Chances are good that if someone walked into your office right now and peeked over your shoulder, they would see a Windows operating system on your computer. But, did you know that you have a choice of something other than Windows for that computer on your desk, and that you have the same choice for the servers in your data center
One of those choices is Ubuntu Linux, a greatly enhanced Debian-based Linux distribution that installs easily, has the familiar Windows look and feel, and operates well on older hardware (expensive upgrade not required). Linux fans tout the positive attributes, often at high decibel levels, of Ubuntu Linux, which is perhaps the world's most popular Linux distribution. But, is it business worthy?
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Let's first consider Ubuntu as a replacement for your Windows desktop or laptop operating system. Computer owners generally use an Internet browser, a word processing program, the occasional spreadsheet, an email application and almost nothing else. These computer owners may not realize that they're paying $150 to $300 for the OS and another $300 or more for the office suite--most of which they'll never use. Why add hundreds of dollars to a computer system that has a life expectancy of three to four years? Software costs often exceed hardware costs by two or three times. Small businesses resort to piracy or doing without needed software to compensate for those costs. Neither is a good choice.
The alternative puts you at odds with the accepted philosophy that Windows is your only choice for desktop computers and servers. The Linux concept requires that you step outside the standard box that Microsoft has placed you in, and realize that you have a choice that makes sense for you, your bank account, and your business.
Your Windows computers need an anti-virus program that hinders performance, anti-spyware software that you have to run manually to scan for all the nasties that invade your computing habitat, and a personal firewall to ward off those over-the-network attackers.
Alternatively, Ubuntu is free. You can download any version of it and use it for any purpose. Upgrades are also free. There's no need for any anti-virus software or anti-spyware applications on Linux, which comes with a personal firewall, if you want to use it.
Linux also comes to you with a free office suite, OpenOffice.org that includes Microsoft-compatible applications. They look and behave so much like Microsoft's office suite that you may never realize any difference between the two.
Ubuntu comes standard with thousands of free applications on the installation CD and in the Ubuntu software repository. Unless there's some compelling application that you're required to purchase, you'll never spend a penny on software for your business systems. That's correct, you can use Ubuntu and all the available software without paying anyone for it. Further, the software is open source, which means that you can look at and change the code for any purpose-even to resell it as your own. That goes for the Linux code and most software programs that you install on a system. Individual software applications have their own licensing and restrictions.
For business owners who fear the word "free" for business-critical applications and continuity, Ubuntu Linux has commercial support available from the company that sponsors it: Canonical. Canonical and Ubuntu are the entrepreneurial ventures of Mark Shuttleworth, the South African businessperson who also founded Thawte, an Internet security company, and started the Ubuntu project to help everyone in the world have access to free computing software. He founded Canonical to support Ubuntu Linux for those who wish to purchase support for Ubuntu. Like most commercially supported Linux distributions, Ubuntu's support is subscription-based. Canonical also offers training courses and consulting services to their corporate clients.
Ubuntu has a version that's right for all aspects of your business. There are Ubuntu versions for netbooks, desktop computers, servers and cloud computing needs. The cloud computing Ubuntu, known as Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC), ties in closely with Amazon.com's Elastic Compute Cloud platform (EC2).
Canonical releases major versions of Ubuntu every six months in April and in October of each year. Every two years, Canonical releases a Long Term Support (LTS) version. Canonical supports the LTS versions for five full years with updates, security fixes and upgrades-all free of charge.
If you're tired of vendor lock-in, major hardware upgrades with each new version's arrival, high support costs, and runaway software prices, Ubuntu makes sense for you and your business. Ubuntu, Canonical and your business make the perfect team and create the perfect environment to protect you and your customers.
This story, "Why Ubuntu Linux Is a Good Business Choice" was originally published by PCWorld.