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Desktop Linux vs. Windows - don't get emotional

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The essential guide to IT transformation

Reg Reader Studies You've seen the raw figures behind Quocirca's look at why companies choose Windows over Linux or vice versa. Now, you're ready for the rationale - the real decision-making meat and potatoes that push a company toward or away from Linux.

Quocirca, working off responses from thousands of Register readers, discovered a couple things you might already suspect. Companies often consider moving away from Microsoft's Windows operating systems because of security concerns, issues with Windows stability and complex licensing agreements.

Thanks to a free response section in the survey, customers were able to be very candid about these troubles.

“Windows works great, as long as it isn’t connected to the Internet," wrote one reader.

"Anti-virus, firewall, and spyware programs, each needing separate licensing and yearly upgrades/purchases, make maintaining Microsoft powered systems a neverending drain on IT labour and cash," wrote another.

"Microsoft licensing is a nightmare! We use MS partner versions of XP on all systems, and it gets really complicated," wrote another.

Despite all these well-publicized objections to Windows, Quocirca discovered something not all that surprising - many customers are still loath to leave Microsoft. These customers said they're scared to move because of what they see as a lack of compatible open source software, user resistance to change, high training costs, high costs of porting bespoke applications and a dependence on Microsoft's Active Directory. Microsoft is the obvious standard on the desktop. This makes any obstacle a reason to cancel an open source move.

Where does this leave us?

"Perhaps the first and most important tip is to recognise that the question of Windows versus Desktop Linux does not necessarily have to be an 'all or nothing' one," Quocirca urged.

The move to Linux should not be an emotional one. Business executives don't respond to the "Microsoft is evil" approach with the same vigor college kids reading Slashdot while having their morning coffee.

IT staffers need to present a strong business case as to how a move to the Linux desktop can save money. This doesn't need to be a huge, sweeping shift at the company. It could be for a single group or department that can benefit from Linux from both a technology and cost standpoint. This means making sure the department's applications are available in the open source world, and it means a lot of compatibility testing ahead of the move.

"Make sure that all important components sourced externally are fully supported and acquired under a robust maintenance and support agreement," Quocirca said. "This will typically mean sourcing Linux and other Open Source components from a recognised supplier rather than working with free distributions downloaded from the Web."

The upshot of all this is that there isn't a simple answer. In the full study, Quocirca presents a few scenarios where readers said moving to Linux makes sense and many where it doesn't. The 20-page document has some solid balance for one of the IT world's more controversial subjects. ®

Bootnote

Thanks to all the readers who participated in this survey. You can sign up as a permanent member of our Reg Reader Panel whereby your brains are occasionally picked on a range of important topics. ®

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