Police put Linux on trial

West Yorkshire police are trialling Linux workstations secured by smart cards in a bid to save £1m a year in IT costs

West Yorkshire police has taken delivery of some Linux workstations as part of a trial which, if successful, could lead to the force rolling out the open-source software on 3,500 desktops, shaving £1m off its annual IT spend in the process.

The machines have been made for the force by Taiwanese company GCI, and come with built-in smartcard readers to tighten security and to enable staff to log on to any workstation.

GCI is responsible for all hardware manufacturing and support. Open-source outfit Netproject is providing a Linux duplicating kit to enable GCI to install its version of Linux, which supports smartcard log on. The software environment includes Linux, OpenOffice, GNOME, Evolution and WINE. These secure Linux workstations have an end user price of £299 (ex. VAT).

West Yorkshire Police is currently trialling the first computers and is working with Netproject to get the new and existing applications used by the force to run on a Linux operating system and open-source software.

Paul Friday, head of IS for West Yorkshire police, said: "We are very interested in the advantages of the secure open desktop architecture. We believe that (the machines) could decrease our costs while improving our security. Our initial estimates show that with an installed base of 3,500 machines, we could save up to £1m per year and be able to extend our information systems into places where police officers work in local partnerships."

Steve Hnizdur, director of Netproject, added: "It is our opinion that all involved with their organisation's IT strategy need to examine the way desktop computing is delivered. Linux enables very low cost computing, there is no vendor pressure to constantly upgrade working systems and Linux enables very secure systems which are highly resistant to virus infections."

Earlier this year Netproject was awarded a contract by the UK Police IT Organisation (PITO) to examine the issues of migrating to Linux computers on the desktop for police forces in England and Wales. The West Yorkshire police trial is the first project to come out of that process.

If successful there could be a much wider deployment of a secure open-source desktop, with the potential replacement of over 60,000 desktop computers in the police service as a whole.

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