What if there was a way you could slash thousands of pounds from your IT budget this year. Interested? Then read on and find out what Linux could do for your company It’s as much a certainty as death and taxation. As your business grows, so will your requirement for information technology and the sad truth is taking on new staff or moving critical business functions online can cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds in software license costs alone. And while you can shop around for virtually every other bit of kit to meet your business needs and find the best price, that just doesn’t happen with your essential software. As you grow, so to will the amount you pay to the people who deliver shrink-wrapped products labeled “Microsoft XP” and “Office Suite” which get you through the business day. Linux There’s a new type of software on the block, it’s called Linux and it’s free. And before you dismiss it as a cranky solution for cheapskates and techies you should note the fact that it has quietly snaffled a 30% share of part the business market in its short life. Linux is software based on an open source concept. That means anyone can access and use the code to make software but no-one owns the concept and no-one can charge for it. So whereas each new user of your current software such as Windows XP will costs you an extra user license, Linux does not. You are free to load it onto 10, 100 or even 1,000 computers. Hardly surprising then that businesses are opting to cut their IT bills by choosing open-source. Where did it come from?

Linux has its roots in the GNU project – a slightly warped acronym for GNU Not Unix – started by US professor Richard Stallman. He started writing applications for the Unix network operating system and making them available – along with their code – to any interested party. Stallman also devised terms and conditions that prevented anyone altering the code to patent and market any of the changes. Thus GNU software would always remain free to use and develop. In the early 1990s, Finnish programmer Linus Torvald developed the basis of his operating system, which he made available under GNU terms and conditions. It has since been worked on by thousands of programmers and countless Linux compatible applications have been released. Under the terms and conditions imposed by Torvald, anyone can build on the basic source code, provided they make their own code freely available. So what’s the catch? Over the last four or five years Linux ‘s 30% market share has come from in the area of business server operating systems market, The servers are the bits of kit which do the invisible handling of core functions like file and print management, e-mail exchange and keeping your website online. They are now emerging as a serious alternative to the ubiquitous Windows products for the PCs desktop. You can download free versions of Linux from the web or buy a CD for a nominal sum from business-oriented distributors such as Red Hat or Mandrake. Given that there are also a huge number of open source applications such as word processors and spreadsheets and server applications also available for next to no outlay, you can, in theory you refresh your pool of software at minimal cost, cutting your IT costs at a stroke.

If that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You still have to add the support costs which are a significant part of any business’s IT budget, and this can lead to a hefty price tag. But Linux’s growing legion of champions claim that it has real operational advantages over proprietary rivals such as Windows in terms of cost, reliability and security. So is it right for you? Read on.