NEWS AND RESOURCES

What's New in Technology for June 2004

TECHNOLOGY - LINUX - A NEW BUSINESS COMPUTING OPTION
Linux began as a fun project - a pastime of a student called Linus Torvalds who lived in Helsinki. Torvalds developed the Linux operating system in 1991 and posted his self-described "hobby" on the Internet. Since its modest launch and use among computer hobbyists, Linux has crossed over into the mainstream technology segment, and today it has millions of users worldwide. Technology experts now regard the Linux operating system as a viable alternative to the two produced by Operating System (OS) giants, Microsoft and Sun.

Could Linux be right for your business? Here is a brief introduction and an outline of some pros and cons to consider:

What is Linux?
Linux is a UNIX-like operating system. It is a kernel (a set of computer instructions or code) that manages hardware, allocates memory and supports applications. Since its inception, independent software developers have developed a vast range of software to run on the Linux system. Unlike proprietary brands, which must be purchased and may not be copied, changed or re-distributed, Linux software is free and may be adapted. It is the best known example of Open Source Software/Free Software (OSS/FS).

Advantages
  • Linux is free (as noted above) and non-commercial.


  • Linux is reliable. Users reporter infrequent "crashes" and computer downtime.


  • Linux-based systems offer better security than Windows Web sites as evidenced by the lower hacker insurance rates available to user of Linux-based systems.


  • Its flexibility allows businesses to adapt and customize software to suit their specific needs. It can support a wide range of hardware platforms from small to very large business servers. Most important, when new Linux software versions appear they do not require continual upgrades to more powerful hardware.


  • Software is "bundled" to allow easy selection by businesses. Linux software distributors frequently offer business owners the option of a single system package that addresses all their needs.


  • Linux offers great compatibility with other applications. Using an open-source version of Windows, it can run Windows applications and most UNIX free-ware will work on the
    Linux OS.


  • Linux users are well supported. There is plenty of advice on Usenet web sites and many commercial technical support enterprises are available to provide assistance. Documentation abounds, furnished by developers who have evaluated and documented their findings.
So what could be the downside to converting to this non-commercial option? There are some possible negatives to consider:Considerations
  • A thorough evaluation of the software and the existing hardware used in your office should be undertaken to make sure that the appropriate Linux software is available and that it will work on your computers.


  • It is unlikely that using Linux means that you will incur no costs at all. You will probably want to contract with a reputable firm for technical support and there will be some training costs (see below).


  • OSS/FS (free) software is created by a variety of different developers and interfaces may vary according to the applications used. Your software administrator and your technology staff will need some Linux training.


  • Be realistic about undertaking a transition from a propriety OS system to Linux. How big a job will a complete transition be and how will you manage the change process?
That having been said, more and more businesses are taking a serious look at Linux. There are many web-based resources that can provide a variety of additional information to help you decide whether Linux would be a smart choice for your business. News bulletins, information on applications, and various training courses are posted on www.linux.org and a variety of information appears in the on-line magazine, www.linuxjournal.com.

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