Linux & Open Source is Better for Business than Microsoft Windows

I can say this with 100% certainty. I’ve come to this conclusion by simply reviewing server administration times over the past three years. Admittedly not the most scientific approach, but it is all the info I need. Remember, experience is the best teacher. Editorial Notice: All opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of

I own a small business in southwest Florida. The business primarily performs IT administration for companies either too small to warrant the expense of an in house IT staff or companies that don’t feel they need a full time IT staff. There are literally thousands of companies that outsource their IT administration in Florida alone.

I have been working with Networks since the early ’90’s. Artisoft’s LANtastic v4.0 was my first NOS. I really liked LANtastic until Windows ’95 came along. Windows ’95 was easy to network(read free) and the OS was new and very GUI (as far as OS’s go). Windows NT 4.0 came out soon after and I made the commitment to MS, selling well over $100,000 worth of software with the MS name on it.

Having 25 businesses all running on MS servers would require a visit at least once a month to fix or patch something on the server (usually a reboot would do it). We also ran MS at our office and were used to resetting the server about every month to keep things humming along, no big deal, or so I thought.

My main system was a dual boot station that ran both Windows 98SE and Windows 2000 Pro. My system was very “stable” (an error or lockup about once a week), but I had a practice of wiping the system every three months and reinstalling, just to keep it stable and fast. I used Norton’s Ghost for this and all seemed perfect, until I bought a wireless adapter… Then all hell broke loose. The offending unit was a wireless pcmica card and a PCI adapter combo. The immature drivers caused both 98 and 2000 to lock hard before the desktop would load. After days of trying to make it work, it was disabled and sat there unused.

While shopping Wal-Mart I spotted Mandrake Linux 8.1, $29.00 dollars for the OS and a barrage of software. I took it home, popped it in and walked through a fairly simple setup. The software found the wireless card! I didn’t have to do anything except enter my SSID and address. This “new” Linux thing was cool.

I tried not to boot into Windows on my now triple boot system. As time went on I found that Linux was the environment that I preferred to work in. I had encountered no viruses, was never forced to reboot and only needed to purchase an accounting package to complete the transition. It took three months to make the switch to 100% Linux applications.

I started reading more about my new distribution and found it could work as a Windows file server using Samba, among other things. A $29.00 software package could do what a $1000.00 (10 user Windows 2000 server) package from MS would do. I was interested to say the least.

After learning the basics of Samba, it replaced Windows 2000 on the file server. I ran this for a few months and never had to reboot the server. This was amazing! Performance was equivalent to the MS Windows file server but the stability was so much better. One of the most interesting aspects of setting up Samba (and just about anything under Linux) are the configuration files. Having files that could be viewed and manipulated in a text editor is so gratifying. A parameter can be modified and fully commented as to what was changed and why. Try that in Windows!

Having Samba and Mandrake running perfectly for months gave me the confidence to pitch Linux as an alternative to MS servers. The very next network integration saw Linux/Samba on the file server and Windows on the desktops. The only change would be to Red Hat Linux because the client hadn’t heard of Mandrake.

The install of Red Hat went smoothly and it detected the Adaptec Raid controller with no further driver loading (I’ve setup so many Windows servers and never encountered one that didn’t require loading drivers). All shares were setup and no print queue was required (thankfully since I wasn’t competent with Red Hat Linux printing yet!). A Belkin UPS was used because it came with Linux shutdown software. This particular server has never been down since it came online over 14 months ago.

Now, almost all of my clients run Linux/Samba/Postfix servers. Not once have any of these servers gone down due to software errors. All of these servers have been up since installation, except for two units that suffered hardware failures, one unit due to a hardware upgrade, one unit on a faulty UPS and one unit that was being rebooted periodically by an uninformed (and unauthorized) employee whenever the mail went down (ironically, that company was using an outsourced mail server).

Here is the rub, after switching all these servers to Linux, my company has lost income! We lost approximately $220.00 a month per Windows server in maintenance fee’s. Approximately $5000.00 a month in total! Linux was the best choice for my clients businesses, lowering the cost of IT administration considerably. Microsoft shouts about a study (which they funded) that says Windows has a lower TCO. This study is completely flawed. I can prove it in one capital word , VIRUSES. Windows is afflicted with over 82,000 viruses! Linux/Unix around 30. Of the few that affect Linux, they can’t infect the whole system unless you manually give them root access!

My conclusion is that Linux is a much better OS for businesses that value reliable servers. The uptime is incredibly high. The flexibility is awesome. The price is incredibly low (I have my clients purchase Mandrake’s full software package for $199.00), and the available feature list that comes with Mandrake and most other distro’s is staggering. Linux and Open Source are the best choice for business.

Now on to the desktop!

About the Author:
My name is Alex Chejlyk. I own and operate a small business (10 years) that performs IT tasks for other small businesses in the area. I’ve been computing since the early 80’s. I started out with CPM then to DOS, LANTastic, Windows 2.x, Apple, OS2, Windows 3.x, Be, Windows NT/9x/2K/Xp, Unix, and Linux. Currently working on a drag and drop function for CDRW’s in Linux (like packet writing – kinda…).


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