Business and Linux – in the same sentence ? The impression often exists that Linux is reserved for the desktop hobbyist and servers only. After all, aren’t all the business applications written for Windows.
A less known fact is that some big business run whole divisions on ONLY linux for their desktop usage. This saves a HUGE amount in license costs and also has a long term effect of higher productivity. This is due to Linux booting faster, freezing far less and being far less prone to downtime as a result of malware or viruses.
Before you go rushing into your office shouting “Format all the Windows machines!!!”, consider what sort of environment you are running and what applications are business critical.
If you are running a Microsoft Domain, Linux desktops are slightly more difficult to integrate. Linux can also never be totally controlled by Group Policies like Windows can.
Linux will also not run your proprietary application written for Windows, or that expensive accounting package you pay big money for each year.
If you have just started your small business and are not married to software or operating system you can save a lot of money using Open-Source options. Linux desktop has come a long way from the “Geeks Only” approach and there are many desktop friendly version which offer a lot of excellent business software.
Desktop Linux Flavour/ Variants
- Ubuntu Ubuntu is a free operating system that can be used for both desktop systems and servers. It contains everything you need for the office, including a web browser, software for presentation, document and spreadsheets, as well as instant messaging. It has regular updates, new releases, and a reputation for being user friendly and easy to install.
- Linspire Unlike Ubuntu, Linspire is not free, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out as an option for desktop systems. Linspire focuses on making open source software easy to use for even the technically un-savvy with its Click’n’Run software. It comes complete with applications for multimedia, office productivity, browsers and instant messaging.
- Fedora Fedora is another free version, though it’s not designed with the novice user in mind, and accordingly, is better suited to current Linux users that want to stay on the cutting edge. Included are OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird and a number of other open source applications pre-loaded, giving you access to just about anything you need to get work done.
- SUSE Linux This is enterprise-focused software created and sponsored by Novell. Designed to be especially stable and reliable it meet the special needs of business owners. It comes in both desktop and server versions, which come complete with office suites, desktop search, and virus protection. While not free, it does have the benefit of a dedicated support team if you ever have any problems.
- Debian Debian is a free variant known for its abundance of software options. There are currently almost 18,000 software packages for eleven different computer architectures, making it highly versatile and customizable to your needs. Software available for the OS includes everything from standard web browsers to language interpreters and tools for scientific work.
- RedHat Redhat offers some of the most popular enterprise Linux software. Available for both servers and desktops, the software offers a comprehensive suite of productivity software as well as easy-to-use and reliable options for managing multiple servers and mainframes for a price considerably lower than that of proprietary software.
- GNOME GNOME is another free desktop environment. Business owners can benefit not only from its cost, but also from its dedication to accessibility for the disabled, large amount of available software, and extensive development platform for building new applications.
Linux has a good choice of email clients. Here is a list of them with a quick description.
- Thunderbird Thunderbird is from the makers of Firefox, Mozilla. It allows full customization of your Inbox, can easily search through all your mail and has enhanced security measures to protect your data and the lightning add on provides calander functions.
- KDE Kontact KDE Kontact is an Outlook alternative that provides many of the same features and some additional ones such as sticky notes and Google synchronisation.
- Evolution Evolution was designed as an open-source replacement for Microsoft Outlook and gives an integrated address-book and calendar features. It integrates well with Exchange.
Many other mail clients exist, but the ones we have mentioned are the most popular. The beauty of Linux is that you can install 5 different email clients and try them all until you are happy with one.
Here you can really go to town – the choices are almost too many to make a sensible decision on, so we have narrowed the options down a bit.
- Planner Planner is the open-source equivalent of MS Project. It is free and you can use it to track, monitor, plan, schedule and assign tasks – all the things you would expect from a good project management tool.
- OpenOffice Both of these are excellent MS Office replacements. Open Office has been around for quite a few years now. WPS is the new kid on the block, but comes in versions for Linux, Mac, Android and Windows.
- FreeOffice This is a new player on the block, but promises a lot and looks good.
- Ekiga Ekiga is a VOIP and Video-conferencing tool. It has numerous features and can be used to meet clients when face-to-face meetings are impractical.
- Evince Evince is the replacement for Acrobat Reader. It can read much more than PDF docs and is a very lightweight and fast program.
- Scribus This is a brilliant piece of desktop publishing software. It can do almost anything Adobe Acrobat can do — minus draining your wallet. It does layering, opacity, ICC color management, CMYK color separations, and versatile PDF creation. Do all your newsletters, press packets, fliers, books, manuals, etc., in-house for free.
- GNUCash Gnucash is one of the best accounting packages available for Linux. It uses double-entry bookkeeping. It is a suitable replacement for individual accounting as well as a small business accounting. This is one of the only accounting packages that is available across most all platforms. (Linux, Solaris, UNIX, OS X, and Windows).
- Pidgin Many businesses have started regarding instant messaging as a legitimate form of office communication. Pidgen is one of the finest of the instant messaging clients.It works with nearly all of the instant messaging services and can have multiple accounts configured.
- GIMP The FREE Photoshop alternative – every bit as powerful as Photoshop and none of the cost. It does take some learning, but is not that hard and applies many of the same conventions as Photoshop.
This was only a short take on what is available. When you look at server side software, there are full CRM, ERP and Incident/Callcentre/Ticketing systems available. Linux also has good Cloud Storage systems and Shared Planning and Calendaring systems. These deserve an article on their own.