As the end-of-support deadline approaches for Windows XP and the popular Microsoft operating system (OS) soon becomes obsolete, many organizations are re-evaluating their desktop environments. One name to keep an eye on is Linux, an OS that many industry experts had predicted would overtake Windows as the leading desktop by now.
Modeled on Unix, a multitasking operating system originally developed for programmers, Linux is a free, open-source OS, which means you can access the source code to customize your own version. Think of Linux like a car manufacturer. For example, some General Motors vehicles have the same chassis, but the designs, features and options make each model unique.
A major reason why Windows became and remains the dominant OS is that it comes pre-installed on most new desktop and laptop computers. Also, Microsoft never created a version of its popular Office productivity suite for Linux. Very few organizations were willing to go through the process of overhauling their systems and software and retraining employees to replace a system that most people knew and liked.
Today, you’re probably using a version of Linux without even realizing it – and the market-leading versions you’re using have led to a greater penetration of Linux in the workplace. Chrome OS is Google’s version of Linux that powers Chromebooks, which research has shown to be increasingly popular while Windows-based PC sales have steadily dropped. Not limited to desktops, Linux also forms the foundation for Google’s Android mobile platform, while Apple’s iOS is based on Unix. Linux offers a number of desktop environments, including Unity, Gnome, Xfce and Cinnamon, each with a unique style and functionality to suit various user groups.
There are several advantages and disadvantages of using a Linux OS.
As an open-source OS, Linux is customizable and free. You can easily install Linux on as many machines as you like without paying licensing fees. Linux usually includes a productivity suite such as OpenOffice or LibreOffice, a web browser and apps that are familiar to most users.
However, a Linux OS downloaded and installed for free rarely includes support. You’ll have to pay the creator or a consultant for professional support or rely upon online support forums. While Linux distributions are typically compatible with your backend infrastructure, you could run into compatibility issues with specific client application, as is the case with Microsoft Outlook.
From a security standpoint, a Linux OS is typically less vulnerable to threats because hackers tend to target Windows. Because Linux code is available to view, it’s difficult to hide malware in Linux code, and security patches tend to arrive quickly. That said, you still need a robust security strategy in place.
In many cases, older computers that have become slow and unreliable can be refreshed with a Linux OS, providing users with all basic computer functions, including web browsing, email, and creating and editing documents. Software repositories offer thousands of software products that can be downloaded and installed for free. Because there are relatively few peripheral hardware drivers for Linux, you may have to try different distributions to see which works best for your hardware.
As with any IT investment, you need to understand and evaluate all of your desktop OS options based upon your specific business requirements. Atlantic-IT.net, your outsourced IT department, can help you determine whether a Linux OS makes sense for your business.