Software Wants to Be Free, Software Never Dies, And Other MSP Rules to Live By

I just got off the phone with one of my first editors -- the man who showed me the ropes in the high-tech industry. Back in 1992 at InformationWeek, he made two rather stunning statements to me that I never forgot:

  1. Software Never Dies
  2. Software Wants to Be Free
Remember, he made those statements long before open source and the Internet revolutionized the way we think about software and collaboration. And both statements are critically important to managed service providers. Here's why.

First, software never does die. Thousands of people still run OS/2. I suspect millions of ATMs and specialized devices still run variants of DOS. Legacy code creates both a challenge and an opportunity for managed service providers.

As you seek to offer customers options like Hardware as a Service (HaaS), you'll be forced to kill old software running on antiquated PCs. You'll need to find creative ways to pull customers into the modern age. But you'll never really kill old software. You'll find some customers sneaking old programs onto their PCs because "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Instead of battling this mindset, you'll need to find some sort of common ground -- where customers have modern systems that don't force them to abandon old applications and old business processes.

Seeking Freedom

Now, the second rule: Software wants to be free. Think about this for a moment: Kids moving into today's workforce haven't purchased shrink wrapped software. It either comes with their PC, they purchase it on the web, or they seek out free open source options.

Despite aggressive efforts by Microsoft and other companies to block piracy, software often is easy to copy, share and redistribute. But more importantly, software really is becoming free. What we pay for is access to the software. Access to Salesforce.com. Access to hosted email. And we also pay for the guaranteed management of that software.

Throw in open source, and things get very interesting. Software as a Service coupled with open source is the ultimate combination of software that wants to be free coupled with software that never dies. Like a living organism, it just keeps changing and evolving as programmers plug in free code enhancements.

Software never dies. Software wants to be free. Those two facts represent both challenges and opportunities for MSPs.
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