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Why Linux?

Linux is steadily becoming the operating system of choice in business. Linux systems are already the choice for Internet service providers. It is becoming a more established fact that Linux is winning more business all the time. Even governments are mandating the switch to use Linux (and open-source software in general). Don't be left behind!

Why pay for expensive and proprietary server systems for your business?

While shifting away from the expensive, closed systems will take time and effort, it is well worth it since you will no longer have to be "locked in" to a single vendor's system. Moving services to a Linux platform is not just changing what your critical services run on. It is also a conscious shift toward open standards - something the Internet is founded upon. Using open standards means you can later have your choice of vendors and software, and you are not locked in to one particular offering.

Why keep paying for software packages to do particular jobs?

In the world of proprietary software, it is common for someone to suggest the need to purchase more software when a problem comes up. With Linux, this is rarely the case. The software that comes with Linux (or is freely available) is often more flexible to begin with, so you can usually get the job done right the first time.

But I keep seeing published reports that Linux is actually more expensive.

With any operating system or major software system there of course are costs associated with setup, maintenance and problem solving. With Linux, there is no cost with the software itself. All systems will require employees or outside vendors to keep systems running. There is no valid reason why Linux should cost more than some proprietary system despite "published reports". The problem with the published reports has often been that their authors are far less independent than they will lead you to believe. If the proprietary software is as good as stated, the deception, (which often comes to light later on) would not be necessary.

The only exception might be a situation where the proprietary software does exactly what is needed and there is not an exact Linux equivalent. This situation can arise where, after years of following the proprietary software maker's methods and offerings, business leaders have been guided to doing things the software maker's ways without realizing it.

These situations can often be handled by an employee or vendor solving the problem either with available tools or if necessary creating a solution with one of the many programming languages available. If the problem is a common one, then often there will be an open source software project with an available solution. If it is a less common problem, it may make sense to create a tool to meet the need. Of course this will cost time and money, however this a one time cost. The result may be that the solution more closely matches the business need, than the proprietary offering. It also means you may have a competitive advantage. Having direct control over the solution also means it can be more integrated and automated, ultimately leading to increased efficiency.

What about anti-virus and other protections?

The need for anti-virus programs and other add-ons is generally not necessary with Linux. The main reason for this is that Linux (following in the Unix roots) is better designed from the ground up. Linux viruses are uncommon mainly because they would be far less successful since the fundamental security is more thoughtfully laid out and enforced. An inexperienced user's action in activating a virus would have much less effect since most users lack permission to do any real damage.

Linux out of the box is also more secure than some of the proprietary systems. The main reason for this is that open-source software is subject to truly independent peer review. With proprietary software, there may be very few people with knowledge of specific internal details. Fewer eyes means more chances those eyes have missed something important. In the world of proprietary software, there is pressure to move on to other projects and this leads to less review.

Linux is not without security risks though. No system is completely secure. Occasionally crackers or other miscreants may discover a flaw in a Linux software component, and use it to gain unauthorized access, just as with any system. This is rare if systems exposed to the public are kept reasonably up to date. Publicly accessible systems should have intrusion detection software enabled so any breach is discovered early. And with a well designed firewall, the breach can be rendered useless to the cracker by frustrating their attempts at making use of the machine in question. Zorin can help you rest assured that your network is secure and well organized and available precautions are in place.

With low cost, high performance hardware available now, it is often simplest to rotate publicly accessible servers rather than continuously upgrading them. This is a cleaner and safer way to maintain public services. When a server has been running for some time, rather than upgrading the software, install a new server instead. As time permits, services are brought up on the new server, and shifted away from the old one. When the last service is moved, simply retire the old server. It can then loaded with the latest version of Linux, ready to take over services when needed. This minimizes complications with upgrading and keeps a ready backup server at the same time.

I'm sold. But how do I start putting Linux to work in my business?

The first step is to define some of the first tasks that it would make sense for Linux can take over you. Perhaps your mail server is in need of replacement, and you don't want to pay for an upgrade for your proprietary system? Or maybe your file server is soon to need replacement? Or you want to have your own public web server? Or a better firewall?

The next step is to identify hardware to be used. In many cases you may already have hardware not being used because it is too slow for the proprietary systems. It may be usable since with Linux, in a server situation the graphical interface can be turned off, so much less memory and CPU is required. Zorin can help you evaluate available hardware to determine if it is adequate, and install the latest Linux and set up the needed services.

The next step is getting used to your new tools. When your first Linux system is on-line, Zorin can help guide you to which of the vast number of programs and other resources you'll want to be aware of, and if anything goes wrong, where to look for clues.

Once you are comfortable and have some familiarity with Linux you will probably want to take the next step and identify the next task you want to have Linux handle.

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