systems. It may result in bigger internal friction, to the point of rejection. Especially considering openness of the solutions which may me misunderstood as a lack of security.
So, decision-making guidelines are:
YOU CHOOSE OPEN SOURCE IF:
– You start from scratch.
– You have enough time to plan, design, develop and test.
– You have good people, who are (or can easily become) qualified, long-term infrastructure team.
– You have limited budget.
– You want the system in question to be developed independently by your people.
– Your decision-making group is willing or forced to accept innovative and ostensibly risky approach.
YOU CHOOSE PROPRIETARY SOLUTION IF:
– You are already using one and do not want to quit it.
– You need solution quickly and out-of-the-box.
– You do not have trusted, qualified or trainable support people.
– You can extend your budget.
– You prefer to outsource the development of the system.
– Your decision makers are conservative and reluctant to innovations.
** Conclusion **
This document is intended as an entry-level orientation material for an innovator, trying to introduce certain open-source technologies in critically important area of resilience protection and community self-defense.
By no means any specific need can be addressed here. However, I am keen and able to provide and arrange any consultancy and training that may be needed for these purposes.
There are many other technologies that can be implemented and used on the open source basis. We may discuss them thoroughly any time you wish.