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Windows to Linux basics: Experts say a little Linux learning is enough for Windows shops

Jan Stafford

What should Windows pros know about Linux?
The very least Windows people should know about Linux is to have some passing familiarity with it: how to boot it, what the kernel is, what some of the basic features of its environment are. Know about Gnome versus KDE, for instance. At the very least, they should know what not to do to break it.

What first steps should Windows pros take toward learning about Linux?
Get a system, get a book and load it up! Read some books specific to your intended operation. For example, if you think DNS may be a good role for Linux in your environment, focus on that. If you simply try to learn all about Linux, your chances of success are reduced. If you focus instead on a real application for the OS, then you are far more focused and will actually see results of your efforts.

Put Linux side by side with another OS you might be using, and see how they compare for yourself. Read reviews, and ask some folks in the community about a realistic place for Linux in corporate environments or your own little entrepreneurship. What first steps should Windows pros take toward learning about Linux?
The best way to learn is to get a distribution and play with it. Attempt to do many of the things you would normally do with Windows with it.

What should Windows pros know about Linux?
It depends on the shop. If it's a small business with one or two IT people, and all the systems are running Windows now, and running it well, then

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they don't need to know anything about Linux. Keep using Windows; it'll get the job done. There's not much opportunity to realize benefits by switching to Linux when you're on such a small scale.

Bigger companies probably already know [and should know] a bit about Linux. They should know what services run on both Windows and Linux, so they can evaluate switching platforms when a new service is deployed or an existing service is upgraded. For example, if a company has decided to deploy a new Oracle server, that can be done on either Windows or Linux. Understand the benefits and costs of deploying it on each platform. For Windows administrators, what are some pros and cons of using Linux today?
Linux is a viable alternative for proprietary operating systems like Windows. With the release of Windows 2003, performance gains from Linux have been wiped out in many cases. But when you compare prices, Linux still is in excellent shape.

Every OS has its strength. Linux, with its open-source and supportive community, can offer you low-cost performance for distinct purposes, such as DNS. Outfitting a Windows 2003 server specifically for DNS can be a bit pricey and doesn't compare very well with a low-cost Linux solution.

One of the drawbacks [to using Linux] is that there is no one ultimately responsible for the stability and maintenance of Linux. There is no one accountable except for the end user. Training and solid documentation -- while always very important -- is a must [when choosing a Linux distribution].

What first steps should Windows pros take toward learning about Linux?
Start by reading analyst reports, but seek out objective reports that haven't been funded by an organization with something to gain. The analysts generally do a good job of explaining the business benefits to using Linux. If it sounds like those benefits would help your organization, then assign an engineer or two to grab a Linux distribution and install it on a test server and start understanding Linux from a technical perspective. Understanding the business benefits before playing with Linux is a good way to keep objective. There's no doubt that Linux is fun to play with, but that doesn't mean it's a good choice for your business. For Windows administrators, what are some pros and cons of using Linux today?

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