Koha support or hosting options?

A query for help in identifying what vendors are available for Koha support and/or hosting in the US. In the tricky situation of someone that already has a hosted Koha installation, but is unhappy with their current vendor, trying to identify possible migration strategies.

Background: I’m aquainted with a local non-profit that has a smallish library. They used to use some legacy ILS software I forget the name of (not one used by large libraries, or I’d have heard of it) which didn’t even have a web opac.

They recently (yes, _already_) switched to Koha. They hired a large well-known Koha vendor in the US, possibly the oldest Koha vendor in the US, certainly the one with the best marketting. (I am ambivelent here; I’m giving enough info that you surely know who I’m talking about, because I think that’s neccesary to get good advice. But trying not to make their relationship with their vendor any worse than it is now, avoiding googleable words, etc.).

Their Koha installation is also hosted by this vendor. I’m not really certain exactly what ‘version’ or fork of Koha it is, or whether it’s a ‘mainline’ type community version or not. But it’s probably not a super specialized ‘academic’ version, as they are a small library and not an institute of higher education.

They have been rather unhappy with their experience, and with the vendor. They have exhausted all their ‘bundled’ support, so are currently paying per-incident — in fact, I think they’re even paying per-phone-call. But often spend many phone calls without support (at a price per each), and still don’t have a given problem solved. There was one problem involving printing labels that, after several (or more) phone calls with support without resolution — I managed to solve for them in a couple hours of hacking, not knowing much of anything about Koha, just using my generic software problem solving skills. My solution is terribly hacky and is definitely not the ‘right’ way to do it — but I got them able to print the labels they wanted, which hours/weeks/$$ with the support vendor had not. That’s just one example.

Now, it may or may not be the case that their problem is with the software itself — but it probably doesn’t matter, they’ve invested too much at this point to want to switch software again. However, Koha being open source, there are theoretically multiple support and hosting vendor options for it, it’s not like proprietary software where there’s (usually) only one vendor who can provide support. So it may be possible to switch vendors.

But there are still very high switching costs, especially when your installation is hosted. So it may or may not be feasible, but I’d like to help them explore their options.

So for starters, I don’t even know what companies exist who provide Koha support and/or hosting in the US.

But even if we knew what companies exist, it’s still going to be tricky.

I wonder if, even if they leave their Koha hosted by Unnamed Vendor, is it feasible to pay someone else for support on that Koha hosted on a ‘competitor’? Is it possible to give meaningful support without ‘back end’ access to the installation? I think probably so, for many types of problems — after all I helped them out with something on my own, and someone who actually knew Koha could probably do better. But would there be anyone (company or individual contractor recommended by someone I trust) who would be willing to do this? It might depend on how ‘forked’ the version of Koha they are using is, but we don’t really know — but this hypothetical person could probably figure it out.

Alternately, eventually, they could theoretically move Koha hosting to another vendor. Probably not until their current hosting contract runs out, not sure when that is. What other vendors in the US provide Koha hosting? How hard would it be to move a Koha installation? If they aren’t exactly the same version/fork of Koha, it might be a ‘migration’ of sorts, but presumably one version of Koha to another is about the easiest/cheapest ILS migration you can do. Are there any vendors with experience migrating from Koha hosted at competitor’s? Is this an expensive proposition?

Appreciate any advice anyone can give, even just on just the layout/make-up of the US Koha support community, which I know little about (I likewise know little about Koha itself). Is there anyone who does know a lot about Koha and the US support community (perhaps becuase they are a contractor or work for a vendor, that’d be fine) who’d be willing/interested in talking to these guys to give them some options?

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9 Responses to Koha support or hosting options?

  1. arkham says:

    These are the US Koha vendors I’m aware of:

    LibLime (owned by PTFS) http://www.liblime.com/
    ByWater Solutions http://bywatersolutions.com/
    Equinox http://www.esilibrary.com/esi/

  2. There is certainly experience in moving from one vendor, to an actual Koha support company.

    http://www.librarytechnology.org/ils-turnover-reverse.pl?Year=2011

    I don’t work for a US vendor, but I am the current release manager for Koha, until the 3.6.0 release on October 22 anyway, so have a pretty good knowledge of who is doing what, and would be happy to talk with people.

  3. Peter Murray says:

    I don’t have any specific suggestions but can offer that I’m in the process of building a registry for the open source library community where providers can register their services. In another few months it would be able to answer this question…

  4. MJ Ray says:

    software.coop is global and we do a little hosting colocated at a co-op site in the US, but unless your non-profit has some particular affinity for our members or you really like co-ops, I’d say talk to Bywater or Equinox first, so you’re not having to deal with timezones and so on.

    To get a first idea of how forked they are, look at the About screens in the librarian admin interface.

    Good luck!

  5. MJ Ray says:

    Oh and Peter (hoping you’re subscribed to comments) – what do we need to do to http://koha-community.org/support/paid-support/ for your new registry to read from it automatically?

  6. Peter Murray says:

    Yep, I’m subscribed to comments. I’m anticipating that there will be a way to override some registry functionality so that a package can point to an existing list of providers (as you described with Koha-Community.org) or installations (such as the DSpace implementers list).

  7. Luke Jaeger says:

    Any reason I have to use a US vendor just because I’m in the US? Does anyone have experience with any of the hosting providers in India?

  8. MJ Ray says:

    No, Luke, you don’t have to use a US vendor, but I feel I should be honest and say there may be practical benefits of getting support from a timezone that’s aligned with yours (most of the UK starts work at like 4am US Eastern I think, but slows down from US lunchtime); there are network speed benefits from being US-hosted for a US audience (which is why our co-op hosts some US libraries in the US); and US banks suck at international payments. You might still feel it’s worth buying from abroad, but make sure you go into it with eyes open.

  9. MJ Ray says:

    Oh and to answer your other question: I think we’re on friendly terms with Anant Corporation, but I’ve not bought from them yet.

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