Have your say at computerweekly.com
On how compensation could have paid for the IT
In response to the news that EDS will receive compensation worth £9m following the cancellation of the NHS e-mail contract (Computer Weekly, 17 August)
About two years ago I thought this e-mail application would be another massive waste of money the NHS could ill afford.
Now, the sum of the compensation to EDS combined with the cost of the renewal of contracts to the new provider and any other hidden costs would probably purchase an off-the-shelf system (Oh, but I forgotÉ it won't be gold-plated).
The take-up of this system was so poor (5% of proposed users) that one must wonder at the level of consultation on the project.
On public and private sector cover-ups
In response to Julia Isaak, who pointed out the difference in profit motives between the public and private sectors (Letters, 17 August)
If Julia Isaak really thinks that private companies reward "those who advance the interests of the public", she clearly hasn't been paying much attention.
I have worked in public and private companies and the amount of incompetence, politics and covering-up seems equal.
Andrew Ducker, Developer
On the true cost of pay-as-you-go broadband
In response to news about the first pay-as-you-go broadband service available in the UK (Computer Weekly, 10 August)
It was no surprise to those of us who have long predicted that the "all you can eat" broadband pricing model was unsustainable.
For too long, bandwidth-hogs have had a subsidised ride on the back of the average subscriber who rely on their broadband connection to browse the web or catch up on some e-mails. The popularity of P2P download applications has forced ISPs to keep the price of broadband artificially high and has been instrumental in curbing the uptake of broadband.
But although the idea that subscribers pay for the bandwidth they consume seems simple, per usage billing is dependant on another crucial factor - security. The proliferation of malicious traffic will undermine attempts by ISPs to move to this more lucrative model.
When a MyDoom-like attack strikes, it dramatically increases network traffic, potentially using up a subscriber's quota of bandwidth before they have even switched on their computer. How would an ISP reconcile this on a subscriber's bill?
Pay-as-you-go broadband has the potential to drive the uptake of broadband services, but its success is dependent on an ISP's ability to control security threats at the network level. As per usage billing becomes the norm, ISPs would be wise to get their house in order sooner rather than later.
Bryn Teasdale, director EMEA sales, P-Cube
On how SLAs depend on supplier relationships
In response to Matt Price, who said the problem with service level agreements was deciding which party should take responsibility (Computer Weekly, 31 August)
Matt Price's definition of the problem with SLAs is absolutely right. It all revolves around who takes responsibility when a disagreement arises.
Where he is wrong is about the solution. SLAs will never become the bedrock of constructive supplier/customer relationships.
It is the other way round. If the relationship is right, founded on trust and mutual benefit, that will form the bedrock of successful SLAs. If the relationship is right, both/all parties will work to resolve a problem to the benefit of the relationship.
The difficulty is that you can't document a relationship in advance to ensure it is going to work. Relationships at all levels are people-to-people things and we cannot hide behind the printed word to make them work.
David Konopinski, business development manager, Interalia Communications
Too many excuses for IT project failures
Confidentiality is only one of the excuses government departments use to disguise misguided or failing IT projects (Computer Weekly, 27 July).
The procurement process is another, with individuals, teams and departments able to hide incompetence behind the usually over-complex process.
MPs are also correct to stress accountability. A multimillion-pound investment in IT should have a named individual accountable for it, rather than a committee or board that can diffuse and share blame if things go wrong.
Lack of budget to attract correctly equipped and experienced people is a poor excuse - without these individuals government IT projects will continue to fail, taking millions of pounds of taxpayer's money with them.
If the right people with the right skills are bought in at the start of these projects, and if they are told they will be held accountable, I am sure we would see a dramatic reduction in wasted money on failed projects.
Janice Miller, chief executive, Partners for Change
Linux vs Windows on total cost of ownership
I would like to respond to the claim by Capgemini that Microsoft was 68% cheaper than open source (Computer Weekly, 17 August). The Newham trial was not representative because of the cost of using Microsoft as a platform.
The applications involved in this trial, the networking environment conditions and the cost of the hardware to run these systems must also be included.
The licensing costs should be the standard price at which any organisation can purchase the software. The rumoured special deals help to lower the cost of Microsoft, making it a case study that is good for advertising. Very few of their customers benefit from these deals, which actually push people away from investigating Linux.
Another issue is the cost of disruption. A virus or other malicious code might wipe out a Microsoft network in minutes and servers are just as vulnerable as desktops.
The launch of Longhorn will be an interesting time for Windows. Microsoft has stated that backward compatibility between previous Windows versions is not high on its priorities. The users Microsoft will most easily persuade to upgrade are running Windows 95 and 98, because support for these systems is to be suspended. This accounts for an estimated 50% of all Windows desktops.
This is where open source has a chance. Linux on the desktop is a viable replacement to many home users' Windows 95 and 98 desktops. The minimum specification for Longhorn will make these computers redundant, where Linux can offer a supported platform without the resources-hungry Microsoft software.
A strong message to IT professionals investigating Linux is don't believe all the advertising - there are a lot of worried companies with large budgets wanting to hold their presence in the IT markets.
Matthew Saunders, systems and infrastructure technical support
Supplier mistakes are costing SMEs dearly
Your recent article (Computer Weekly, 3 August) showed that more than 40% of executives from small and medium-sized businesses said they have wasted money on IT; and 66% of those claimed this is as a direct result of being sold the wrong product by a supplier. As an experiment, we looked into some of the hundreds of "great offers" put out by a leading PC manufacturer.
A recent promotion advertised a business-use PC with a flat panel monitor for £399. But when we looked a bit closer we realised it was not built to the same standards as business models and was pre-loaded with Windows XP home edition. Great for home, but the total cost of ownership for a business would have made the initial low price irrelevant.
The same company was advertising servers at £349. But again, scratch the surface and you find that the hard drive is IDE, totally inappropriate for multi-user computers, and there was no operating system on the server at all. When we specified the correct installation for a five-user server with Microsoft Small Business Server 2003, the price came to nearly £1,900 - more than five times the amount advertised.
You might expect that these "great offers" came from a shoddy PC reseller looking to shift some surplus stock. Unfortunately, for the reputation of the IT industry, it was actually a direct sales offering from a multinational manufacturer.
If the big boys cannot lead by example, what hope is there for the IT industry?
James Barton, marketing director, SilverBug
Continuity need not trouble the board
Russell Flower's article (Computer Weekly, 10 August) rightly pointed out that business continuity and IT security are integral to protecting the corporate reputation and needs to be high on the agenda.
Although business and IT continuity are valid topics for the boardroom, we should be careful that the need for board-level attention does not fuel the view that such issues can only be properly addressed if significant resources are made available to support the required investments.
In fact, most UK businesses could improve their levels of resilience for a modest or even neutral investment. And these steps can be taken now - without waiting for the expensive preparatory consultancy.
It is extraordinary how many companies allow their business-critical applications to run on servers located in a basement or in the corner of an office with no uninterruptible power supply, unsuitable cooling and expensive connectivity.
The costs involved in moving these servers to a third-party datacentre would be quickly won back by savings made in management resource, space and power, and improvements in the levels of resilience can be increased dramatically.
Such decisions do not need to be made at board level, nor involve prior external strategic advice.
Matthew Gingell, marketing director, TeleCity
This was first published in September 2004