In many organisations IT is seen as dreadfully unreliable and, even at the best of times, slow - just ask the users out there in the business (or, if you think that's risky, phone your bank with a query and ask the person at the other end of the line what he or she thinks of their IT service.)

Then ask the managers of the business what they think and they'll add “ridiculously expensive”. To them IT has come to resemble a gaping black-hole - increasingly huge quantities of cash are shovelled in year on year with, to them, little or no visible return.

All business management and business users want is a reliable, value-for-money, proactive IT service. And in almost every instance they haven't got it. What they do have is a reactive, very expensive, overhead. And expensive overheads are perfect candidates for outsourcing.

What many businesses see as an IT Department that spends vast quantities of time and money fixing faults, reformatting, rebuilding, putting in patches or running Service Packs, killing viruses, or rolling out the next software upgrade which, of course, also needs the hardware to be upgraded because the software needs extra memory, or needs a faster processor or...

And note that none of these things is actually of business benefit. All are IT problems. Let me illustrate what I mean. Managing licenses is an IT problem, has nothing to do with running a business and adds nothing to the bottom line.

The bi-or tri-annual upgrade cycle, where you rip out all the hardware, all the operating systems, all the applications, and trade them for the 'latest' version is an IT problem, it has nothing to do with running a business and adds nothing to the bottom line.

Keeping track of patches, security updates and the virus-du-jour is an IT problem; it has nothing to do with running a business and adds nothing to the bottom line. Think about it and you will identify many more examples. And none of them add to the bottom line, none add value to the business.

From no other department would such service to the business be accepted. And the business is starting to realise this. There are the beginnings of a backlash against IT and questioning at Board level of what it has truly delivered. And, just read the press, outsourcing is rampant.

If this scenario is one you recognise or can relate to, Linux and Open Source software is, in almost every case, the clear answer. It delivers precisely what the business needs. Reliable, fast, inexpensive IT.

Open source software is outstandingly reliable with uptimes measured in years, not days, or weeks, or even sometimes the odd month or two.

But it would be, wouldn't it? It has been thought through, developed and tested by the best professionals from around the globe - professionals who have inordinate personal pride and belief in their product, and who do the work because they want to, not because they have to in order to earn their monthly pay check.

And being so reliable also means it doesn't require so much support - in practice, less than half as much.

It is fast, at least twice as fast as proprietary alternatives and much, much more scalable. And it should be since it doesn't come with all the mainly unused bells, whistles, functions and features all switched on all the time, bloating the software and swamping the hardware.

You can choose precisely what you want and tailor it, simply and easily, to deliver precisely what the business needs and wants. Plus you need much less hardware.

And it is cheap. So cheap that it is free! Surely the ultimate value for money. There are no up-front purchase costs. No expensive Client Access Licenses to buy every year. No confusing and high priced annual licenses to worry about and that add even more cost each year. And no need for expensive, highly trained IT people having to spend all their time running around doing compliance audits.

But we knew all that stuff anyway. We all know it's simply better software. So, now, forget everything else - and I mean everything, from either side - for the rest of this article, and come with me.

Forget the 'negs' from those quarters that have the most to lose from the rise and rise of Linux, and forget the breathless, quasi-religious, anti-Microsoft enthusiasm you may have heard from 'advocates' too. We're here to talk business.

In OPEN for business! I will show you why and how deploying open source software addresses real business problems, and why it is the best possible choice, in all but a very few special cases, for delivering real business solutions - for providing fast, flexible, efficient and reliable business IT.

You will learn how you can regain control of IT from the proprietary suppliers, and gain true choice for the business. You will learn how you can make IT truly serve the goals and agenda of the business, not its own.

And you will learn this while radically, and permanently driving your cost base for IT right back down to where it should be, not up where IT vendors have pushed it through product lock-ins and continual, enforced upgrades.

In OPEN for business! I will be taking in each article an area of the business that you may currently be running with expensive proprietary software. I will show you why and how you can replace that software with an open source solution, gaining functionality, speed and reliability. And radically reducing cost.

There will be no theories or wouldn't-it-be-nice ifs. We will use real-world, practical examples taken from a variety of open source deployments - each deployment having been made for a real business reason and each having delivered proven, measurable business advantage.

To whet your appetite, here are just a few of the areas we will examine:

Replacing Windows file/print servers. Replacing Cisco routers. Replacing proprietary firewalls. Replacing email/groupware/calendering servers. Replacing Active Directory… and lots, lots more!

I hope you can't wait ...

<