Many companies initially install Linux for noncritical uses, but the operating system is now frequently being used to run core applications. To keep those applications running smoothly, IT managers must provide their staff with the necessary Linux expertise.
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The challenge is determining what kind of training will work best in your IT culture. The The wide availability of online self-training courses in Linux allows many organisations to skip formal Linux courses and, instead, encourage staff to learn the system on their own. Other managers consider formal training to be essential.
"Four or five of our lead technologists are aking Linux courses," says Martin Armitage, senior vice president and head of the global infrastructure organisation at Unilever in London.
"Those four or five will run workshops for their extended teams of 20 or 30 people." In this way, he says, Linux proficiency can "grow like mushrooms" throughout the organisation. The consumer-goods giant plans to move its global IT infrastructure completely from Unix to Linux by 2006.
By then, Armitage says, 200 people from his IT staff of 2,000 will be trained in Linux. As this work progresses, the company will use certification testing to make sure that everyone who is trained is up to speed. Because of the scale of the effort, he adds, "this is better than having people going out and self-teaching" (that is, learning on their own from books and online courses).
Many IT executives don't require certification - at least for those on staff. Working hands-on with Linux, the reasoning goes, is a better test of whether you know it than a certification exam. But for others, having staff get certified seems well worth the effort.
However, certification can also reveal what type of training each staff member needs, says Evan Leibovitch, president of the Linux Professional Institute in Brampton, Ontario.
"Sometimes it boils down to the individual," he notes. "Some of your staff will need a class, while others do fine reading a book. Certification measures results: If someone studies on their own and then passes the test, they clearly didn't need the class."