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Put The Power of Linux Into Your Business

All You Really Need

May 14, 2007

Do you realize how much value is packed into each and every distribution of Linux?

Nothing short of phenomenal. A Linux machine can help you solve problems that simply are too time consuming, complex, or expensive to solve with other operating systems. All you have to do is add your own special ingredient. We'll review that in a minute.

So, Mr. Small- and Medium-Businessman, what's holding you up?

Don't you need to run a Web site, be able to transfer files around your office, or automate some processes so they run 24/7? Wouldn't you like to put the worry of a virus wiping out your valuable data out of your mind? Have you ever thought about how nice it would be to buy one DVD and be able to load it on all the machines in your company?

Could it be that you are so caught up in running your operation that you just don't have the time, inclination, or energy, to consider dumping Windows. OK, then don't. Start out with a little project. Take one of those old desktop PCs that you have in a back closet, shove a Linux DVD (or CD) in the drive and let it rip. Kubuntu, openSUSE, and MEPIS work well on most machines. Follow the directions, make sure you're plugged into an Internet connection, and soon you'll have a working Linux PC. All this effort will give you a slick desktop, a reliable Web server, a Windows compatible office suite, and a whole host of other "tools" that are now at your fingertips.

Maybe you're the decision maker type that thinks about solving big business problems and leaves all the networking questions to the techies. So trust your people and give them the tools to build a strong computing infrastructure. A typical Linux distribution offers hundreds of ways to automate tasks from simple scripting languages, like the bash shell and Perl, all the way up to the full blown general purpose C programming language, for serious application development. Since the Apache Web server is bundled right in, you can load up the PHP scripting language, the mySQL database, the Firefox browser, and the Quanta HTML editor and start designing your own Web enabled applications. Just think, centralized data management, with no need to constantly update each PC's programs. Yes, it's possible and practical even in a small office.

Don't forget that you're your own boss, too. You are in much better shape than your corporate counterparts, because you don't have to get permission or approval to try out a new piece of software. Linux has hundreds of useful utilities and applications to solve nearly any business problem. What's not on the DVD is probably available on the Internet. Solutions also can scale up as your business grows. Need to serve more customers with your invoicing system? Get a bigger machine with more space and memory, then load the Linux software onto the new machine. It will work. And, if you need two, three, or a dozen more machines just like it, that same old DVD will get you up and running.

If you have some bright young scientific type in your company, why not give them a great educational opportunity, by handing them a Linux DVD. Turn them loose as your IT expert and see what happens. It goes without saying that your future computing guru needs to be curious and enthusiastic. You want those type of people in your shop, anyway. Right? If you don't have anybody on staff that wants to learn to support your evolving computing infrastructure, then you might want to fish around one of those Linux User Groups or ask around the IT department of a local university. Find someone in the Linux community with a good reputation for solving problems, then put them on your staff or hire them as a consultant. You won't regret your decision.

Lastly, forget all the noise about who has the best version of Linux. You have literally dozens of choices, from tiny little CD versions that create full featured firewalls, all the way up to super speedy laptop workstations or multi-terabyte servers. Browse over to Distrowatch. Pick one out and then give it a try. Have your newly volunteered tech person figure out which one will best suit your company. All it will cost you is a willingness and commitment to experiment.

When it comes right down to it, we'd all like to buy off-the-shelf software systems that make our roller skate factories run like clockwork. The reality is that one way or another you'll have to customize any system you use to precisely match the way you do business. Linux gives you the capability and flexibility to do just that. Linux takes away most of the limiting factors to building a great computing environment. It supplies the biggest tool box in the computing world and all you have to do is supply that special ingredient to make your business magic happen.

What's that secret ingredient? Wouldn't you know it? It's just plain old brainpower.

Rob Reilly is a consultant, trend spotter, and writer. He is a contributing editor for LinuxToday. He advises clients on portable business computing and presentation technology integration. You can visit his web page at http://home.earthlink.net/~robreilly.

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