Open source solutions like Linux have promised to provide businesses with reliable computing platforms without the high cost of ownership that comes with standard software licensing agreements. However, many businesses have been fearful of adopting open source solutions because of concerns regarding compatibility and the learning curve of picking up a new operating system. It seems like with the growing trends in cloud computing, that many of the fears of open source computing may finally be laid to rest. If you are accessing your applications through the web, what does it matter if it’s from a PC running Windows, Mac or Linux. There will still be those applications that only run on certain operating systems that will require organizations to maintain desktops dedicated to those applications but with the prevalence of remote desktop options available this hardly seems to be a barrier.
If this proves to be the case, many small businesses can truly benefit from this shift. Linux typically has a lower occurrence and vulnerability to virus attacks and worms. It also is an extremely stable platform which translates into more uptime and productivity. Lastly, it spares the small business owner of the hassle of managing access licenses and the potential liability of having improperly licensed software. I have seen one case where an audit by the Business Software Alliance uncovered an improperly licensed copy of software that drove a small business into near bankruptcy after all the fines were assessed. One thing small businesses can do is start with a trial run using a dual boot installation of Linux which allows one PC to run both Windows and Linux. This allows the business to trial Linux in parallel first before committing. This may require the assistance of a technology consultant to implement, but considering the fact that the operating system is free, a relatively inexpensive pilot could be established before putting any real monetary resources into such a transition. If you feel brave enough to try this on your own (I am attempting this on my home network first) here are the instructions for doing a dual boot install for the Ubuntu distribution of Linux and a link to the download file for the Ubuntu operating system that you will need. I am wondering what successes or failures other businesses have had with making the move to open source and whether a cloud computing model remedied any problems?