Thursday, December 5, 2013

Why Now Is A Good Time to Migrate to Linux

Recently, I learned that the City of Munich completed a decade long project to free itself out of perpetually supporting proprietary OS software which would have forced them to continue investing in more software and hardware upgrades according to the time-line of their proprietary vendor, Microsoft.  Although, they made a brave decision to go to uncharted territory with Linux in the face of increasing pressure from Microsoft, they proved that with dedication, time and intelligent decision-making, particularly with regard to change management practices, they could overcome all hurdles.  I applaud their efforts as changing the practices of an entire organization is not an easy feat to accomplish.

Here are good reasons why right now is a good time to migrate to Linux:

1.  Windows XP will no longer be supported by Microsoft after April 8, 2014. -  This means that no further updates by Microsoft will cause a Windows XP PC to be vulnerable to new malware and viruses developed after the update expiration date.

2.  Migrating to either Windows 7 or Windows 8 will require new software, new hardware and extensive training costs. - The user interface of Windows 7 is not as dramatically different as Windows 8 is for an XP or Vista user.  However, Windows 8 is completely different with the new Metro interface.  From the reviews I've seen, it does not appear to be as "intuitive" or "efficient" in terms of executing common computer tasks as the best Microsoft OS, in my opinion, which is Window 7.  This means you will have to re-train your staff to use the newer version of Windows, incurring more training costs.  If your hardware is 32-bit or several years old, chances are Windows 7 or 8 will be struggling to work optimally on the legacy hardware, if it does work at all.  If you pick a Linux distribution, which does not consume too much CPU resources, you can get it to work well on that old hardware.  What I've seen recommended for beginners is:  Elementary OS, Zorin, PuppyLinux, Linux Mint (XFCE) and Ubuntu.  For very old hardware, I wouldn't recommend the latest versions of Ubuntu.  Since Ubuntu has other variations such as Kubuntu and Lubuntu, you may want to explore the lighter versions on that hardware to get optimal use out of it.  Given that you will need new hardware, software and incur training costs to use the latest version of Windows anyway, you might as well consider alternatives like Linux.

3.  Applications today are heading toward a web-based model, which does not depend on a particular OS platform.  - A decade ago, most home users ran applications native to their operating system.  Most application vendors created applications specifically to run optimally on the Windows OS, which is the dominant desktop OS and still is.  However, now that a lot of applications are being consumed by people from the internet such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Apps, Instagram, there is really no need to be tied down by a Windows OS.  Sure, you will encounter some specialized applications that you absolutely must run on a Windows PC, whether it's for school or work.  But, you can get around that by either dual booting Linux with Windows, creating a Windows virtual OS partition on your Linux PC or keeping an old Windows PC as backup.

4.  Linux frees you from proprietary vendor lock-in. - There are many distributions on the desktop for Linux, providing you with many choices to enable the "best fit" for your situation.  There are many applications available for desktop Linux, most of which are free.  You no longer need to buy applications that are made just for Windows, which will cost you a pretty penny.  Of course, there may be some applications that you got used to using in Windows that you cannot find a comparable "quality" experience in Linux such as Adobe Photoshop.  (That's where the dual booting, Windows virtual directory or keeping a spare old Windows PC comes in handy.)  However, with each passing year the number of Linux applications increase both in quality and quantity. (Are you keeping track of the number of Steam games being developed for Linux, by the way?)

5.  The modularity of Linux enables you to customize your IT solution to meet your specific organizational needs. - The City of Munich took the Ubuntu distribution and customized it to specifically meet their needs.  Why was this advantageous for them?  The first reason is that they could take out of the standard Ubuntu distribution anything that they didn't need which would have cluttered their PC CPU resources and leave in the features they absolutely had to have to run their business.  The second reason this was beneficial to them was that they could capitalize on getting professional support by Canonical, the engineering organization behind that popular distribution.

6.  Linux has better security features within its OS. -  Due to the nature of how Linux is designed, you don't need anti-virus software like you do with Windows.  Why?  First off, you can encrypt your /home folder, which is equivalent to the /users folder in Windows.  Second of all, the File structure of Linux enables "hidden" files and directories, which means they will be inaccessible should malware find its way to your PC.  Third of all, if you accidentally download malware it will not run on its own unless you specifically give it permission as a root user which is like the administrator role in Windows.  Last of all, the modularity of Linux component programs do not tie them tightly together so that if one program were affected it would not affect all programs in a "domino" effect, crashing your system.  The fact that Windows component programs are tied together tightly in an "inflexible" way is one of the reasons why it's easier to take down a Windows system.

7.  Linux is already widely used on the server side and client devices such as tablets and smartphones. - If you are already using Linux as a server for web applications or databases, you will be more familiar with it as you use it on the desktop.  Although, Android has a Java based front-end, it's back-end kernel is based on Linux.  That means the File Structure is very similar to the Linux desktop.  With all those similarities, if you are planning to move toward a Linux platform it will be easier for you to support with that familiarity across server and client hardware.

8.  Linux is gaining more support in areas it was traditionally weak in. -  Some of the weaknesses of using Linux was lack of driver support for hardware, the availability of quality games and playing Blue Ray DVD's which are limited by DRM.  With companies like Nvidia and Valve contributing to Linux, this is becoming less of an issue as time progresses.

9.  Using Linux will decrease IT operational costs over the long run when taking into account reduced IT software and hardware upgrades, IT license costs, IT asset management costs and IT licensing compliance costs.  -  Think about it, if you are running a business.  No licenses to keep track of means your IT staff won't be spending labor hours chasing non-compliant computers that don't have a Windows license.  Your hardware can last longer if you customize your Linux distribution to run what you absolutely need without hogging up CPU resources.  Your IT staff won't have to defrag PC's or install anti-virus software on them.  You can use networking tools to manage the administration of thousands of PC's using Landscape or Puppet.

I could go on and make this into a book but I'll stop here and let you digest what you've already read.  I think I've given you many good reasons why you should move to Linux now.  Keep in mind, from a cost perspective, that you need to do a feasibility study first.  That means you need to write up a Business case and determine if there is going to be a positive return on investment (ROI) in migrating to Linux.  Remember there are going to be one-time costs (migration) and recurring costs (IT operational), including asset depreciation.  Those need to be accounted for when writing up the business case.  I will cover how I would approach this on a later post in my website.  The cost perspective (translated into lower IT operating costs) is not the only advantage of using Linux.  It's the ability to negotiate better IT procurement contracts with your IT Suppliers that gives you the bigger advantage besides the reasons I listed above.  Why?  Because you won't be tied down to a specific Vendor's ecosystem of applications and hardware.  Linux has a variety of applications to meet most end user tasks and can be ported to many different types of hardware on the client side and the server side, increasing your freedom of choice.

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