Walk into any small business and, for the most part, you’ll find individually licensed Windows desktops connected via Windows networks to Windows servers running Windows applications. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, and an increasing number of companies are discovering the benefits of switching some, if not all, of their IT to the open source Linux platform.
Exactly how far you’ll want to go will depend on your particular business needs, and it’s wise to be cautious: most small companies are content to begin with Linux servers running back-end applications. However, you can also deploy Linux on the desktop, as mature office productivity tools are now readily available for a fraction of the cost of the Microsoft alternatives.
Unfortunately there are lots of Linux distributions and open source applications to evaluate, and a mass of jargon to digest, if you want to get the best from this kind of migration. Hence this buyer's guide, in which we’ll examine the leading business-oriented Linux solutions available from the likes of Novell, Mandriva and Red Hat. We'll look not only at what Linux has to offer, but also at how you get hold of the software, how it’s licensed and deployed, and where to go for support.
We’ll also be looking at the hardware requirements and, with the emphasis on servers, at what big-name vendors such as Dell, HP and IBM are doing with Linux and at how they can help you to integrate open source products into your network. We’ve also got a section on ready-to-use Linux-based appliances for those who want to take advantage of the open source approach but lack the skills (or desire) to get to grips with the underlying technology.
Then there’s all that open source software. Here, again, we’ll discuss what the leading open source developers have to offer the small business, and how well it stacks up against, and integrates with, the Windows competition. Naturally we’ll look at what Linux has to offer at the client level, examining how easy it is to deploy on desktop and notebook computers, what applications are available, and the management and support implications.
Along the way we’ll take a close look at the key business issues of open source adoption, and explode some of the myths surrounding the subject. We also have a 'What to look for' section where we explain the jargon you’ll need to understand in order to make sense of the many open source Linux solutions available to small business buyers. The guide ends with a case studies section, where we hear from some businesses that have benefited from moving to Linux.