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Development charity ActionAid is making plans to switch all its desktop computers to Linux, as a way of avoiding the viruses that continuously assault its Windows PCs.

The poverty relief organisation, which operates in 30 countries, is on the brink of the move after becoming increasing fed up with the effort needed to deal with recent virus outbreaks, and suffering infection from the Emmanuel bug.

Kerry Scott, IT director at Action Aid, said the effect of viruses on the charity had pushed him to consider using Linux far more seriously after initial reservations about the availability of suitable applications, particularly word processing packages.

"We're seeing an increasingly large number of viruses from a number of sources which are causing a great deal of problems and inconvenience. Linux might be a way around that and also of reducing the cost of operating a desktop," he said.

Dealing with viruses has hit the charity in the operation of its email system, which is its most important communications method, and left it unable to contact some remote offices over the Internet. Staff resources have also been wasted mopping up from the effects of virus outbreaks.

As well as promising 'virus free' computing, adopting the open source operating system might also save the charity much needed funds particularly with the increasing cost of Microsoft's software.

"Is paying software licensing fees the best use of supporters' funds? If we run our IT more efficiently, and pay less on software licences, we'll have more money to give the poor," said Scott. "Dealing with viruses is very much a hidden cost and if it gets worse we'll push harder on the Linux side."

ActionAid has 1,000 desktops scattered around the world and many of them are in locations with poor Internet connectivity, which makes it difficult for the charity to update the antivirus software it uses with the latest virus definition files.

Desktop software licences cost the charity £60,000 a year but this might be offset by the costs of making the move to Linux, and Scott wants to establish by the end of the year if there's a business case for embracing the open source operating system. ®

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