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WorkshopLive.com is a virtual music school that features dozens of professional instructors teaching lessons online for all levels of expertise, in guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums. When WorkshopLive was in the early stages of development, the company had limited funds to devote to hardware, software, and human resources, so CTO Marilyn Hoefner decided to give open source software a try. "We've been extremely happy," Hoefner says.
Hoefner's mandate was to create a site rich in multimedia, including video teaching and animated fretboards to demonstrate chord fingering. "We needed a fairly powerful platform, but we didn't have a lot of money to spend," she says. "I come from a corporate background and hadn't used open source before. But the developers here were very comfortable with it and felt it was extremely secure. Also, we had some outside contractors working on development and they were high on it."
Though Hoefner was not familiar with Linux and other open source software, she was quite experienced when it came to proprietary platforms. "It's extremely costly for support, and you end up paying huge license fees. So I went with the recommendation."
To host what is now a collection of over 10,000 videos and animations and some 1,800 lessons, Hoefner chose Red Hat servers managed by Rackspace. She says that open source software, coupled with support and automatic upgrades from Rackspace, has made her job easy. WorkshopLive is coded with ColdFusion, but Hoefner has been so impressed by open source that she's decided to use more of it in the development environment, including Subversion and other open source development tools. "In my previous life, I was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on these things," Hoefner says. "My last job, the budget was over a million dollars for annual licensing alone. Here, I've got nothing in it. We don't spend a penny on any of these development tools."
Hoefner says the biggest benefit of using open source software has been the stability and security. "When you're running on a Microsoft platform, you're always worried about security, upgrades, and problematic patches. It's more time-intensive to support the end user and to maintain the applications, and we just don't have the staff to dedicate a full-time person to keeping the servers running. Our developers can spend their time developing code instead of administrating the network."
Her experience has been so good, Hoefner recommends other Web developers take a hard look at Linux. "I would just research it according to their requirements. Linux servers integrate very easily and they will reduce the costs. We haven't come across any pitfalls -- there's nothing negative. Test it out in a contained environment and I think they'll be very happy with it. It's definitely a platform I would invest in again."
Tina Gasperson writes about business and technology from an open source perspective.