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What are the pros and cons of Linux versus Windows for corporate desktops?

What are the major pros and cons of Linux versus Windows for the corporate desktop?

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The debate on Linux on the desktop is still ongoing and it depends on who you speak to whether they advise you to go ahead or not. There are a couple of pros and cons that can easily be identified.

Pros:

  • Acquisition costs: The initial investment in the software is significantly lower than with Windows. The exact amount you'll save depends on the distribution you select. Also you can save a lot of money if you run Linux on your servers and don't need Microsoft's Client Access Licenses.
  • Available source code: Since Linux is free software (free as in freedom, not beer) the source code is available. If something needs to be adjusted, your programmers can do so.
  • Support: If you have any bugs, they are generally solved rapidly. Also, if you have questions, you'll find a huge number of bulletin boards and mailing lists where help is available.
  • Stable and safe: Linux is a stable operating system that is not so vulnerable for viruses, and so far, I have seen no spyware.
  • Connectivity: Most, if not all, the functionality you need is present -- and there is plenty of connectivity to other platforms to integrate with your existing IT environment.
  • Cheaper hardware: You can run Linux with older hardware, so an upgrade to Linux doesn't mean you have to buy new PCs.
  • Easy to install: Some distributions will get you up and running with only few questions asked and an installation time less than ten minutes. If you plan your roll out efficiently, configuration can be done easily.
Cons:
  • Software compatibility: Not all programs are available for Linux, but there are alternatives. This means that you have to rethink how you can enable the functionality you need.
  • Learning curve: Currently Windows is widely used, thus most users are familiar with the operating system. By making a switch to Linux some aspects might function differently. This mean your users might need training.
  • Users: Initially some users will have a hard time accepting any change. So if the process isn't managed very well, productivity could be affected.
If you expect Linux to save you money from day one, you shouldn't consider a move. But if you want a good ROI and to save money over the long run, Linux may be a help. The savings from licenses, little or no viruses and no spyware are huge. The true success in any migration lies in good planning. It may be helpful to introduce open source in phases. Many applications work with Windows as well as Linux. If users get used to the new software, the ultimate switch to Linux will not be as shocking as a big bang.

More information:

  • Proactive planning vital to Linux migration
  • Five considerations for migrating your church or non-profit organization to Linux
  • Windows versus Red Hat Linux: Pros and cons
  • This was first published in January 2005

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