Business Considerations

Choosing an operating system for your business to use is a pretty major decision and one that should be taken with the utmost care. Thought should be given to the consequences that using a different system can have, including how you will work with suppliers. Unfortunately there is no tried and tested way of ensuring that everything will go according to your plan, but simple common sense and a level head will ensure that the deployment will be successful. Every company is different, and what suits you might be totally wrong for another company. The key thing is to look closely at what the business benefits will be from the new system and also to identify what impact it will have on existing resources.

Thankfully, Linux and open source software is pervasive enough to provide plenty of flexibility should you decide to test the water before diving in. Nowadays, popular open source applications such as OpenOffice.org, the GIMP and Firefox are available for both Windows and Mac platforms, allowing you to try the software before deciding to switch. Also consider the ability to change back end systems across to Linux-based alternatives. There are many Linux equivalents to Microsoft Exchange, for example, that can handle email and calendaring. Other popular servers ripe for moving across to Linux include file and print servers, web servers, and firewalls. Of course, if you use Ubuntu, you largely go it alone in terms of support although you can purchase support from dedicated Ubuntu support partners. Do not think that you have to switch everything over in one go. Thankfully Linux plays well in a mixed environment (including Mac OS X and Windows XP), so you can quite safely plan a step-by-step migration that allows you to implement each phase one at a time.

Some of the ideas, issues, and concerns surrounding any Linux deployment are listed in Table 2.1, titled "Deploying Ubuntu." Perhaps the major thing to think about is how Ubuntu will actually meet a need. Software projects are nearly always successful when you have a clear set of objectives that you intend to meet by deploying software. Something else to think about is how it will impact on your existing users. Are your users die-hard Windows power users, for whom any attempt to move them from their platform of choice will result in problems? Have you got the full support of management (something that can make or break any small- or large-scale deployment)? Of course, the changes that users cannot see and do not even notice are the best ones and you are best advised to focus on these opportunities first in your efforts to win over management.

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