Everybody knows Windows. Most of us are dimly aware of something else called the Mac. But as in politics, there is a third way in I.T. as well. That third way is something called Linux.
What is wrong with Windows?
There is no reason you should not use Windows if that is what you wish to do. For small businesses the compelling reason that always creeps in is cost and there are two kinds of cost. There are
- Purchase costs
- Running costs
Purchase costs are easy to identify. Each copy of Windows XP Professional can cost up to £200. Running costs are trickier to identify but they can be quantified as the costs of dealing with viruses and spyware or removing software that your employees put on the PC without your permission.
What is the alternative?
Linux is an operating system just like Windows. It is at present less prone to virus infection and spyware. It is also available free of charge or for a small charge of £30 or so depending on the version. Being less prone to problems it has a lower running cost than Windows.
The XP Home trap
Many small businesses, in an attempt to save money, order PCs that have XP Home rather than XP Professional on them. This can turn out to be an expensive mistake. XP Home has very poor networking facilities.
If you have a network of XP Home machines and the number of PCs or the number of shared folders exceeds 12 to 15 then PCs start "dropping off" the network. This is due to XP Home's inability to network correctly. Microsoft's remedy is to upgrade every PC to XP Pro and to buy Windows Server to control the network. Expensive!
Escaping the XP Home trap
Getting out of the XP Home is easy enough - install a Linux server rather than a Microsoft one. The Linux server will provide all the facilities that the XP Home machines want and you do not have to upgrade any of them.
You can avoid buying upgrades from XP Home to XP Pro, installing the upgrades, checking that no data has been lost and so on. You can also avoid buying that expensive Windows server to you need to stabilise your network.
Other advantages include the centralisation of your data unto a single server making backups a simple task.