Most users of technology need someone to support them. They might need help with initial implementation of the technology, troubleshooting something that no longer works, or to apply the technology to a new problem. There are three support models: Vendor support, Community support and Vendor/Community support.
In the Vendor Support model, every user of the technology contacts the vendor directly. The vendor can potentially establish a competent and effective support organization, but it can often be difficult to explain and resolve non-trivial issues.
The Community Only approach is the only possible solution for open source projects, and is one where a number of key experts provide support for users through blogs and support forums. Each user can access several viewpoints on difficult problems and often reach a solution quicker than through vendor support.
The ideal support structure is a combination of these two: The Vendor/Community support model. Each end user has access to both the vendor and a community of experts outside the vendor. This model only works well when the experts have good communication among themselves and to the vendor.
When you evaluate technology, look for a vendor that has a formal program of support for independent experts.
I help people and organizations use appropriate information technology to achieve their goals. As an Oracle ACE Director, I am a member of Oracle’s expert program. For more tips and graphics like these, sign up for the Technology That Fits newsletter at http://eepurl.com/0fpvT and follow @techthatfits.