Consulting services on free server software: Money to be made.

The current offering of free software titles creates a great opportunity for side business. IT pro Rick Vanover shows a few ways you can earn money on the side with free software.

I don't know about you, but I truly think that there is an incredible amount of really good software available for totally free today. Sure, there has always been a strong open source software community; but never before have so many of them been available as refined programs that are rock-solid.

While talking with someone recently who was looking for ideas for opportunities for IT side work, the idea of utilizing these free titles dawned on me. The opportunity would be to make a basic service catalog for your ideal client, whether that would be a home user or a small business. Here are a few software titles that can be used to make a great catalog for your prospective clients:

  1. Untangle Appliance:
  2. This Internet appliance is, by far, my favorite, and is a candidate for both the small business and home user. If for no other reason, the web filter and Spyware Blocker applications can be a boon to the small network to protect the browsing experience. Other features such as VPN

  3. VMware ESXi:
  4. The free version of the popular hypervisor, now dubbed VMware vSphere Hypervisor, is a very capable platform; even for the free edition. Most operating systems are supported as guests and other features include using shared storage, thin provisioning, and memory overcommit.

  5. isyVmon Freeware Edition:
  6. This virtual appliance functions as a monitoring platform, including a Nagios installation for up to 10 hosts. This can be a critical tool to page or otherwise alert when a system is unavailable.

  7. VMware vCenter Converter:
  8. This free tools allows administrators to convert physical servers to a virtual machine, including onto the free ESXi hypervisor.

  9. Logmein:
  10. For any scenario, Logmein is a great support mechanism for console access. Primarily because the remote assistance tool always works. This can be a backup for a VPN offering, or a simple solution for mobile systems that may need support wherever they are. For home use, the free product is a great solution. For business use, the commercial offerings should be considered.

  11. Openfiler:
  12. This storage software engine can function as a SAN or NAS resource on commodity hardware that you provide. All major storage protocols are supported, including NFS, iSCSI, fibre channel and CIFS.

There are scores more offerings that you can leverage to provide consulting services as side work. The business plan is simple: learn the products and provide good service to install. The value proposition you can make in this situation is to leverage free software, the client will incur a lesser cost to get to the solution they are seeking.

Do you know of any free products that the everyday IT pro can roll into their fold for a robust consulting business on the side? Share your comments below.


Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

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